Home Chevrolet History Zora: The Legend Behind Corvette

*The* definitive book on Zora reviewed -- 1 of 1
Date Published: 2002-07-14
Reviewer's Name: Hib Halverson
Email Address: finspeed@earthlink.net
Corvetteforum.com Member Alias: Hib Halverson
Car Details:
Time to Install: 3+ hours
Reversible: Yes, easily reversible
Satisfied: 10 out of 10
Value: 10 out of 10

Description: Zora Arkus-Duntov: The Legend Behind the Corvette by Jerry Burton. Bentley Publishers, 2002, ISBN 0-8376-0585-9. Hardcover, 8x9-in., 432 pages, 190 black and white images, list price $39.95.

Experiences: Visit a book store with an automotive section. Look at Amazon.com. You'll find shelves full of books about Corvettes: engine building, racing, restoration, facts-and-figures, service manuals, coffee-table picture books, parts books, assembly manuals, collections of reprinted magazine articles and a variety of other titles. Like I said...there are lots of Corvette books.

As for great Corvette books?

Well...those are pretty darn rare. Karl Lugvigsen's classic, Corvette: America's Star-Spangled Sports Car, is one. The late Jim Schefter's, All Corvettes are Red, is another. Noland Adam's pair of Corvette Restoration and Technical Manuals are two more.

Joining the small collection of truly outstanding Corvette literature is Jerry Burton's new biography, Zora Arkus-Duntov: the Legend Behind the Corvette. Finely-detailed, yet easy-reading, it's a spellbinding life's story of a man who became one of the automotive engineering giants of the 20th Century.

Most of us know Duntov as the guy who snatched Corvette from death at the hands of short-sighted General Motors executives in the early 1950s, then, improved its engineering, performance and image such that it went from a product Chevrolet dealers couldn't sell to the most successful high-performance sports car on earth. A good part of how Corvette became one of the rare automobiles to attain American Icon status is attributable directly to Zora Duntov's vision, personality and hard work. But, you already knew that, right?

Did you know, growing up in St. Petersburg during the Russian Revolution, young Zora was a street-wise, risk-taker who sometimes carried a pistol and more than once used it to defend himself. Did you know of newly-married Zora and Elfe's Duntov's frantic escape across southern France just ahead of the Nazi juggernaut in the early days of World War II? How about Duntov's arrival in New York City, just before it entered the war, where, inside of three weeks, he borrowed money, started a business and, within months was a runaway success as a defense contractor? Did you know Duntov's initial success in the car business came as a manufacturer of parts for Ford V8 engines? Did you know he raced Porsches at Le Mans while he engineered Corvettes at GM? Did you know Zora was quite the "chick-magnet" jet-setter who hung-out with the high-society, political, entertainment and international motorsports personalities that made news in the 1950s and 1960s? All this and more of Duntov's amazing life is in Burton's book.

Not only was Zora a wonderfully talented and visionary engineer but he had his limitations, too. He cheated on his wife, partied too much, drove too fast and pissed-off half the executives at GM right up to the CEO. He loved the Corvette, worked hard to make it better and strived to promote it, not only to the public, but, also, to the company that was making it because, in the car's early years, half the time, GM didn't know what to do with Corvettes and the rest of the time it didn't want them at all.

Through painstaking research and a affable style, Burton weaves all these colorful aspects of Zora Arkus-Duntov's life into a highly-captivating story. The book is decidedly non-technical, one of its major strong points. Each chapter is a short-story in itself, encompassing a particular period or aspect of Zora's life. The book is remarkably unbiased, covering Duntov's strengths and his weaknesses but expressing few opinions. It's smooth writing style and easy reading make it outstanding entertainment as well as an excellent work of biography.

Even casual students of the history of the American automobile industry must have Zora Arkus-Duntov in their library.

Installation: Jerry Burton has been a Corvette enthusiast since his early years working for Campbell-Ewald in Detroit. He was the creative genius behind the Chevrolet "Heart Beat of America" theme. He was the first Editor of Corvette Quarterly and currently serves as the magazine's Editorial Director. As a Board Member of the National Corvette Museum he's been a guiding force in the preservation of the Corvette mystique. Over the years, he became close friends with Zora. That friendship drove an interest in profiling the man's life and personality which became this first comprehensive biography of Zora Arkus-Duntov. Burton lives in Michigan with wife, Nancy, and son, Michael.

Comments: For more information on Zora Arkus-Duntov: The Legend Behind the Corvette contact Bentley Publishers, 1734 Massachusetts Av, Cambridge MA 02138. Tel: 800-423-4595 Web: www.bentleypublishers.com