It wasn’t until recently that Russians understood that Chevrolet Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, the patron saint of the America’s sports car, was a Russian. Now, there seems to be intense media interest in this fact in a country that is waking up to all things automotive related.
Arkus-Duntov’s life and work is on display at the Alexander Solzhenitsyn Center for Russian Emigres in Moscow. The exhibit opened on May 16 and runs through June 10.
As part of the exhibit’s opening, I was interviewed throughout the week by “Russia Today,” a syndicated worldwide English-language broadcast about affairs in Russia, the Thompson Reuters news service, GQ Russia, Auto Review Magazine and Auto Plus, a Russian cable channel which devoted a full hour to the subject of Arkus-Duntov and the Corvette.
Akrus-Duntov was inspired by seeing the Motorama Corvette in New York and wrote to General Motors seeking a job. Hired by GM in 1953, Arkus-Duntov rose to be put in charge of high-performance vehicles at Chevrolet and took the Corvette under his wing, giving it the small-block V8 in 1955.
The gist of most of the questions seemed to be: “Why didn’t we know that Zora was a Russian?” It’s obvious the Russians take great pride in having a major role in the Corvette, which has always been a dream car in Russia as well. Much of the tone of the interviews involved “getting the truth out about Zora.”
There seems to be a growing market for a Russian translation of Arkus-Duntov’s story as well as a full-length feature film on his life.
The Duntov display attracted a steady stream of visitors during Moscow’s annual “Night of the Museums” on May 19. The affair, tied to the annual May Day celebrations, involves free admission to all of the city’s museums until midnight that day.
Editor’s note: Jerry Burton is the author of Zora Arkus-Duntov, The Legend Behind Corvette and was the longtime editor of Corvette Quarterly. He was invited to speak at the opening of the Arkus-Duntov exhibit in Moscow.