CERV 1 is an extremely important part of Corvette history. Although this was never a production car, the ideas that were created and implemented from CERV 1 are significant. CERV is an abbreviation for Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle and this is the first to be assigned the name. Created back in 1959-1960, CERV 1 utilized visionary ideas with its mid engine design. This mid engine layout was created years before a similar design appeared at the track in 1962 and eventually won the Indy 500 in 1965. Zora Arkus-Duntov was the visionary and he was always ahead of his time. It was unfortunate that the materials for his ideas were not cost effective or approved during his time at GM. This was the first of his mid engine ideas. I have a 35mm Kodachrome slide from Riverside 1960 when Duntov himself drove CERV 1 around the track, and hopefully I can find somewhere to post it in the near future. The original photographer passed the torch to me.
I’ve seen CERV 1 several times over the past three decades and I will be able to see it again at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2017. Back in the day, CERV 1 received a variety of powerplants to test fuel injection systems and it originally rolled on a more narrow set of Halibrand knock offs and taller profile tires circa 1960. CERV 1 has been rolling on low profile Firestones with wide Halibrand knock offs as long as I have seen it in person. That is how it rolls today.
I will have a follow up story on CERV 1 after Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2017 shortly after my return from the auction. I will be there on the block when the hammer drops, so make sure you come back here to Corvette Legends for the continuation of the CERV 1 story.
Here is the description from Barrett-Jackson which Roger C. Johnson wrote for all of us to enjoy. When the hottest engineers and designers in the automotive business put their heads together, you can be sure something historic will happen. And in this case, it happened several times. The first Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle (CERV 1) debuted in 1960, and was created to develop Corvette suspension and driveline components for the production car. It was the result of the talented engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, along with designers Larry Shinoda and Tony Lapine. Together, and separately, they made history happen during the glory years of Bill Mitchell’s jet-age Detroit and beyond. And it was their CERV 1 that drove us all towards the future.
This fantastic piece of automotive engineering has Chevrolet’s blood, sweat and ingenuity written all over it. Their no-nonsense, racetrack test bed incorporates a single center-mounted seat, fully independent suspension, a 4-speed transmission, and heavy-duty finned drum brakes front and rear. A precision recirculating ball steering system was incorporated to assure proper driver feedback and fast response.
Power was originally supplied by a fuel-injected 350-horsepower 283. Magnesium and aluminum alloy engine pieces whittled down the weight of this power plant to a svelte 350 pounds. The car’s Rochester injection system fed the juice from two rubber bladder fuel cells.
Although this rear-engine CERV 1 was conceived to be a track bully, it was not actually built to be sanctioned by any racing organization. Consequently it never officially competed, although it did have the proper dimensions for an Indy car. But, as you may recall, GM banished racing from their kingdom during this period. Talk about driving a fine line.
The CERV 1 first appeared in public with Duntov at the wheel doing demo laps at the 1960 U.S. Grand Prix in Riverside, California. Imagine owning a car not only developed by Duntov, but also driven by him. The team would eventually replace the original engine with a 377 cubic inch aluminum small block utilizing an upgraded version of the Rochester fuel-injection system. They also rethought the car’s aerodynamics and made changes in the process. It is presented in that configuration here and now.
The culmination of this effort would go on to push the CERV 1 past the 200 mph mark. For the sake of reference in 1960, the fastest lap speed at Indy was 146 mph. Imagine doing statistical analysis at 206 mph in an open-air rocket ship. Some people get all the good jobs. By the way, it would be five more years before a modern rear-engine Indy car would appear on the track. It is difficult to imagine any other vehicle that has had an impact on our current performance machinery like this 1960 engineering prototype from Chevrolet. It is a bare-bones, open-wheel, rolling laboratory that was destined to be a one-of a-kind workhorse for some of the luckiest engineers in the world at an unforgettable moment in time.
“GM’s CERV 1 is one of the most significant experimental vehicles in American automotive history,” said Craig Jackson, chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. “Arkus-Duntov masterfully bridged his aptitude for engineering and design with his racing acumen to create an experimental vehicle that blazed new roads for the automaker. CERV I was a test bed for many advances of the era, particularly in regards to the development of the Chevrolet Corvette. It’s rare that experimental cars survive beyond their intended purpose like CERV I. Duntov broke all the rules with the CERV I, and we’re honored to be a part of its history when it crosses our block in Scottsdale this January.”
Now is your chance to own the ultimate collectible. No one else in the world will have its equal. A completely documented paper trail on this incredibly rare piece of automotive history is proudly included in the sale of the one and only CERV 1. Duntov, Shinoda and Lapine would go on to work together during the development of the new 1963 Stingray. Shinoda’s hand would then touch Ford’s Boss 302 Mustang, among other projects for that company. Lapine joined Porsche and moved back to his homeland in Germany, where he designed the 924 and 928 models. And Duntov would become the official godfather of the Corvette forever. Provenance will never get more compelling than that.