art and words by K Scott Teeters for Vette magazine, republished from Super Chevy
Trend Setting – Part 12: A look back at Chevrolet’s experimental, prototype, concept car, and show car Corvettes
The Aero Coupe Becomes the Scirocco
Dateline November 2015: It is not known when a lowly 1968 Corvette coupe was pulled off the St. Louis assembly line and given a most unusual life. Corvettes are built to be driven and enjoyed by customers; however, this Cinderella Corvette was destined to be a beauty queen in a gilded cage. The designers and craftsmen at Chevrolet Styling were capable of beautiful work. They could have broken off and become their own custom coach-builders.Aero Coupe Experimental told you about this Cinderella Corvette’s first incarnation as the 1969 Aero Coupe, in Part 10 of our series. The candy apple red Aero Coupe was dripping with custom touches, previews of the 1970 model and powered by a 427 ZL1. It was a screamer for sure.
Senior VP of Styling Bill Mitchell would often treat his show car Corvettes like a “write-on/wipe-off” board. He would direct the construction and look of one of his concept show cars, display the car for a while at the big car shows and races (also use them as his personal ride when he could), then send them back into the shop to be stripped, cut up, and made into something else. While Corvette fans and historians, would have preferred Chevrolet had saved everything, Mitchell saw these cars as tools to be used to try new ideas and concepts to gauge the public’s reaction. He wasn’t building cars for posterity and history. The running Mako Shark II is a perfect example of Bill’s attitude towards his show cars. As awesome and as groundbreaking as the Mako Shark II was, it went into the shop, got cut apart, and made into the Manta Ray. How cool would it have been to have the Mako Shark I, II, and Manta Ray all together?
The revised Aero Coupe wasn’t radically different, but enough to be deserving of a new name, and Mitchell chose “Scirocco.” It’s too bad that VW used to name for its 1974-1981 Rabbit-variant, the VW Scirocco, which was a neat car, but now the name “Scirocco” is forever linked to a VW and not Mitchell’s custom Corvette show car. [Scirocco, or sirocco means: a hot wind, often dusty or rainy, blowing across North Africa.] While show cars are typically slightly over-baked, the Scirocco would have made a nice mid-cycle refresh for the Corvette. Most daring was the hood/nose treatment. Small-block Corvette hoods from 1968 to 1972 were “nice enough” but rather unremarkable, especially compared to the 427/454 hood. The Aero Vette wore a 427 L88 hood with the extra dome for the cold-air cowl-induction.
Mitchell took the pointed shape of the typical small-block hood design, raided it up enough to clear the 427 ZL1 big-block, then moved the shape forward past the hood and into the nose clip. At the base of the hood was a chrome grille that could have either been a vent or cold-air intake – it was never documented as to its purpose. The raised center section was decorated with gold pinstripes in a feather-like design, not unlike what we saw on the mid-’70s Trans Am Firebirds. The same feather-style pin-striping was on the top inside of the front fender humps that then flowed back along the tops of the doors.
The metal front bumper was painted the same dark ruby red paint as was the rest of the car and made the bumper totally blend. The Aero Coupe’s large, separate racer-like chin spoiler was replaced with a deep spoiler that wrapped around the front edges of the front wheel opening and blended with the wheel flares. The Aero Coupe’s side pipe covers were a variant of the production ’69 side pipes. The Scirocco got a set of Manta Ray-style side pipes that look more like lakes pipes from the 1950s lowriders. The Chaparral-style lace aluminum wheels from the Aero Coupe were too cool to lose and stayed on the Scirocco. The only other change was to the one-piece, lift-off roof panel. Bill Mitchell show cars all the way back to the Mako Shark I often had a periscope-like rearview mirror integrated into the roof.
The Scirocco wasn’t just a static show car – it was a runner. For nearly four years the Scirocco served as a pace car for Can-Am races. This was during the days when the orange ZL1-powered McLaren monsters ruled the Can-Am road racing series. Mitchell thought it was pretty cool that the same basic engine he used in his Scirocco Corvette, powered the McLaren racers. No argument from me, Bill!
Check out the other Experimental Corvette Stories HERE.