Corvette from the Inside: The 50 Year Development History

Corvette from the Inside: The 50 Year Development History


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The 50 Year Development History as told by Dave McLellan, Corvette's Chief Engineer 1975-1992 and long-time fellow NCRS member!

This is an excerpt from NCRS Member Ralph Kramer (THE Ralph Kramer) writing a review in The Corvette Restorer magazine, back in 2002.

Dave devotes his first 16 chapters to all manner of Corvette events and circumstances from minuscule to momentous. He says, for instance, that the war between Duntov and design chief Bill Mitchel over the split rear window '63 could have been avoided had someone just moved the rear view mirror slightly to the right.
Nothing if not a diplomat during his GM years, Dave now minces fewer words. He says while Ed Cole's motives in protecting the Corvette weren't what people thought they were, GM engineering "fell into chaos" when he retired in '75, leaving Corvette even more of an orphan. He says five years later, GM's top engineering executive eyed a chassis for the proposed next-generation Corvette and asked him "Can you fit a four-cylinder engine? "I remember being dumbstruck, Dave says. I could tell he was so deadly serious that a flippant answer was out of the question. The right answer, of course, was "Absolutely not! You should retire the Corvette with grace and dignity before subjecting it to the indignity of a four-cylinder engine".

Predictably, Dave gets into the whys and wherefores of Corvette's triumphant return to world performance leadership. In 1980, power-robbing anti-pollution controls had reduced Vettes sold in California to 180-horsepower wimps. Just 10 years later, the 375-hp ZR-1 was King of the Hill. On the way March 1, 1990 to a new world open-class 24-Hour speed record, it averaged an astounding 175.885 miles an hour. And in another 10 years, a totally redesigned pushrod V8 in the C5 was pulling 400 hp.

The '84 car was hardly in production before Dave's team borrowed a page out of Zora's book and went racing again. Privateers with testing contracts formed a juggernaut so powerful (19 wins in 19 races over three years) that SCCA invited them to leave its Escort Endurance Series. With nowhere to go, Dave gave the green light and enormous engineering support to the $1 million Corvette Challenge race series of '88 and ?89.

Two chapters plus Dave's introduction to the book are devoted to the crowning achievement of the McLellan era -- the ZR-1 supercar. But Chapter 17 may be the one most loaded with food for thought. Here's where Dave makes the case for the Corvette of tomorrow- a car he believes already exists. Coincidentally it's the car Zora would have built 25 years ago had he been permitted -- a swoopy mid-engine carbon fiber creation from the fertile brain of Florida financier/entrepreneur Warren Mosler. It's called the MT900. He likes its looks. But even more, he likes the Mosler design and materials application process. If you view Corvette as a window into the soul of General Motors for better or worse a rolling manifestation of prevailing thought and behavior -- is such a car in the cards?

Dave would say one thing we've learned over and over again in the last 50 years with the Corvette: Anything's possible.

Chapters include:

  • Prologue
  • The Corvette is Born
  • Duntov Develops the Corvette
  • The Second Generation Corvette C2 1963-1967
  • The Mid-Engine Corvette
  • The Corvette Ages Through the 1970s
  • The Next Generation Corvette
  • Hammering Out the Details of an All New Corvette
  • The C4 Matures and Spawns a Roadster
  • The Crucible of Showroom Stock Racing
  • Handling Dynamics and Active Safety in the Corvette
  • Balancing Performance with Economy and Emission Control
  • The ZR1: How the LT5 Came About
  • Chevrolet Introduces the ZR1
  • Making the Chevrolet V-8 a Modern Engine
  • Breaking the Paradigm with the C5
  • Understanding the Past to Build a Future
  • The Corvette's Future
  • Epilogue
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • About the Author

Hardcover, with almost 300 pages and hundreds of photos.


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This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 08 May, 2012.