David R. McLellan, Corvette Chief Engineer

Dave McLellan - Corvette Chief Engineer 1975 - 1992

Profile photo of McLellan.Birth/Education

  • Born:  Munising, Michigan and grew up in Detroit.
  • In 1959, earned a Mechanical Engineering degree at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.
  • In 1973, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management and later earned a Master of Science degree.

Career Highlights

  • Upon receiving his Mechanical Engineering degree at Wayne State University in 1959, he immediately began working as a noise-and-vibration engineer at GM's Milford Proving Grounds.
  • In 1968, he moved into GM's vehicle dynamics testing program where he learned much of his knowledge on automotive handling and suspension technology.
  • In 1969, he joined Chevrolet and worked for a short time on the 1970-1/2 Camaro and then moved on to the ill-fated Nova/Camaro/Corvette program originally started by John Delorean. During this time, he also worked as a chassis engineer on the Nova/Camaro platform.
  • After earning his master of science degree, he began working as a staff engineer under Zora Arkus Duntov, Corvette's first chief engineer. He held this position for approximately 6 months until he took over after Zora retired.
  • On January 1, 1975, he became Corvette's second Chief Engineer after Zora and retired in 1992.
  • After 17 years at Corvette's chief engineer, he continues to act as an automotive consultant and served as a board member at Porsche Engineering Services (Troy, MI).
  • Consultant to the Tank Automotive Command (TACOM), Stewart and Stevenson, and Pinnacle Associates.

Dave McLellanTechnical Achievements

Dave McLellan was responsible for keeping the Corvette on the cutting edge of technology as seen by the following achievements:

  • Introduced tuned-port injection on the 1985 Corvette.
  • Added anti-lock brakes before the Corvette's top competitors did.
  • Introduced the 1986 Corvette convertible. The last Corvette convertible built prior to 1986 was the 1975 model year.
  • Responsible for the 1990-1995 ZR-1 and heavily promoted and supported the project at Chevrolet from concept to production.
  • Introduced the ZF 6-speed manual transmission on the 1989 model year.
  • In 1990, he achieved the prestigious Edward N. Cole Award for Automotive Engineering Innovation by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The award was presented to him for his adaptation of technology to the Corvette platform.
  • In 1992, he introduced the 300 hp LT1 engine and Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) commonly referred to as "traction control".
  • Author a paper for the Society of Automotive Engineers entitled:  "Increasing the Safe Driving Envelope -ABS, Traction Control and Beyond".
  • He is responsible for much of the design and engineering that was seen in the C5 platform introduced in 1997.
  • He has published a book entitled "Corvette From the Inside: The 50 Year Development History as told by Dave McLellan, Corvette's Chief Engineer 1975-1992", published by Bentley Publishers in June, 2002.

As written by automotive journalist, Michael Lamm in the January, 1993 issue of Corvette Fever magazine:

"McLellan nearly always used science in planning where the Corvette ought to be headed. He made his judgements and decisions based on careful reasoning and calculation and rarely, if ever, did emotion enter.
Under his direction, the Corvette definitely took on McLellan's personality. Just as Zora put his stamp on the earlier cars, So Dave's comes through on the current generation....McLellan and his team have managed to place the Corvette into the first rank of international sports cars, a remarkable record considering the Corvette's price versus that of its leading performance competitors."

Since his retirement in 1992, Dave and his wife, Glenda, enjoy attending Corvette events around the world where many enthusiasts come to acquire his autograph on anything and everything Corvette related.

Dave McLellanAlthough a stout engineer to the core, he is extremely personable and one of the most devoted Corvette enthusiasts I have had the chance to meet. I will never forget the first time I met Dave at a Corvette event.
It was at the Museum of Transportation in Boston, MA during the 1993 40th Anniversary Corvette celebration sponsored by the museum and Chevrolet. He definitely enjoys meeting and talking with Corvette owners and enthusiasts and is extremely generous with his time as seen in the numoerous hours he donates to signing autographs for everyone. - Rob Loszewski


  • "It's Corvette, only more so."  - Regarding the 1990-1995 ZR-1 Corvette


References:  Corvette Fever magazine, January, 1993.