ARTICLES




A BLAST WHILE IT LASTED, UNIQUE CORVETTE EARNS AN ENCORE

By Paul Stenquist - New York Times - August 15, 2014

Long Lead

DETROIT — The Big Three horsepower race was at full gallop when a one-of-a-kind 1968 Corvette bolted from the starting line of a temporary dragstrip at the General Motors proving ground in Milford, Mich., accelerating with a fury that would have many of today’s supercars inhaling its exhaust fumes. Cobbled together with a prototype engine, some G.M. performance parts and a lot of hot-rodder handiwork, this Chevrolet engineering project never advanced to production. Nor was it intended to. Its only purpose, says Gib Hufstader, a retired G.M. engineer who helped manage the project, was to impress reporters at the automaker’s annual new-model previews. And impress it did, each writer getting a chance behind the wheel on the makeshift track. Its mission accomplished, the Corvette disappeared, remembered mainly by the band of engineers who built it and the reporters who wrote about their drives.

Long Lead

Masterworks asked Denny Hummel, whose engine shop is in Clinton Township, Mich., to build an LT-2 for the car. “I told them I could if I knew what an LT-2 was,” Mr. Hummel said. “They explained it was essentially an aluminum ZL-1 427-cubic-inch Chevy engine with the internal parts of a 454. I modernized it, but it’s a near duplicate of the 1969 engine.” The replica engine is at least as potent as the original, testing out at 624 horsepower. Like the original car, the replica was built with lightened parts, and where the original was rough around the edges, the clone is likewise, mimicking that cobbled-together look. (Mr. Meier, a perfectionist at heart, said that building a car from the ground up that retains an element of grunge was the toughest part of the job.) In a dragstrip test, the clone recorded a 10.84-second elapsed time at 124 m.p.h., just a hair quicker than the original. In an interview at his shop in June, Mr. Meier said that the work on the car had not concluded — and that the car would never be finished. “Every time the engineers who built the original stop by, they remember something else,” he said. “But that’s good, because it’s an ongoing adventure, a trip back in time to a special day.”