Dave’s career then took him to Chevrolet where he led the team that finished the 1970 1/2 Camaro. Then on to the GM Technical Center to manage John Delorean’s unsuccessful attempt to marry the Camaro and the Corvette platforms. In 1973 he was picked to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Sloan Fellow gaining a Master of Science in Management. On his return he was assigned to work with Zora Arkus-Duntov. On Zora’s retirement at the end of 1974, Dave was appointed Corvette Chief Engineer. Dave would be indelibly linked with the Corvette for the next 17 plus years.
The 1984 Corvette introduced both front and rear fiberglass composite leaf springs. This technology was pioneered on the 1981 Corvette as a rear transverse leaf spring. The 1981 seven pound fiberglass spring replaced a 48 pound steel leaf spring.
The team continued adding new technologies over the next decade with advanced electronics creating the 180 mph ZR-1.
In what turned out to be his last development of the Corvette, Dave challenged the Chevrolet R&D team to design a next generation Corvette capable of ZR-1 performance, but at standard Corvette prices. Charged with the seemingly impossible task of making the Corvette faster, lighter, roomier and more rigid as a convertible, the team adopted the backbone architecture that would be the hallmark of the C5 through C7 Corvettes. Dave retired from General Motors in the fall of 1992.
After GM his consulting positions included Intermap Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Mosler Automotive, BAE, TACOM, ERIM, Rosen Motors, Tel Tech, Bose, Intermag Technologies, Technologies M4, Porsche Engineering Services, Coda and IQM Research Institute.
He is the author of, “Corvette from the Inside, the 50 Year Development History” which includes the 17 years during which he and his team made history.
Dave has a website where he podcasts about the Corvette at: www.corvettechief.com.
Dave is a recipient of the SAE Edward N. Cole Award for Automotive Engineering Innovation and is an SAE Fellow. He was recently inducted into Wayne State University’s Engineering Hall of Fame. He is also in the National Corvette Museum’s Hall of Fame and the Bloomington Gold’s Great Hall.
In recognition of Chevrolet’s 100 year anniversary Automobile Magazine wrote:
“Herewith, a look at the 100 cars, people, technologies, events, and milestones that have marked Chevrolet’s 100 years.”
At #70. “Dave McLellan succeeded Zora Arkus-Duntov as the Corvette’s chief engineer in 1975 — a difficult time for the sports car. Its performance had weakened, and many within GM questioned whether it should continue. McLellan was able to put the Corvette on the road to recovery, developing the C4 (1984), reintroducing the convertible (1986), and bringing out the ZR-1 for 1990. . . “
Auto Enthusiast also recognized him at #6 in the Chevrolet Legacy 10 Men Who Mattered in this century of Chevrolet.
“He was the second Corvette chief engineer, picking up the baton after Zora Arkus-Duntov retired. Nearly 20 years after his 1992 retirement, Dave McLellan remains a fixture of the enthusiast community, attending Corvette events across the country with his wife, Glenda.
McLellan began working on the Corvette platform in the late 1960s, under Zora Arkus-Duntov’s direction, and became chief engineer for it in 1975, upon Zora’s retirement. The technologies that debuted on the Corvette during his reign trickled down to other Chevrolet vehicles, bringing advanced technology to affordable cars often before more expensive competitors. Those technologies include Tuned-Port Injection (port fuel injection), anti- lock brakes and Anti-Slip Regulation (Corvette-speak for traction control). He also oversaw the creation of the C4 ZR-1, which put the Corvette on the world stage as a high-tech sports car. McLellan was an engineer’s engineer – and so recognized by the Society of Automotive Engineers – and retains a strong passion for the Corvette. No one could fill Zora’s shoes, but McLellan was the right replacement at the right time.”
We lost Glenda, Dave’s wife of 51 years to cancer in 2016. He remarried in 2017, Joanna an electrical engineer with an MSEE from Georgia Tech. Dave has two sons, David and Philip with three grandchildren.
Dave stills drives his modified 520 hp, Polo Green, 1995 ZR-1 known by its license plate as Z-REX.