The 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is a car enthusiast's dream, but it wouldn't exist without Zora Arkus-Duntov.
Chevy recently released a video paying tribute to Duntov, who is sometimes referred to as the "father of the Corvette." He didn't create the 'Vette, but he did set it on the path to becoming America's sports car by focusing on racing.
Zora Arkus-Duntov with a 1966 Chevrolet Corvette
Duntov became the head of performance vehicles at Chevy in the later part of the 1950s, right when General Motors and other American automakers enacted a voluntary ban on factory racing activities. Duntov worked around this with experimental vehicles like the Corvette SS, and by quietly offering performance parts to race teams. That's how the original Z06 came to be.
In 1963, Chevy applied the Z06 badge to a Corvette for the first time, using it for an option package on the newly launched C2 Corvette that collected many previously available performance parts, GM archives and special collections manager Christo Datini explained in the video.
Only 199 examples of the 1963 Corvette Z06 were built, with the first cars going directly to race teams. The Z06 wouldn't return until 2001 on the C5 Corvette, this time as a distinct model rather than an option package, and no longer focused on racing. It's been an integral part of the Corvette lineup ever since.
Chevy restored some of the Z06's racing connection with the C7 version, which incorporated lessons learned from the C7.R race car. That goes even further with the 2023 Z06, which uses a new LT6 V-8 that's essentially a civilian version of the C8.R race car's engine. And that engine is mounted in the middle of the chassis, something Duntov always wanted to do with a production 'Vette. So the 2023 Z06 is a fitting tribute to the man in more ways than one.