Zora Arkus-Duntov

His Last Public Interview…

Because he and I are products of the College of Engineering at the University of Texas, although at different times, Harold Bettes and I had a common academic background and friendship.  After a highly productive stint at a little (at the time) fledgling company named MSD ignitions while I was toiling at Edelbrock, he moved on to another evolving organization in Colorado Springs, Colorado, named the Superflow Corporation. 

It was here that he birthed the concept of annually bringing together a hundred or more persons in global motorsports (engine builders, parts manufacturers and related stakeholders) into an activity that grew much larger over time, bearing the name Advanced Engine Technology Conferences (AETCs), now sponsored  by COMP Cams and a part of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show in Orlando, Florida.  Harold also formed a Hall of Fame segment in the AETC program.  Each year, a single person was identified as having made major career contributions to motorsports and honored at the annual AETC banquet, culminating each year’s conferences.  No, this column isn’t about Harold, but that’s the stage on which the following unfolded.

It was around 1990 and Harold called me.  While I won’t get the exact wording in that conversation (and all the ones that followed), you’ll get the drift of what transpired.  It went something like this.

“Jim, we’re going to honor Zora as our Hall of Fame person this year.”

“Well, you made a good choice.”

“We also thought he’d be our keynote speaker at the banquet as well.”

“Good choice again.  But you might have a little problem with that because he’s a pretty private person.”

“That’s why I called you.  We figured you might want to invite him for us, given how long you’ve known him.”

“I can do that but don’t hold your breath that he’ll accept the invitation.”

So I called Zora and, as usual, his wife Elfie answered the phone.

“Elfie, this is Jim McFarland.  Can Zora come to the phone?”

“Certainly, how’ve you been doing?  I’ll go get him.”


“Zora, this is Jim.  I got a call from the Superflow Corporation.  You know, the people who make dynos and flow benches.  They hold some annual motorsports conferences in Colorado Springs and would like for you to be the keynote speaker at their banquet.  They will also be inducting you into their Hall of Fame.”

“How many people come to this banquet?”

“I don’t know, maybe three hundred or so.”

“I should probably decline.  I might be sick.”