1954 Chevrolet Corvette Test Mule EX-87
Engine: Originally: 265 C.I V8; Currently: 307 C.I. V8
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Weight: 2800 lbs
Top Speed: 163 mph
The first production Corvettes rolled off the production line in January of 1953, with all examples coming
standard with GM’s 235 C.I inline six paired to their three speed ‘powerglide’ automatic transmission.
Many thought the Corvette was an underwhelming car when it was first released, and the cars didn’t sell
as well as GM had hoped. Cancellation of the Corvette was a serious possibility, so GM engineers quickly
needed to devise a plan to save GM’s first dedicated sports car.
Enter Zora Duntov. As the ‘father of the Corvette’, Duntov had a lot of trust within General Motors. In
early 1954, Duntov introduced the idea of a V8 powered Corvette to GM engineer Maurice Olley, who
responded on the physical message in red colored pencil, “We could do this, but probably you are
already doing it?” Olley already knew what Duntov’s mindset was. Duntov’s proposed plan was to drop a
V8 in the engine bay of a test car and begin to rework the suspension and other surrounding
components to create more of an enthusiasts car.
Internally dubbed EX-87 at General Motors, this Corvette Test Mule was instrumental in many of the
initial V8 Corvette engineering advancements. Mauri Rose, Chevrolet Chief Engineer, had a 265 c.i V8
installed into EX-87, marking the first time a Corvette used a V8. Duntov took possession of EX-87 and
began to modify the car with goals to improve the overall performance of the corvette, but also had
interest in setting speed records. The miniature wraparound windshield and ‘tonneau cover’ you see on
this car both came from the mind of Duntov, along with the unique tail fin, which helped the cars
stability at high speeds. Hundreds of hours and thousands of miles of testing were performed on EX-87,
with parts consistently being swapped out.
Duntov’s hopes of setting land speed records with his Mule led to an increase in engine displacement
from 265 c.i. to 307 c.i. What was later known as the ‘Duntov camshaft’ was also installed, which
drastically increased the power output.