Skip to main content

To many fans, Zora Arkus-Duntov wasn’t just the closest ally to the Chevrolet Corvette; he was “Mr. Corvette.” However, there were times when Arkus-Duntov wasn’t so content with America’s sports car. Here are three points in the Belgian-born engineer’s career where Zora could’ve gone the Porsche route and abandoned the Chevrolet model, like his disdain for the 1963 Corvette and its split-window design. 

Why was the split-window Corvette discontinued?

The 1963 Corvette was controversial. Known to many collectors and die-hard enthusiasts as the “split-window” Corvette, it dropped its classic window feature after one year. The primary reason for the split window’s discontinuation was safety; the structural member raises a visibility issue, leading to its omission from the 1964 model. 

The 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray shows off its split-window construction.
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray | General Motors

However, the 1963 Corvette and its split window had a noteworthy dissenter within the walls of General Motors (GM). That’s right; Zora Arkus-Duntov objected to the then-new Stingray’s split window and did so vehemently. He famously aired his performance and function concerns with the likes of Bill Mitchell and GM’s design department. Understandable, given Zora’s experience flogging cars with a function-first racing design at such hallowed events as Le Mans. 

Still, Arkus-Duntov defended his position with enough fury that onlookers would probably wonder how he still had a job. According to Car and Driver, Arkus-Duntov and Mitchell would trade tirades of verbal strikes at each other, up to and including Zora calling Mitchell a “red-faced baboon.” 

Did Zora want a mid-engine Corvette?

Along with Zora’s strong objection to the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette’s split-window design, Arkus-Duntov was a proponent of the Corvette going mid-engine decades ago. By 1967, the engineer was in charge of the entire Corvette development program, including his cutting-edge Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicles or CERVs

A C8 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible Anniversary Edition shows off its drop top.
C8 Corvette Convertible | General Motors

With the CERV prototypes as ammunition for his agenda, Arkus-Duntov pushed to make the Corvette mid-engine until his 1975 retirement. While Zora didn’t vacate his position with GM in defiance, he wouldn’t live to see the first production mid-engine Corvette, the C8 Stingray

Zora Arkus-Duntov could have traded in his Chevrolet Corvette credentials for a Porsche job

In the early 1950s, Duntov raced for Porsche and secured two class wins at Le Mans. Moreover, Hagerty says the inspired engineer solved a tricky stabilization problem on the famed Porsche 356 that plagued the automaker. 

Zora Arkus-Duntov drives a Porsche in a Le Mans race.
Zora Arkus-Duntov has a history with Le Mans | Klemantaski Collection via Getty Images

Here’s What You Missed at the 2023 National Corvette Museum Annual Michelin Bash

After that, the Zuffenhausen automotive giant had its eyes set on Duntov, even while he was under GM’s employ. However, the legendary Corvette engineer elected to stay with GM, even after Porsche unofficially invited him to work there. 

Should the Corvette have gone mid-engine earlier? Do you hate the split-window 1963 Corvette as much as Zora did? Share your thoughts in the comments below!