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1955 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster - Zora Duntov Mule Car
The following listing is from RM Auctions detailing the 1955 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster that was a Zora Arkus-Duntov test mule. This prototype sold at auction for $134,750 and was held between November 30, 2007 to December 1, 2007.
Offered Without Reserve
AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $134,750
Zora Duntov Mule Car. One of two '56 prototypes built, '55 body, '56 chassis, 283cu.in., four-speed.
Offered without reserve. Inspiration for the introduction of the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette was attributable, in large part, to a flood of young Americans arriving home after World War II who craved nimble, athletic sports cars. A team of General Motors’ engineers, under the leadership of Harley Earl, set about creating a car bodied in fiberglass with enough appeal to compete with Europe’s best MGs and Jaguars. The outcome was a Chevrolet powered by a modified GM six-cylinder engine that was lavishly displayed on a revolving centerpiece at the 1953 Motorama in New York. It was a tremendous success – over 300,000 admired the Corvette during its first weekend in New York and collectively spent a reported $800,000 on GM products!
One of the many Motorama attendees was Zora Arkus-Duntov, an accomplished Belgian-born engineer and racing driver, who later submitted a letter to Chevrolet’s chief engineer, Ed Cole, requesting the opportunity to work on the Corvette’s development. He was hired shortly thereafter and rose through the ranks to become a director of high performance programs, a proponent of early fuel injection projects, and founder of the Grand Sport project, among other undertakings. His contributions were so great that despite the fact that he was not responsible for its initial design, Zora Duntov is often termed ‘The Godfather of the Corvette’.
Although the specifics of its genesis are clouded in mystery, this particular Corvette was first owned by Mr. Duntov himself. It was officially titled as a ‘1956 Assembled Corvette’ as it was apparently one of two 1956 prototypes built upon a 1956 chassis with a 1955 body. It was presented to Duntov, although it is unknown whether he paid for the car or received it as a gift. Finished in silver with a blue center stripe, it was outfitted with a fuel-injected 283 cubic inch V8 engine along with various newer features, including the steering wheel, dash instrumentation, hub caps, rearview mirror, and shift console. Interestingly, Mr. Duntov’s wife, Elfi, was most likely the car’s primary driver as it was registered in her name.
In 1962, the 1955/56 Corvette was sold to Chuck Schank, an admiring neighbor, who owned it until 1968. Largely unchanged, with the exception of an engine replacement, the car was subsequently purchased by Mike Casey who owned it for four years and applied a trick paint job in addition to dying the interior black and replacing the top. The engine was replaced once again as Mr. Casey used the car for drag racing.
Mr. James Dalesandro of Illinois was the Corvette’s fourth owner and opted to return the car to its original glory. In restoring the car, Mr. Dalesandro discovered that the original finish was Harvest Gold with a yellow and green interior. In his search for authenticity, he contacted Mr. Duntov himself, who responded with a letter verifying the car’s original engine, transmission, and exterior color. By this time, the car had gained the attention of one Mr. Barnaby Brokaw of Omaha, Nebraska, who purchased the car around 1978 and kept it for sale and on display in his motor car showroom with only 39,795 original miles. Thereafter, it found its way to the West Coast and then into an auto museum in South Dakota before its acquisition by Mr. Wiseman in the late 1990s.
As presented, the car has accumulated just over 2,000 miles since its 1978 feature in the Corvette magazine, Keepin’ Track. Finished in Harvest Gold with a white convertible top, the paint is very presentable, despite evidence of cracking and surface texture upon close inspection. The chrome likewise suffers from the effects of ageing; discoloration and pitting are evident on most pieces. By comparison, however, the interior is quite sound and the yellow seat upholstery, door panels, green carpeting, and dash area have all held up nicely with only minimal signs of discoloration. A certain degree of detailing is visible in the engine bay and the engine block has been properly finished in Chevrolet orange. It is free of any apparent dirt or grime, although its overall appearance is not show quality. As for the undercarriage, little evidence of restoration is apparent. In addition to its proper black mat, a pouch with the car’s side windows resides in the trunk. Magazine articles, original titles, as well as a letter of authenticity signed by Mr. Duntov accompany this Corvette in its sale.
To a large degree, Zora Arkus-Duntov was responsible for Chevrolet’s recognition of its performance-minded youth market. His memorandum, entitled 'Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot Rodders, and Chevrolet' not only helped skyrocket his career but also influenced the course of Corvette’s production and its continues success. As a unique, experimental amalgam of 1955 and 1956 parts, it is only fitting that the Corvette once owned by such a renowned engineer represent his belief in continued evolution and testing. Well-documented and boasting a remarkable provenance, this is, quite simply, one of the most significant early Corvettes ever assembled.
RM Auctions, Inc.
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