Chevrolet Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov honored in RussiaSat, 19 May 2012 00:00:00 -0700
Belgian-born Zora Arkus-Duntov was the first chief engineer for the Chevrolet Corvette. But he is a new discovery to Russians, even though he lived in St. Petersburg through his teenage years.
Now Arkus-Duntov, who died in 1996 at age 86, is being honored in his parents' homeland with an exhibit at the Alexander Solzhenitsyn Center for Russian Emigres in Moscow. The exhibit contains photos, videos and other artifacts from the life of the man who turned the Corvette from a two-seat tourer into a high-performance sports car. The exhibit runs through June 10.
The exhibit's opening drew a good crowd and plenty of media, including Russia Today, an English-language production broadcast around the world, and Auto Plus, a Russian version of the Speed Channel.
There are three cars on display at the exhibit--a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro, a C6 Corvette convertible and a privately owned 2001 Corvette Z06 with Batman decals on the hood and red and black painted wheels.
At the opening there were plenty of questions about why Arkus-Duntov was such a well-kept secret. General Motors didn't go out of its way to promote his Russian heritage during the Cold War years; he was always referred to as the "Belgian-born Zora Arkus-Duntov" in press materials.
There is some injury to national pride that there is no longer an independent Russian car industry--Russia's carmakers have all formed alliances with foreign companies such as Renault and Nissan--and there is much curiosity as to whether guys such as Arkus-Duntov would have made a difference had he stuck around.
Fine automobiles have become a status symbol in Russia. Everything on the streets of Moscow looks as if it would easily fit in White Plains, N.Y. There are many Audis, BMWs, Volvos and Mercedes-Benzes on the streets. You also see plenty of SUVs and a growing number of Fords, plus the odd Cadillac or Chevrolet here or there. Everyone has an iPhone.
Unfortunately, the Corvette is not available in Russia, and there are no plans to export the car there, at least for right now. The Camaro, however, is being exported to Russia and attracted a crowd at the exhibit.
The Solzhenitsyn Center has its own modern building in Moscow with a library and archives, plus a cultural center devoted to various aspects of the
By Jerry Burton