Image credits: © Chevrolet. GM Corp

1964 Chevrolet CERV II

Harley Earl was the inventor of the Corvette but it was Zora Arkus-Duntov who became regarded as the 'Father of the Corvette.' Arkus-Duntov was also a successful racing driver, taking class victories in 1954 and 1955 24 Heures du Mans. He joined General Motors in 1953 after seeing the Motorama Corvette on display in New York City. Although it had an attractive design, Arkus-Duntov was disappointed with what was underneath. Implementing suggestions made by Arkus-Duntov, Chevrolet and the Corvette was transformed from conservative into youthful and exciting. After fitting a small-block V8 into a Corvette, he showcased the car's potential by ascending Pike's Peak in 1956 in a pre-production car, setting a stock car record. That same year he took the Corvette to Daytona Beach and hit a record-setting 150 mph over the flying mile. He also developed the Duntov high-lift camshaft and helped bring fuel injection to the 1957 Corvette. He was also responsible for introducing four-wheel disc brakes on a mass-produced American car for the first time. In the early 1960s, he introduced the Grand Sport program, helping to cement the Corvette as 'America's sports car.'

CERV I (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle) was completed in 1960 and was aimed at open-wheel racing. It featured advanced construction with a conventional design. Power was from an all-aluminum pushrod, 377-cubic-inch small-block which would later be used in racing Corvette Grand Sports in 1963.

Rumors circulated that the next generation of Corvette would be mid-engine, especially since Ferrari and Ford were developing mid-engine supercars. Those rumors turned out to be nearly true, with Chevy's radically different CERV II. Inspired by the 'integral drive' Bugatti T53 race car of the mid-1930s, Duntov made an attempt at four-wheel drive. The Bugatti had been fast but difficult to maneuver and it was hard for drivers to manage. Duntov felt he was able to tackle the problem, as he had Chevrolet General Manager Bunkie Knudsen and the engineering might of General Motors behind him.

Work began on CERV II in late 1961. Originally, his plan was for a run of six cars that could compete at long-distance events such as Le Mans and Sebring. They were designated the G.S. 2/3 (Grand Sport 2 for two-wheel drive or Grand Sport 3 for four-wheel drive.) The G.S. 2/3 received four-wheel drive and the 327 CID engine. Members of the CERV I team helped with construction, including engineers and builders Walt Zetye, Ernie Lumus, and Bob Kethmann and stylists Larry Shinoda and Tony Lapine.

The target weight was a mere 1,400 pounds. The initial configuration nearly met that mark, thanks to titanium hubs, connecting rods, valves, and an exhaust manifold.

The four-wheel-drive system used an unconventional setup utilizing an 11-inch Powerglide torque converter and a clutchless two-speed manual gearbox hung from the rear of the car. A driveshaft extended to a second 10-inch Powerglide torque converter at the front of the car, with a second semi-automatic transmission.

With high-speed gearing and between 500 and 550 horsepower from the 377 engine, the Chevrolet reached 212 mph on the track. When geared for a sprint, zero-to-sixty mph was accomplished in 2.8 seconds.

The car was ready by the mid-1960s and had it gone racing, it would have been a direct competitor to the Ford GT40. Around the spring of 1964, General Motors informed Knudsen and Duntov that racing was off the table. Repurposing it as CERV II, Duntov requested that the car be used as a demonstration vehicle to showcase its engineering and imagination.

CERV II was used for aerodynamic research, tire testing for both the original Firestones and new Goodyears, and top speed testing at Milford Proving Grounds. Corvette test driver Bob Clift received most of the seat time.

Around 1969, a new all-aluminum 427-cubic inch ZL1 V8 was tested in CERV II.

Its last test results are from 1970, after which it was put into storage. Around December of 1974, it was sent to the Design Staff Warehouse in Warren, Michigan, where it was accompanied by a ZL1 and a spare fuel-injected 377 with dual ignition and a third unspecified SOHC fuel-injected engine, as well as probably another 377. Multiple boxes of spares were with the car, including 18 unique Halibrand CERV II knockoff wheels. These materials have since disappeared.

A short time later, CERV II was donated to the Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum in Costa Mesa, California, where it was displayed for the next decade. When the museum closed in 1986 it was acquired by Miles Collier who later sold it to John Moores. Mr. Moores later donated the car to the Scripps Research Institute, from which it was sold in 2001 to another caretaker. In 2013, it was sold by RM Sothebys to a new owner.


by Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2018
Vehicle Profiles
1964 Chevrolet CERV II vehicle information

Roadster

Chassis Num: P-3910
Engine Num: T1212E 2-92199-A

Five years after their first single-seat, open-wheel CERV (Chevrolet Experimental Racing Vehicle), Zora Arkus-Duntov and his team designed CERV II, a mid-engine, four-wheel-drive Le Mans-type 'prototype' racer. Their intent was a Corvette race car to....[continue reading]

Roadster
Chassis #: P-3910 

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