Dave MacDonald: Corvette Racer… Corvette Man… Family Man
You can catch Part 1 of this story HERE.
Being hired by Shelby made the MacDonald’s life almost as fast as the cars he drove. In the 17 months between the beginning of ‘63 through to the ‘64 Indy race, MacDonald raced in 44 events. The ‘64 Indy crash was the first time the 500 had ever been stopped because of an accident. The media at the time, would regularly make big headlines over any auto racing mishap, and were all over the crash. While Indy officials quickly concluded that there was no driver error, the race was hotly debated for decades.
“After Indy, I was hurting so, I needed to change my life, so I moved a few miles away, but stayed close to my in-laws. From Indy on, I didn’t follow racing. My interest in racing was basically ONE RACE DRIVER.” It wouldn’t be until the early ‘90s when Corvette fans started recovering and restoring old Corvette race cars that MacDonald’s all too short racing career began to get attention. “It is so gratifying and nice to meet people that raced with Dave and hear how much they admired him, not only for his skill as a driver, but for being a really nice guy.” Today Sherry MacDonald is retired and as busy as ever with volunteer projects and her large family. Continue reading
Vette Videos: Larry Shinoda and Peter M. De Lorenzo Talk About Corvette Design Legend, Bill Mitchell
Shinoda shares his Mitchell “fish story” and De Lorenzo shares his “”neighborhood kid on a bike” Mitchell story!
Here’s one for the Kawinkydink Department. I thought we were all done with our look back and the life and career of Larry Shinoda – wrong! This morning while surfing around the net, I found a video about Bill Mitchell. Before I knew it, there’s Larry Shinoda telling stories about his former boss, Bill Mitchell!
Most of us in the Corvette community are very familiar with the unique “shark” paint style used on the Mako Shark-I, Mako Shark-II, and the Manta Ray concept/show cars. Larry shared a wonderful story about how the guys in the painting department perfected that distinctive paint scheme.
Also interviewed in the video is the late David E. Davis, former Campbell-Ewald Advertising man, former editor of Car and Driver, and founder and former editor of Automobile Magazine. Here’s the video…
A brief overview of six racing cars and three experimental Corvairs Larry Shinoda designed.
Check out our awesome slide show tribute to Larry Shinoda’s designs at the bottom of this post.
Larry Shinoda’s designs were so strong that when his name comes up, it’s almost always first associated with Corvettes. But Larry’s talent for designing fast-looking cars wasn’t limited to Corvettes. I suppose that when you are the go-to-stylist for a legend the likes of Bill Mitchell, you get a few peach projects. In retrospect, what helped make Shinoda’s design work so edgy was his passion for racing. In a sense, Larry’s NHRA Nationals win in ‘55 put him in the same category as 1954 Le Mans racer Zora Arkus-Duntov. As Bill Mitchell used to say, both men had, “gasoline in their veins.”
Shinoda’s race car design credits include: Pat Flaherty’s 1956 Indy 500-winning John Zink Special, Bill Mitchell’s 1959 Stingray Racer, Zora Arkus-Duntov’s CERV I and CERV II, the GS-II (Grand Sport II), Jim Hall’s Chaparral-2, and Peter Weismann’s 1963 rear-engine Indy car.
Although the Corvair never really caught on as a performance car or a sports car, designers such as Shinoda had some jaw-dropping ideas for Chevy’s rear-engine car. The 1962 Monza GT Coupe was in direct competition with Ford’s mid-engine 4-banger Mustang I concept car. What an interesting Chevy vs Ford battle that would have been! When you work in an R&D department often many “variations on a theme” are explored.
The Monza SS was an open cockpit-type design with a racer-like cut-down windshield. Another version was explored with a more traditional type of windshield. And in the same way that other GM divisions glommed on to Harley Earl’s Corvette concept in ‘53 and came up with their own “Corvette” concept cars for the ‘54 GM Motorama (the ‘54 Pontiac Bonneville, Buick Wildcat, and Olds F88). We have an example of a Monza variation that looks a lot like a roadster version of the 1964 XP-833 Pontiac Banshee. It was very common back then for designs to get tossed about within GMs divisions.
One Shinoda design that was not shared by any of GM’s other divisions was the 1967 Astro I. Corvair production peeked in ‘65 for approximately 235,000 Corvairs built. By ‘67 the number went to just over 27,000! The Corvair-based Astro I concept/show car arrived in 1967 and was probably started around ‘65 – ‘66, before the car started to tank. Unlike the Monza GT that eventually became the ‘67 Opel GT, the Astro I was so over the top, none of its design elements were used in any serious fashion. Instead, Chevrolet used the “Astro” name on one of their full-size vans and there was nothing “Astro” about it. Continue reading
Hot rodder Shinoda teams up with Bill Mitchell and defined the “Corvette look.”
