1959-63 CERV I & 63-64 CERV II (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle)
By 1959, Zora had milked just about all the handling improvements possible from the C1 chassis. Those improvements had firmed up the chassis to the point that some owners were complaining about the firmer than a truck ride.
Zora knew it would soon be time for Corvette to take the next step its performance evolution. So he built the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle to become the frame (125 lb of chrome moly tubing) for as many experimental suspensions as needed to identify the best combination of a high performance suspension, reasonable ride and efficient, practical production. By 1959, Scarab, BRM, Porsche, and others were experimenting with rear-mid engine chassis. Zora had first hand experience racing rear engine Porsches and front engine Allards and Vettes. He knew the limits of both, so he set up the CERV with s a rear mid.
At one point in its development, it ran so well that Zora tried to sell GM on entering it in the Indy 500. If you've been able to stay awake reading these threads, you know what they said: "NO. That would be a violation of the Big 3 non-racing agreement." You know... the agreement that Ford was about to break first by entering the GT at LeMans and then by not-so-covertly talking Carol Shelby into making Cobras....all while GM management heads were buried in the sand.
Zora wasn't content to just play...er...practically experiment with suspensions. The CERV would explore all automotive boundaries perceived at the time.
The first CERV engine was a 350HP 283 CI SBC that used magnesium and titanium extensively in order to weigh in 175 lbs lighter the production engine.
Front disc brakes / rear drums inboard with a two piston master cylinder (reminder this is 1959). The inboard drums were a carryover from the '57 XP-84 Q Corvette concept that Zora proposed moving the transmission to the rear of the Vette and Mitchell's team provided clay that looked like early [Sting Ray Racer / C2] designs. Yep 1957! The Q had a front engine so we are not covering it in these threads, but I'll include a pic anyway, following my rambling.
Cast magnesium alloy wheels
Shinoda designed an 80 lb fiberglass body.
Independent front and rear suspension. Out back was a unique-at-the-time multilink system that is very common on many cars today (without the rear drums, of course). BTW, the inboard drums were popular in IRS systems in the late 50's and 60's because they reduced the unsprung weight significantly.
The finished CERV I weighed in at 1600 lbs,
Everything I've ever read on the CERV I attributes the C2 / C3 IRS development to the CERV. Now maybe at some point Zora had the CERV outfitted with an IRS that looked a bit more like the C2 / C3 IRS, but I have never seen a pic of the CERV with even a transverse leaf spring, so I refuse to support that statement here. However, I WILL say that I can see how Zora might have looked at his multilink design and have been inspired to simplify it into an early prototype of what became Corvette's IRS for ~20 years.
Later in the CERV I's life, Zora and Shinoda gave it an update. A 377 CI Aluminum SBC with an advanced FI system replaced the 283 and Shinoda redesigned the body.
CERV I Gen 1
CERV I Gen 2 (still current and owned by Mike Yeager/ Mid-America Corvette):
The '57 XP-84 Q Corvette Concept that might have donated its IRS to the CERV I:
BTW, the next time some Porsche lover says that the C5,6,&7 front engine / rear transmission were derived from the Porsche 928, you can straighten him out. Corvette engineers first worked on this configuration in 1957!
1963 - 1964 CERV II (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle)
On July 4, 1963, Henry Ford II was planning to be in Maranello signing a $10 million deal with Enzo Ferrari that would give Ford Motor Company a half share in Enzo's legendary sports-car company. Time magazine reported in its May 24 issue of that year: "To mark the partnership, the two companies have already started design work on a new, prestigious ‘Ferrari-Ford,’ which will have a powerful 12-cylinder engine in a Ford sports chassis." Enzo Ferrari pulled the pin on the deal at the last minute, leaving Ford high and dry.
An enraged Henry authorized the development of the Ford GT40, with the express goal of humiliating Enzo’s blood-red sports racers in the Le Mans 24 Hour race. Which it duly did, four times in a row from 1966.
The automotive industry was much "smaller" in those days. When news of the upcoming Ford / Ferrari plans reached Zora in 1962, he conceived plans for the CERV II and started work in 1963. He intended to build 6 total - 3 for competition and 3 for backups. He envisioned offering a line of racing-only Corvettes to go
This time, Zora had the backing of Bunkie Knudsen, Chevy GM. He built the first car with the technologies he thought would make the ultimate race car. The chassis was a monocoque with steel sub frame to carry the suspension and engine. Same as the Ford GT-40. The drive system and torque converter arrangement was handed over to GM’s engineering team. The result was an advanced 4-wheel drive unit, using two torque converters, a glued together steel and aluminum monocoque, very wide wheels with Firestone, experimental, low profile tires on Kelsey-Hayes magnesium wheels. This was the first time that anyone had designed a variable power delivery to each end of the car, which varied according to vehicle speed. The brakes were mounted outboard. Girling calipers were widened to accept a vented rotor. The car’s first appearance was in March 1964, on the Milford test track. The original power plant was a Hilborn injected alloy Overhead Cam 377 cid / 490 hp V8 small block with a 10.8 compression ratio. Much later Zora would install a ZL-1 427 with more than 550HP. The reported performance numbers for this 1964 project were a top speed of 210 mph, and 0-60 mph in 2.8 to 3.0 seconds.
Bunkie had been providing various covert racing support. The GM BOD got word of the CERV II and Bunkie's other racing activities during the development period and came down hard on Bunkie to stop the spending and kill the CERV II project.
How many CERV II did Zora really build? Maybe just the one, but maybe extra parts keeping the 6 units in mind. Regardless it is sure is a coincidence that Jim Hall's Chaparrel was so similar. Although, Hall atributes the use of the automatic to his own team, I can't help but wonder if, at least Zora's plans, weren't shared with Hall's team at some point during the Chaparral development.
Here is an interesting quote from Hall:
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