Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE SUBHEAD READS “The Spiritual Father of the Corvette Meets le Patron du Pur Sang.” In composing this subhead, I knew that everyone would recognize the two people: Zora Arkus-Duntov and Ettore Bugatti. I never met M. Bugatti, but got to know Zora pretty well, as for awhile he resided near Pacific Coast Highway, just down the hill from R&T’s office.

Zora Arkus-Duntov, 1909–1996, Belgian-born American engineer, race driver.

Zora was a charming raconteur of motor sports, the Corvette being just one aspect of his career. (Again immodestly) to quote myself, “Even before his more than two decades with Corvette, the automotive enthusiasms of Zora Arkus-Duntov were well defined. His Ardun overhead-valve conversions transformed flathead V-8s into potent powerplants for American hot rods, not to say British Allards.”

Allard calls to mind a comment of Zora’s at Monterey Historics in 1990, the year this car was the honored marque. I asked Zora, “Have you seen so many Allards before in one place?” “No,” He responded, “More than even ever left the factory.”

To continue my minibio: “He raced cars as well, mainly Porsches, and twice won his class at Le Mans. Zora’s 82 years have been rich in experiences, accomplishments, and friendships. As part of this month’s focus on Bugattis, we offer Zora’s eloquent thesis that Ettore Bugatti was not only an artistic genius, but an engineering genius as well.”

Here, In Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits about Zora’s article, accompanied by correspondence arising from its editorial preparation.

An Article’s Genesis. Logged in at R&T, October 23, 1990: “Dear Dennis,” Zora wrote, “The thought came to me, if I die, the memory of the people I was associated with will die too….” 

Among others, Zora mentioned Alfred Neubauer, Mercedes-Benz’s racing team manager, driver Bernd Rosenmeyer, and Larry and Lucy Shell and their offsprings, Harry and Philip. His letter contains a P.S. “I am enclosing a very, very, very disjointed draft of Bugatti story.” 

My Pitch. On November 30, I pitched Editor Tom Bryant: “For instance, he met Ettore Bugatti in 1937 and describes weird shoes Bugatti wore…. He also tells the tale of a cracked Bugatti engine block disguising the recent presence of one gal from another….”

On December 3, I wrote Zora “I’m delighted to work together on the enclosed story. I see it having three principal parts: your meeting with EB; a couple examples of engineering analyses of his suspension; and your wonderful story of the Castrol-lube casting that saved your romance. (I promise to handle this part with taste and understanding).”

The Process Advances, Slowly. Early in 1991, Zora pitched us about yet another story entirely: sports car racing and the founding of Corvette. “It’s neat stuff, Zora,” I wrote, “but not nearly as publishable as that lovely Bugatti piece…. Please, please, may I have your permission to edit the Bugatti piece into a two-page R&T feature?”

Tomorrow in Part 2, the article appears, albet with scheduling delayed by editorial priorities and the tale’s timeless nature. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, 2021  


  1. Bob Storck
    December 6, 2021

    I always felt that John “Z” Delorean aspired to be Zora Arkus-Duntov … but never could carry it off!

  2. Jack Mason
    December 6, 2021

    Wait a minute . . . “IF I die”?

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