Zora at Daytona
Zora assembled a three-car team for the run at a speed record at Daytona Beach, Duntov drove his ’55 mule Corvette dressed with ’56 body panels, while Betty Skelton and John Fitch drove the specially prepared 265ci V8 ’56 Corvettes. All three drivers achieved great success.
Duntov had the fastest modified sports car in the standing-mile averaging just under 90 mph.
A strong head-wind caused Duntov to fall just short of his previous two-way record, although he did hit 156 mph on one of his runs. For the top speed part of the event, Fitch came in 1st place in the production-sports car class with a speed of 145.543 MPH and Betty came in 2nd place with a speed of 137.773 MPH. . It should be noted that there were very strong head winds that kept the Corvettes from running over 150-MPH.
Betty Skelton at Daytona Jan. '56
In the meantime, Duntov convinced Harley Earl that a race car based on the stock Corvette did not stand a chance against the Ferraris and Maseratis at Sebring. Led by Zora, a team of engineers created an ultra-lightweight racecar: weighing 1850 lbs, approx. 950 lbs. less than the future 1957 production Corvette. The car had a 283ci iron block with aluminum cylinder heads and Ramjet fuel injection that produced 307 bhp.
Under Zora’s leadership, GM would develop and build a purpose-built racer. On July of 1956, work begins on Project XP-64, a sports/racer built for the upcoming race in Sebring. The car is named the Corvette SS (Super Spyder), or Sebring SS. A clay model of Zora's design is made, and shown to management. The SS was developed in only six months and was ready on December of 1956. In 1958, after it’s racing career ended, the car was clocked at over 183 mph! Success at Sebring for this stunning racer was unfortunately not in the cards. Although the SS was extremely fast for its day, a series of mechanical problems forced it to retire after 23 laps in the 1957 Sebring 12-Hour race. Shortly thereafter, the ban on factory-sponsored racing efforts by the Detroit manufacturers spelled the end of the SS project.
John Fitch was already a hot shoe when Zora hired him to drive one of three specially prepared ’56 265ci Corvette for the speed record run on the sands of Daytona Beach, Florida in January 1956. Were it not for those exciting early racing experiences, the tone and attitude of the Corvette would have been closer to a passenger car rather that a scrapper race car.
The success achieved in both Daytona events marked Duntov’s most successful efforts for Chevrolet to date. The “Duntov Cam” and Duntov’s engineering development of the Corvettes were recognized by knowledgeable experts as the reason behind the Corvettes outstanding performance. This acclaim did not go unnoticed and helped greatly to position Duntov for future success at Chevrolet and GM.