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Zora Arkus-Duntov was born in 1909 to wealthy Russian parents studying in Brussels, Belgium. The following year, the Arkus family returned to Saint Petersburg in time to suffer through both World War I and the Russian Revolution. Young Zora, who was mesmerized by anything capable of moving under its own power, showed little interest in school. When the harsh times brought bread rationing, he armed himself with a revolver to safeguard the family's food supply. A firearm also came in handy when a crosstown doctor had to be persuaded to come and care for his ailing mother.

Due to the severe economic conditions, Zora's father Jacques Arkus stayed in the household following his divorce and the arrival of stepfather Josef Duntov. Years later, in 1941, Zora finally had sufficient respect for his third parent to change his last name to Arkus-Duntov.

Watching conditions deteriorate in Germany through the 1930s, especially for those of Jewish descent, Arkus-Duntov and his wife, the former Elfi Wolff, hastily relocated first to Paris and then to America on a freighter converted to passenger service. Both found fortune in their new world - she as a professional dancer, he as a consultant before becoming a war munitions manufacturer.

Amazingly, Arkus-Duntov's success on the world endurance-racing stage came after he had joined GM as a development engineer. Upon seeing Harley Earl's Corvette prototype at the 1953 New York Motorama, he was instantly smitten. He unleashed the full brunt of his persuasive powers to convince Chevrolet boss Ed Cole and GM R&D director Maurice Olley that a production Corvette would be a "turning point" for GM and that his contributions could be instrumental in advancing any high-performance automobile's cause.

The 1957 Corvette SS originated a badge that Chevrolet still uses today. This purpose-built sports racer taught Arkus-Duntov an important lesson when it failed after only 23 laps at the 12 Hours of Sebring: that the best way to avoid cooking the driver is to mount the engine behind the cockpit. He earned his first real title at General Motors - Chevrolet's director of high performance - later that year.

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Source: Don Sherman - R&T

Submitted by Phil Ellison