Perhaps it was “in the stars” that Larry Shinoda was in the right place at the right time. If you strictly look at Shinoda’s resume in 1956, you might ask, “How did this guy get in the front door?” As a young man, the only thing Larry ever graduated from was high school, Army boot camp, and the School of Hard Knocks. Twelve-year-old Larry had his life turned inside out when along with thousands of Japanese-Americans, he and his family were sent to interment camps for the duration of WW II. The experience had a profound effect on his personality. A self-professed “malcontent” Shinoda could be a little difficult to work with.
After his Army tour of duty in Korea, Shinoda attended Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, but truly hated being there. He could see no purpose in taking the classes in design and the various art mediums, such as watercolor painting. He was a car guy/hot rodder and he wanted to draw and design cars! So he left Art Center without graduating and based strictly on his car illustrations, landed a job at Ford, then Studebaker/Packard. Just a year after starting his career, he landed a job as a designer at General Motors.
The rest is the stuff of legend. Street racing and blowing the doors off of Bill Mitchell’s souped up Buick and quickly being taken under Mitchell’s wing. Things like that happens, but rarely. There was obviously some chemistry between the two men, perhaps it was because both men could be brash and had strong opinions.
Shinoda got his first big break when Mitchell tapped the 28-year-old to translate the body design of the ‘57 Q-Corvette on to the mule chassis from Duntov’s aborted Corvette SS project. The finished car became Mitchell’s 1959 Stingray Racer, which formed the styling theme for the ‘63 Corvette. From there, Shinoda got one peach project after another. It’s worth noting that the design of the Stingray Racer is held in such high esteem that current Corvette chief designer, Tom Peters (C6 Corvette and late model Camaro designer) is on record stating that his ‘09 Corvette Stingray Concept (aka Transformers Corvette) was influenced by the ‘59 Stingray. Continue reading
Tom Benford’s Summer 1997 candid dinner interview with car design legend, Larry Shinoda.
Our celebration of the life and career of car design legend Larry Shinoda continues with this delightful interview that was originally published in the December 1997 issue of VETTE Magazine. Tom Benford and his wife Liz connected with Shinoda in August of ‘97 at the Corvettes At Carlisle Show, in Carlisle, Pa. This may well have been Larry’s last interview, as he died just 2-1/2 months later. Larry’s kidney disease had progressed to the point where he was on the list waiting for a donor kidney.
According to the Pasadena City College Celebrated Alumni Larry Shinoda page , “In poor health, Larry Shinoda remained active to the end. Larry passed away at his home in Michigan of heart failure on November 13, 1997, while working at his design desk with a phone in his hand. Larry had just passed the final tissue-match test for his kidney transplant the day before he died. Though Larry is gone, his legacy lives on.” Continue reading
The next time you see a mid-year Sting Ray or Shark Corvette, think of Larry Shinoda.
He was born “Lawrence Kiyoshi Shinoda” but the automotive and Corvette world knew him as Larry Shinoda – Corvette designer and all-around carguy! Growing up in Southern California, Larry was steeped in the car culture and like many SoCal young men, was into the burgeoning sport of drag racing. In addition to his Corvette accomplishments, Larry also participated in an won his class at the very first NHRA national event in Great Bend, Kansas in 1955.
Larry was only 25-years old when after not completing his studies at Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, he landed his first job with Ford in 1955. A year later, he briefly went to work at Studebaker/Packard, then went to General Motors late in 1956. Larry not only had an impressive portfolio, he had an intuitive sense of styling. If didn’t take long before his talent caught the keen eye of GM’s Bill Mitchell. But it wasn’t just Larry’s skill at wielding a pen and airbrush that helped acquaint him with Mitchell – it was drag racing.
The story goes that one day Shinoda and Mitchell had a chance encounter at a traffic light. Since both men had what Mitchell called, “gasoline in their veins,” neither man needed much goading to initiate a little stoplight grand prix. The light turned green and Larry put a whoop’n Bill, which may have been one of his best career moves. Mitchell drafted Shinoda into his special forces of car design, headquartered deep inside GM’s guarded facilities in a place called, “Studio X.” (sounds like a ‘50s sci-fi b-grade movie, doesn’t it”?) Continue reading
Dave MacDonald: Corvette Racer… Corvette Man… Family Man
Could there have been a more exciting time and place to be into cars than Southern California in the 1950s? Probably not. It was postwar America, California only had about 1/3 its current population, Rock’n Roll was in its infancy, and the car culture was revving up. El Monte was just a semi-rural community in Los Angeles County, the perfect place for young Dave MacDonald and legions of other guys to pour their hearts and souls into cars. What’a time!
