Painting by Elfi Arkus-Duntov
Donated by Larry and Donna Boyd
The First Lady of Corvette, Elfi Arkus-Duntov, was also a woman who loved life, fast cars, and the arts. She was an accomplished dancer with the Blue Bell Dancers and the Folies Bergére, although she always explained, “We were the girls who kept our clothes on.” She was also a painter, and Corvettes were often the subject of her work. This piece in the National Corvette Museum’s Collection was painted by Elfi of her husband Zora Arkus-Duntov, the “Godfather of Corvette.” The Corvette in the painting is also in the National Corvette Museum’s Collection and is currently undergoing restoration.
Elfriede Wolff was her maiden name, and her love of fast cars must have been one of many reasons for her attraction to Zora. While dating, she enjoyed riding with Zora in his Bugatti Type 30. While living in France, Elfi bought a winning lottery ticket that, along with a present from her father, allowed her to purchase an MG J2 Midget. She owned former race cars as well, a Mathis roadster and a Chenard, that were converted for street use.
Zora and Elfi were married on February 11, 1939, in Billancourt, France. When the officiant asked Zora if he’d take Elfi to be his lawful wedded wife, Elfi answered, “Yes, he will” after Zora hesitated, and the ceremony continued. World War II forced Elfi and Zora to narrowly escape Europe and immigrate to America, where Zora was able to excel in the American automotive industry. In America, Elfi’s dancing skills gave her the opportunity to travel to several cities engaging in her career, including performing in 1946 at Chicago’s Shubert Theater and even receiving an offer to work at the Copa Cabana in Miami. Zora and Elfi were married until his death at the age of 86. She was an avid enthusiast for the Corvette, the National Corvette Museum, and her husband’s legacy, attending the grand opening and many other Museum events and signing countless autographs for their fans. She is interred with her husband, according to their wishes, at the National Corvette Museum and is a member of the NCM Corvette Hall of Fame. Her painting represents their unique American immigration story, reaching their dreams at home with America’s Sports Car.
– Written by Leah Craig, Registrar/Collections Manager