30 May 2008

Mobility is the byword of modern transportation

It would appear that someone inside of Walt Disney Imagineering has a thing for corvettes. The history behind this crate, found along the Rivers of America in Liberty Square, is actually three-fold: The man Zora Arkus-Duntov, the field of engineering and its applications to the Corvette, and the place of St. Louis, Missouri.

Zora Arkus-Duntov, born Zachary Arkus, was an engineer and a race car driver. As a driver he took place in the 1952, 1952, 1954, and the 1955 endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. As an engineer Zora helped design the aluminum overhead valve heads for the Flathead Ford V8 engine, which not only overheating problems, its primary function, but also increased the horsepower that the Ford V8 was able to produce to over 300.

While at a GM event in New York in 1953, Arkus-Duntov saw a Corvette on display. While he was enamored by the outward design of the car, he found it to be lacking in technical ability. That is to say it lacked the power and performance of the sports cars being released in Europe. After writing to General Motors (GM) to explain what he loved in the vehicle, as well as a technical paper of determining a car’s top speed, he was offered a position as an assistant staff engineer with Chevrolet.

He immediately went to work, writing a paper labeled “Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot Rodders and Chevrolet,” which set the tone for his future as we as the company’s. He added a small-block V8 and a three-speed manual transmission. These additions would launch the Corvette into history and bestow Arkus-Duntov with the title “Father of the Corvette,” even though he had simply modified a previous design. Zora would continue his work with the Corvette until 1975.

As for St. Louis’ status in the story, it’s simple, St. Louis is the location where Corvettes were produced from late 1953 until 1981. Prior to that, they were constructed in Flint, Michigan, and after 1981, they were built in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Though the crate may seem a detail out of time along the waterfront in the Magic Kingdom, the car is a classic, and those who love Corvettes know their passion is timeless. The Corvette may not have been the first automobile, and Zora Arkus-Duntov may not have been the first automotive engineer, but they both changed the landscape of the road, and it is that sense of determination and ingenuity, a trait shared by our fore-fathers of all Liberty Squares, which enables this crate to remain. Plus, I imagine that Imagineer who placed it there, really liked placing it there.


Princess Fee said...

Oooh I love this sort of thing! Great research!

Unknown said...

Great find, Ryan!

I would imagine that the rationale (besides the Imagineer's love of Corvettes) would be that the mighty Mississippi would be considered one of the Rivers of America. Also, the original Autopia vehicles (in Disneyland) were modeled after the Corvette by Disney Legend Bob Gurr.

Still...very impressive!