It is the first Chevrolet Corvette to have a V8 engine.
The Chevrolet Corvette, popularly heralded as America’s first sports car, didn’t always have the guts to save beauty. In fact, for its first two years of production, the sleek ‘Vette was powered by a 3.9-liter “Blue Flame” inline-six that didn’t create enough power to match the bold styling. That would change for 1955 when a V8 became available, but the first Corvette to sport such an engine was actually built the year before.
Maintained by the Lingenfelter Collection, the very first V8-powered Corvette was an experimental vehicle codenamed EX-87. According Hemmings Motor News, EX-87 started life as a six-cylinder 1954 Corvette, but at Chevrolet’s request, hot rodder Smokey Yunick fitted it with the automaker’s all-new 265 V8. Its 195 horsepower (145 kilowatts) was a useful upgrade over the Blue Flame Six’s 150 ponies (112 kW), and the small-block V8 would go into production the following year to give the 1955 Corvette enough muscle. to take on European sporting rivals like the Jaguar XK, as well as Ford’s newly introduced, V8-powered Thunderbird.
But that wasn’t the end of the road for the EX-87. Chevy gave the project to Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov with the goal of breaking speed records. Arkus-Duntov knew the 265 cu in (4.3 liter) V8 wouldn’t have the muscle to push the Corvette to its 150 mph target, so engineers bored it to 307 ci (5.0 liters), and Arkus-Duntov designed a single camshaft to give it even more power. To help it glide through the wind more easily, the legendary engineer also gave the EX-87, now nicknamed the “Duntov Mule”, a fiberglass inner barrel, a cut windshield and a fin. vertical improving stability behind the driver.
With Yunick at the wheel, the Corvette comfortably exceeded Arkus-Duntov’s goal to reach a top speed of 163 mph at GM’s proving ground. In 1956, the same engine was placed in a different Corvette, propelling it to a top speed of 150.583 mph at Daytona Beach – good enough to capture that record Chevy was after and a huge improvement over the 120 mph top speed of the production Corvette.
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The Lingenfelter Collection recently showcased the Duntov Mule at the EyesOn Design 2022 show in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, where YouTube channel DTRockstar1 spotted it. That growling, snarling Zora cam is quite evident as the car idles across the lawn, sounding far more aggressive and sporty than any Vette that has come before it. As a piece of history, EX-87 is quite fascinating. But as a sports car that has captured records (and a huge following), the Corvette mule Duntov is far more compelling.