Corvette-o-philes know the first-generation Corvette wasn't a muscle car — it was a European-style roadster with Jaguar in its sights. Under the fiberglass hood was an inline six, dubbed "Blue Flame." But in 1955, sales were off. The Corvette needed a transfusion — and it got one.
Among the 200+ cars in the collection of Ken Lingenfelter resides the very first Corvette to be fitted with a small-block V8 engine. To GM, it was experimental car EX-87; to 'Vettologists it's the Duntov Mule, named after Chevrolet engineer Zora Arkus Duntov, champion of the V8 Corvette — and author of the research brief that sold GM brass on muscle cars and performance parts: "Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot Rodders and Chevrolet."
Somewhere around 1954, Duntov headed a joint project whose contributors included Duntov himself; racing legend Smokey Yunick; Ed Cole, father of the Chevy small block; and three-time Indy 500 winner Mauri Rose. The result was the car you'll see in this episode of Big Muscle. It had a special, pre-production small block punched out to 307ci, in which still resides the "Duntov 3030." That is, a particularly hot, solid-lifter cam Duntov special-ordered from GM Engineering. The EX-87 also had a bunch of aero gear fitted for stability, for when, at GM's Arizona proving grounds, it would eventually hit 163 mph — staggering speed for the time — with Duntov at the wheel.
Lingenfelter paid $318,000 for the "Duntov Mule" at auction in 2009. Now it's worth over a million, easily. Lumpy cam and all.