What in the world is a "Mule Test Corvette," you might ask?
You will recall that people liked the appearance of the first Corvettes in 1953. Hey, they’re still good looking 55 years later! Unfortunately, they had no power or performance. They were, as many have said, "dogs" in the performance area. The two-speed Powerglide transmission and wimpy six cylinder engine made few friends with prospective customers, and Chevy dealers had to work really hard to sell out the production run of just 300 cars that first year. The 1954 model was no better.
But then Zora Arkus-Duntov was given the responsibility to develop the car people wanted. One of the test vehicles he used to improve performance is called the Mule Test Corvette.
According to Automobile Quarterly‘s Corvette: America’s Star-Spangled Sports Car, A Complete History,
Zora used a veteran V-8-engined 1954-bodied prototype car for tests on the gently banked circular track at GM’s Phoenix Proving Grounds to find out what he’d have to do to be reasonably sure of being able to top 150 at Daytona Beach, where national attention was being focused on high speed in those days. Fitting a small windscreen and a finned headrest, Duntov ran checks on the amount he’d be able to block off the grill opening to reduce drag while still retaining enough cooling to survive the standing mile and flying mile runs. He also calculated that he needed about thirty horsepower more than the V-8 was then delivering.
At the recent 34th Annual Bob McDorman Corvette and Classic Chevy Show, I was delighted to discover that very car in Bob’s collection!
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