MacDonald’s Professional Racing Career
Dave’s first car was a fast 1953 Cadillac. But when Chevy put the small-block 265 into the ‘55 Corvette, 19-year old MacDonald had to have one. He saved his money and a year later, bought his first Corvette, a Gypsy Red ‘55 Corvette. The Caddy was fast and Dave did some street racing with the car, but it was the Corvette that got him into drag racing and eventually road racing. In February 1960, MacDonald had his first official “ride” as team driver for Don Steves Chevrolet at Willow Springs Raceway, and won the Sunday main event. In his first year, Dave entered 15 regional races, taking 1st place in three events, three second place wins, and 4 third place wins. Very impressive for his rookie year.
1961, was even better. MacDonald entered 20 races, won 13 victories, and three second place finishes. Dave’s last win of the year was in his purpose-built, tube frame, lightweight Corvette Special. This car is a story unto itself. 1962 was the year the spotlight really shown on MacDonald. While he didn’t totally dominate the year, he did finish on the podium in 16 races, including 10 victories. It’s also worth noting that MacDonald won every race entered from early February to June – seven wins in a row. The first three wins were with the lightweight Corvette Special. After that, the lightweight car only raced two more times. MacDonald had one race behind the wheel of another lightweight tube frame car, a Devin Corvette that provided Dave with a second place win. Continue reading
The Master of Cut-Away Technical Illustration Automotive Art
Please allow me to indulge myself and geeze a little. It seems that the farther north you are from the age of 50, the more times from the past begin to blur together. If you’re under 30 or 40 and are wondering what I’m talking about, just wait. I think it was somewhere around 1984 or 1985 the first time I saw one of David Kimble’s cut-away technical illustrations.
While Kimble had been working for many years as a technical illustrator for the US Navy, an RV company, the Chaparral Racing Team, the Harrison Racing team, and Sports Car Graphic Magazine, I believe that it was his 1984 technical illustration of the then-new 1984 C4 Corvette that put him on the automotive map. If it wasn’t his ‘84 Corvette cut-away that I first saw, then it was his Ferrari F40 cut-away that appeared in Motor Trend that definitely caught my attention. In the early ‘80s I was a freelance commercial artist specializing in machines. There was a wonderful magazine for commercial and graphic artists back then titled, “Step-By-Step Graphics” that was truly awesome for aspiring artists. Each issue featured several articles that took you on a step-by-step overview of exactly how the artist created their works. It was a terrific magazine.
One issue had a feature story covering David Kimble’s unique approach to the classic “cut-away” style of technical illustration. I was already familiar with James A Allington’s cut-away illustrations from a series of Shell Oil print ads that ran in the late 60s featuring famous road racing cars, such as the Ford GT40, Jim Hall’s Chaparral, and others. But Kimble’s style was quite different and unique. Where as most cut-away technical illustrations show what’s under the car’s body by illustrating a section of the body that seemed to be snipped away, Kimble created a new dimension to the “cut-away” body sections. David’s illustrations looked as if most of the car’s painted body was transparent. Parts, such as tires, wheels, floorboards, dash panels, transmission cases, valve covers were either transparent or used the traditional “cut-away” technique. When you look at a Kimble technical illustration, you experience a journey of discovery. For us gearheads, Kimble’s art satisfies the the question, “What’s under there?” Continue reading
Stockbridge police located Mr. Fitch. He’s okay! He’s okay!
A shock went through the Corvette community today when it was reported that race car driver, inventor, and Corvette legend, John Fitch was reported missing for a time, but was found, and was unharmed. Perhaps the most startling part of the report was that John is suffering from emphysema (an incurable condition) and mild dementia. If you have ever had a family member with dementia, you know what a rough ride that can be.
The Stockbridge police found John, which wasn’t too difficult, as he drives a black ‘05 Mercedes with yellow racing stripes on the sides. I’m sure they all know who John is and what he drives. John was taken to the local medical center and appeared to be in good condition. And his family was notified that he was found.
