On a cold day in January 1953, a love affair began at the General Motors Motorama at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York.
Zora Arkus-Duntov was among the thousands captivated by the Corvette concept car. But Arkus-Duntov looked beyond the car's sleek styling and saw its potential as a technology and image leader for General Motors.
"Mechanically it stunk, with its six-cylinder engine and two-speed automatic transmission," Arkus-Duntov said of the original Corvette, according to Zora Arkus-Duntov: The Legend Behind Corvette, by Jerry Burton. "But visually it was superb."
Arkus-Duntov was born in Belgium in 1909 to Russian parents and grew up in Russia. Then he studied engineering in Germany, where he developed an interest in racing — a desire that would play a big role in his future and the Corvette's.
The outbreak of World War II drove Arkus-Duntov and his wife, Elfi, from France to the United States. The development of a harmonic balancer for heavy machinery during the war years earned Arkus-Duntov his first patent and recognition for his engineering talents.
But Arkus-Duntov loved cars. With his brother, Yura, he built a business selling cylinder heads and parts that would wring more power from Ford flathead V-8 engines. Early hot rodders flocked to the products, sold under the Ardun name.