Some people are simply born to go fast, and famed SoCal hot rodder and drag racer Dick Guldstrand was just such a fellow. The California-native turned away from a promising career in the aerospace industry to pursue his passion for speed, racing, and the Chevy Corvette at a time when General Motors didn’t support motorsports. Guldstrand earned the name early on as “Mr. Corvette” as well as a place in the Corvette Hall of Fame and in the hearts of enthusiasts everywhere.
On September 2nd, Dick Guldstrand passed away after over 87 years of living life in the fast lane. The world he was born into is unfathomably different from the world we live in today, and for over 50 years he has remained a candid pillar of the Corvette community.
Like many hot rodders that came of age after World War II, Grunwald got his start racing a modified Ford Model T, and at the age of 17 he set a land speed record of 130 mph in a Model A. He found side work working as an automotive extra in Hollywood, and later advised the makers of the movie “Grand Prix” for added authenticity. In the late 1950s he found a job in California’s aerospace industry that afforded him a 1956 Chevy Corvette, which he raced on weekends.
He caught the eye of several sponsors including a Chevrolet dealer owner, who secured several go-fast parts for Guldstrand through the father of the Corvette himself, Zora Arkus-Duntov. Mr. Corvette, as he became known, would end up rubbing elbows with many other automotive greats like Roger Penske, Bob Bondurant, and Don Yenko, with whom he helped develop and build a Corvette L88 that set a 171 mph speed record at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans.
That’s only the tip of Mr. Corvette’s many accomplishments, and he remained intimately involved in racing and Corvette’s for the rest of his life. Guldstrand developed a reputation for candid honesty and competitiveness, but he’s also remembered for being a warm and welcoming personality who just loved what he got to do. There will only ever be one Mr. Corvette, and the pantheon of racing stars shines a little dimmer with his passing.