SI Vault
Kenneth Rudeen
March 25, 1957
Chevrolet makes history with a daring new car—the Motor City's first racer. It meets the world's best at Sebring
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March 25, 1957

Detroit's Secret Weapon

Chevrolet makes history with a daring new car—the Motor City's first racer. It meets the world's best at Sebring

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At 47, Duntov is a silver-haired, courtly man with the somewhat dubious distinction of having swum with Nicolai Bulganin one summer near Yalta as a schoolboy. He made the tiny quota for bourgeois students at a technical school in Leningrad, and eventually slipped out of the U.S.S.R. after being held loosely as a hostage for his parents, who had preceded him. With a recent engineering diploma from the distinguished Charlottenburg Institute in Berlin in hand, he became an apprentice engineer and soon designed a minor part for a generator.

"It was an insignificant thing," he says, "but it was my greatest creative joy. Everything since has been weaker."

Duntov dabbled in motorcycles and middle-distance running in Germany, moved on to France and thence to the U.S. Europe was to see him again, however, most vividly at the Le Mans races of 1954 and 1955, in both of which he co-drove the class-winning 1,100-cc. Porsches. His Ardun cylinder heads (for Arkus-Dimtov) which transformed poky stock engines into fire-eaters earned a lasting place in racing.

It was this varied and useful background that Duntov brought to Chevrolet. It has, obviously, not been wasted.

Following current Detroit practice, Chevrolet has entered the SS at Sebring in the name of Lindsey Hopkins, a successful Indianapolis "500" car owner.

Sebring has not only the SS but a bagful of other attractions. It provides the second act in what bids to be the most gripping sports car duel in years—Maserati vs. Ferrari.

The 1956 champion, Ferrari, won the first round toward the 1957 manufacturers' title in Argentina, but Maserati has developed swiftly and may field the two finest drivers in the world—Argentina's Fangio (if he hasn't decided for the SS) and Britain's Stirling Moss. Maserati, too, will be making another effort with its new and powerful 4.5-liter car, which is tentatively to be driven by Fangio and Moss. Jean Behra, the plucky one-eared French driver, and the Argentine 10-goal polo star Carlos Menditeguy, may share one of Maserati's bread-and-butter three-liter machines. Texas' Carroll Shelby, who smiles from this week's cover (and talks about himself in a story on page 69), and the American expatriate Harry Schell, who lives in Paris, are to co-drive an experimental 2.5-liter Maserati.

Enzo Ferrari, meanwhile, has not been sitting on his hands. For the three works cars of the 1956 Mille Miglia type (SI, Dec. 24) he has these accomplished drivers: blond Peter Collins of Britain, Germany's young Count Berghe von Trips, Luigi Musso and Cesare Perdisa from Italy, and the Spanish hotspur, the Marquis de Portago. The sixth driver would have been Eugenio Castellotti (see box), who was killed last week in Italy. He may be replaced by the French winegrower, Maurice Trintignant. Two of the V-12, 3.5-liter Ferraris will have four overhead camshafts, instead of last year's twin-cam system, to provide more positive valve control at high engine speeds.

Besides Ferrari and Maserati the only other logical contender for the over-all victory is Jaguar. New for Sebring is a 3,800-cc. engine developing 300 hp, basically a larger version of the standard Jaguar 3,442-cc. six-cylinder racing engine, with redesigned combustion chambers and larger valves. Since Jaguar has retired from racing as a firm, three cars are being entered by the North American distributor, Sportsman Briggs Cunningham, who will co-drive one of them. Jaguar's hottest prospect is the D-type, to be driven by Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb of Britain, the team which won the 1955 Le Mans in a similar car.


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