In Summer ’10 John was part of the festivities in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for a special presentation of the film, “The Quest.” The film is about Fitch’s involvement with the restoration of the 1960 Fuelie Corvette that he raced and won his class at the 1960 Le Mans race. In ‘10 after the car had been fully restored by Corvette Repair, the race car, along with the Miller family AND John went to Le Mans where John and Lance Miller took a lap in the car that Fitch raced full-out 50 years before. The moment and the car’s story is the subject of the film. Continue reading
More Mako Shark-II that a Production C3 Corvette
As groovy as the new C3 1968 Corvette looked to most Vette fans, for some, it wasn’t what they were expecting. What they were expecting was what they’d been drooling over since ‘65 – a production version of the “Mako Shark” show cars. They didn’t want to hear a lot of bunk about what can or can’t be manufactured or that the Mako’s front fender humps were too tall. They wanted the Mako Shark-II, period!
While some grumped and grumbled, one man did something about it. He made his own Mako Shark-II. And to prevent GM from crashing down on his head, he called it the “Maco Shark.” John Silva produced the first total body kit for the late model, C3 Corvette. The only part of the exterior body that was production Corvette was the windshield. While the completed kit wasn’t a 100% dead ringer for Bill Mitchell’s Mako Shark-II, it was close enough for many. But what put the Silva Maco on the map was the guy from Long Island that was already building Chevy supercars and could make sure the Maco had gobs of grunt. Yes, Joel Rosen.
Joel Rosen, along with PR master, Marty Schorr, editor of CARS Magazine, were already in the thick of things with their Baldwin-Motion Phase-III Supercars. Their line of turn-key, bad-ass Super Chevys was called, “The Fantastic Five.” You can get a heap’n help’n of Baldwin-Motion dishes at our sister blog site, www.BaldwinMotionReport.com. While the sales of Phase-III Supercars was cooking along in 1969, Rosen was thinking ahead and working out the details of his Phase-III GT Corvette. Rosen’s plan was to offer a true GT (Grand Touring) version of his Phase-III Corvette. The classic GT car configuration used a stout frame and chassis, plenty of power, excellent brakes, creature comforts, and room for travel bags. GT cars were essentially a sport coupe that you would use for a long trip – a “grand” “tour.” In other words, a “big trip.” C3 Corvette Coupes are short on usable space, so Rosen created a fastback rear window to open up the back storage area to hold those small travel bags for his customer’s, “Grand Tour.”
So, around the same time Rosen started offering his Phase-III GT Corvette, John Silva was making his own version of the Mako Shark, marketed under the name “Maco Shark.” The two men worked out a deal and Motion Performance started offering their own turn-key Motion Macos and Maco body kits. Here’s where things get a little muddy. Removing the complete production Corvette body and replacing it with the Maco was VERY labor intensive and expensive. So, very few Motion-built Macos were produced.
However, lots of body kits were sold and if you’ve ever been involved in the kit car hobby, you know that most kits are not completed. For the cars that were completed, some were better than others and depended on Continue reading
The Non-running Mako Shark-II totally jazzed GM’s management, the RUNNING Mako Shark-II was mind-blowing!
While the non-running Mako Shark-II was dropping jaws at the ‘65 New York Auto Show, there was one major project and one minor project in the works within the Corvette design group. The engineers and stylists were jam’n trying to figure out how to translate the show cars body shape to fit into a car that could be mass produced. What perhaps looked like a no-brainer turned out to be not so easy.
Even though the new production Corvette would use the existing frame, suspension, engine/transmission, and drive train from the then-current Sting Ray, getting everything to fit within an even tighter package was a major challenge. There were issues with front and rear bumper requirements, headlight height and configuration, interior ergonomics, and forward visibility of those gorgeous front fender humps. Getting the design right, plus making all of the parts for tooling was impossible to accomplish in one year for the new design to be a ‘67 model. It’s surprising to me that GM’s upper management couldn’t see that. Another year was added to the development schedule and in retrospect, it should have been two years.
The minor project on the Corvette design team’s plate was to produce a running version of the Mako Shark-II. If you think the production C3 Corvettes were tight, take a close look at the image of the running Mako Shark-II in front of a preproduction ‘68 Corvette. And note how Bill Mitchell towers over the Mako Shark-II. And Mitchell wasn’t a big tall fellow either. The shot of Mitchell getting into the Mako Shark-II shows him slightly bent at the knees. No, the Mako Shark-II was a tiny Corvette. But the shape is brilliant and is a classic example of Mitchell’s ability to style and shape the proportions of a car such that a smallish car looks much bigger without any size reference. Take a look at Mitchell’s early Buick Riviera by itself and than next to a full-size car and you’ll clearly see that the Riviera was not a big car, it just had big car proportions. Continue reading
A Look Back At the First of Bill Mitchell’s STUNNING Non-running Mako Shark-II Corvette Concept Car
No sooner had the‘63 Corvette Sting Ray been released, Bill Mitchell was at it again with another one-of-a-kind concept car. Never one to rest on his laurels, (you know the saying, “He who rests on his laurels, gets knocked on their rears!”) Bill went for something really far out. Now, it’s essential to know this first. Mitchell was often the generator of ideas, but didn’t necessarily pen out all of the details. That’s where the “stylists,” such as Larry Shinoda came in. So, if you were a stylist/designer, how’d you like to get an assignment like that?
