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Corvette Engineering Limited Edition Boxed Set
by Jerry Burton
Vette Magazine - June 2007
Corvette Engineering Limited Edition Box Set review from Vette Magazine, June 2007
Vette Tu, Brute?
Part Two: Corvette from the Inside
In part two of our review, we examine Corvette From the Inside, the second volume in the Corvette Engineering Box Set. The book was written by Dave McLellan, who succeeded Zora Arkus-Duntov as Corvette chief engineer in 1975 and served in that capacity until 1992. McLellan is well known to Corvette fans, whom he often greets at National Corvette Museum events in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
During McLellan's tenure, he oversaw the development of the '84 C4 hardtop, the subsequent '86 roadster, and the Corvette's return to showroom-stock racing in the 1985 Showroom Stock Endurance Series. He takes great care in describing the modern handling dynamics and active safety features that were first developed for the Corvette in the '80s and early '90s, and which are now (for the most part) standard equipment on the car. Included are the inside stories behind the development of the extended mobility tire, the Z-rated tire, the five-link rear suspension, digital chassis control, antilock braking, traction control (McLellan prefers the term "Acceleration Slip Regulation"), yaw control, ride control, and active suspension.
We also learn the history of the Chevrolet V-8 engine and how Corvette engineers used computer models and postspace-age engineering to create the Gen II LT and Gen III LS small-block families. McLellan opines that the Gen III engine "... will likely continue to be used in passenger-car and truck applications well into the 21st century." With the release this year of the LSX racing block, it's clear that McLellan's musings were more than just lucky speculation.
VETTE readers will no doubt be interested in McLellan's views on the developmental history of the '90 ZR-1, which signified the return of ultra-high performance to the Corvette line. His anecdotes of the car's press introduction and testdrives in Europe are available only in Corvette From the Inside. Also sure to be of interest is the story behind how Corvette engineers took the hopelessly underpowered early '80s model and pushed its output all the way to 300 hp by the time of McLellan's departure in 1992.
McLellan's take on the importance of professional racing to the continued development of the road-going Corvette is heartening. He writes, ". . . the Corvette had undergone a transformation as a direct result of extensive testing on the racetrack. The benefits of this racing and testing had been systematically transferred to the components of the production car, first to its chassis, and then, ultimately, to its ZR-1 configuration."
In the last chapters of the book, we learn about the development of the C5, and how features such as the backbone chassis and LS1 engine yielded a "faster, lighter, and more efficient Corvette" To many, the fifth-generation car represents the first truly modern Corvette. McLellan's firsthand account of this revolutionary car's gestation reveals a tangible excitement.
Considering that the book was written prior to the introduction of the C6, McLellan's words can seem remarkably prescient at times. Regarding the then-new C5, he writes, "The Corvette has achieved the structural stiffness and passenger roominess we set out to achieve. The handling and performance are exemplary. If anything, the control efforts are too light, and the engine intrudes too little. This efficiency is something even I would vote for when I'm just motoring down the road. But for a sports car, I would opt for firmness of control, driving precision, and for the intrusion of the engine at high revs and full power. Given the choice, I would give the car a dual personality, mating the more aggressive Z06 with the standard car. The car really needs a visceral 'come alive' mode when you want to drive it hard."
We asked McLellan whether he thought the book foretold the engineering direction of the C6. He wrote us and said, "The C6, architecturally, is a C5 with only a minor increase in wheelbase to package the XLR Cadillac engine in a common chassis ... and to fit the sixspeed automatic transmission. I didn't foretell the C5/6. The C5 was already well underway when I retired, and when I wrote Corvette from the Inside, it was in production. I described the C5 as a paradigm shift (discontinuity) in convertible, high-performance, sports-car design and described how we did it. The C5/6 as a two-place, convertible, high-performance sports car is still a high-water mark that the competition has not caught up with, never mind surpassed."
VETTE highly recommends Corvette from the Inside, the second volume in the Corvette Engineering Box Set. Combined with Zora Arkus-Duntov: The Legend behind the Corvette, it forms a comprehensive model overview for Corvette owners and fans alike.
Review of Corvette Engineering Limited Edition Box Set from Vette Magazine - June 2007