If you were one of those Corvette enthusiasts who'd hoped that the front-engine, rear-drive, sports car would be upgraded to European mid-engine fuel-injection status, this was your car. It was Corvette head and chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov's, too. In 1962, Arkus-Duntov conceptualized a line of Corvettes that would be constructed entirely for racing, complete with a mid-engine layout, a monocoque chassis and a fuel-injected, aluminum alloy V-8 engine. The prototype came to be known as the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle II, or CERV II.
Duntov also planned on building racing Corvettes, in the form of the production-based Grand Sports. The CERV II would take this to a whole new level and compete in the same classes as the under-development Ford GT40. Just as construction of the CERV II was started, however, General Motors myopic senior management issued an unambiguous “no racing” edict meant to halt the experimental car’s development. Dealing with those idiots would have driven most engineers mad but Duntov simply shifted the CERV II’s focus to that of a rolling test bed to develop a “Super Corvette” for the street.
The stunning aerodynamic body was designed by Larry Shinoda and Tony Lapine. An alloy 377-cu.in. V-8 with Hilborn fuel injection (estimated to produce around 500 horsepower) was fitted to a unique all-wheel-drive system that used dual torque converters and varied the front-to-rear power split based upon vehicle speed. With a weight goal of 1400 pounds, titanium was used where possible and magnesium wheels fitted. Girling disc brakes were used all-round, while the CERV II’s independent suspension featured coil springs and Armstrong shock absorbers.
Drivers like Jim Hall, Roger Penske and Bob Clift all spent time behind the wheel as the CERV II went through an evolutionary process of improvement; and by 1970 the experimental car was running a 427-cu.in. ZL-1 V-8. But as always happened whenever news of a possible mid-engine Corvette surfaced, GM management put up another barrier, bringing development to a halt.
The CERV II was displayed on the show circuit and in museums before falling into private hands. Now this iconic bit of GM’s history will cross the stage in New York City for the first time since 2001 with a pre-auction estimate price of $1.3 to $1.8 million. The Art of the Automobile auction will take place November 21 in the Sotheby’s showroom in New York City. For more on this story see Kurt Ernst's article at Hemmings.com