Bill told his designers he wanted the following; “A narrow, slim, center section and coupe body, a tapered tail, an all-of-a-piece blending of the upper and lower portions of the body through the center (avoiding the look of a roof added to a body), and prominent wheels with their protective fenders distinctly separate from the main body, yet grafted organically to it.” That’s all. Or as my grandmother used to say, “Yea, clear as mud!”
As his designers and stylists came back with their sketches, Mitchell would art/design direct from there. “I like this… I don’t like that… More here… Less there… That’s not it…That’s it…” etc. It seems that Mitchell had a vague notion of what he wanted and directed the design process. It’s also worth remembering that the design of a single Corvette concept car was just one of MANY design projects that Mitchell was responsible for. Continue reading
A Look Back At the First of Bill Mitchell’s Beautiful Mako Shark Corvettes
Former GM Chief of Styling, Chuck Jordan said it best about his colleague and former boss, Bill Mitchell, “The man had STYLE!” And why wouldn’t he? Can you imagine learning car design from the great Harley Earl? Mitchell was 46 years old when he took over the reins of General Motors Chief of Styling in 1958 when Earl retired. Bill’s design leadership was so prodigious that it’s often overlooked that he spent his entire 42-year professional career with General Motors. That’s something that almost never happens today.
Mitchell’s styling sense can be best described as “edgy” – figuratively and literally. Known as a snappy dresser, Bill liked to “look sharp” and designed his cars with that ideal in mind. Mitchell believed that you could tell a successful man because his cloths were pressed and sharp, so he designed cars the same way! Unlike today’s “bar of soap,” smooth, rounded designs, a common threat in Mitchell’s designs were sharp edges and creases. Note the bold horizontal crease line and edges of the Stingray Racer and the ‘63 – ‘67 Sting Ray, the Mako Shark I, the Mako Shark-II, the Manta Ray, and the production ‘68 – ‘82 Corvette. Continue reading
Where the Corvette Got Its Mojo From!
Corvettes are all about passion and that passion shows up in two powerful ways – visually and from performance. The two are so intrinsically connected that they seem one and the same, but a closer examination reveals that is not the case. Of course, the first thing one notices about the Corvette is its looks. The car’s appearance is totally unique, even though it did borrow a little here and there from other designs. But at the end of the day, the completed design only looks like a Corvette.
But looks will only get you so far. What completes the Corvette addiction is the visceral experience of driving one. To “get” the Corvette, you must drive the car. And if the driving experience was now much different from a mushy sedan, what’s the point? No, if the Corvette didn’t deliver responsive performance with gobs of sensory input for the driver, the car surely would have gone quietly into the night, fading into automotive obscurity, along with a long list of once interesting cars.
So who was responsible for infusing the Corvette with it’s Mojo? Zora Arkus-Duntov. Zora was, without a doubt, the ultimate automotive corporate misfit to ever work in Detroit. By the time he saw the very first Corvette at the 1953 Motorama, he was 44 years old, a seasoned mechanical engineer, race car driver and builder. he was quoted as saying, “When I saw the Corvette at the Motorama, I thought it was the most beautiful car I’d ever seen.” And Duntov appreciated beauty. Just look at his stunning blond beauty wife and former Bluebell Girls dancer, Elfie Duntov. yes, Zora new a good-looking dame when he saw one and one look at the Corvette and he knew where he wanted to be – in the engineering department of Chevrolet, working on the Corvette. Continue reading
Duntov’s Thoughts Pertaining To Youth, Hot Rodders, and Chevrolet
Zora Arkus-Duntov started working at General Motors on May 1, 1953. His first few months were a little bumpy, plowing through some junky assignments, such as sorting out why a prototype car with a heavy rear end wouldn’t handle right and solving a driveline vibration on a GM bus. A few weeks after Zora started, his immediate supervisor, the very capable senior engineer Maurice Olley, suggested that Duntov quit because he didn’t like Zora’s non-engineering solution to the prototype’s handling problem. And Duntov actually considered it! (for a very short time)
But ever the “GO-GO!” racer guy, Duntov had gasoline in his veins and was a pretty good writer for an engineer. Below are his thoughts on the then burgeoning aftermarket hot rod industry Continue reading