Corvette Prototypes

1954 GM Motorama Concept Cars – Corvette Wannabees

Dateline: 4.24.12

Corvette’s Motorama Kiss’n Cousins

In 2009 when GM was getting negative publicity because of its financial troubles, I received a few emails with images of the 1954 GM Motorama Concept Pontiac Bonneville Special, Buick Wildcat II, and Oldsmobile F-88. For 1954, these are very cool-looking cars and you can’t miss the Corvette connection. The basic message in the email was, “Look at what the Corvette could have been if GM hadn’t let Chevy have the design. These cars had bigger engines and were nicer cars. GM got it wrong.” To which I say, “Ah, no.”

To begin with, the Corvette came first. Harley Earl started his small sports car design in 1951. By the end of ‘52 the hand made XP-112 Corvette was ready for its debut at the ‘53 Motorama Show on January 17, 1953. The concept was a completely unproven and much to Earl’s delight, was very enthusiastically received. So the car was rushed into production with almost zero development. By June ‘53 the first of only 300 Corvettes was released. Compared to the 332,497 Chevy 210 Deluxe 4-door sedans sold in ‘53, 300 Corvettes almost doesn’t qualify as “production.”

But before the numbers came in, Pontiac, Buick, and Olds wanted to take their shots at the 2-seater sports car concept. But unlike the spartan Corvette, the other divisions went in the direction of the ‘50s – big and bold. All three cars were typical concept cars – over festooned, and not produceable at a reasonable cost. The Corvette, also a concept car, was much more realistic for production. Continue reading

Vette Videos: Corvette Daytona Prototype Scores First Win!

Dateline: 4.4.12

The second time was the charm as the Corvette Daytona prototype STOMPS the competition in Hotlanta!

Congrats, Kudos, and Three Cheers to the Corvette Daytona prototype team’s first win! When the flag came down it was the electric blue Spirit of Daytona Corvette prototype to took the checkered flag at the Porsche 250 race at the Barber Motorsports Park, in Birmingham, Alabama. Richard  Westbrook and Antonio Garcia drove the car 103 laps with a best time of 1:22.245.

The next race will be the Grand Am Rolex Series Grand Prix in Miami on April 27-29. For more info about the team’s first big win, CLICK HERE.

And for AutoWeek’s coverage of the race, CLICK HERE.

NOW Feast your eyes on this beauty!

Continue reading

Corvette Timeline Tales: Happy 82nd Birthday Larry Shinoda

Dateline: 3.26.12

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

Mako Shark Attack Week!!! Vette Video – The 1969 Manta Ray Corvette Show Car

Dateline: 1.5.1

Bill Mitchell’s longer, lower, louder, sleeker Mako Shark

Bill Mitchell and his design team cranked out an amazing number of concept and show cars through the ‘60s. The ‘69 Manta Ray was the end of the line for Mitchell’s shark theme that started in ‘61, and was somewhat overlooked for a time. Those were heady days between the new production Corvette, Chevy and other exciting muscle cars, and tremendous advances in all kinds of race cars. The Mako Shark-II-based Manta Ray was kind of, “been there, done that” by 1969. Designers often have concept ideas that they just want to try out in full size, and it seems that the Manta Ray was such a car.

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of the whole Mako Shark-II story is the fact that the configuration of the the running Mako Shark-II is gone! When Mitchell decided to try out a few more design elements for the Shark Corvette, the quickest way to get there was to start with the ‘66 running Mako Shark-II. The running Mako Shark-II was a stunningly beautiful car, so can you imagine what it might have been like for the designers and builders that were tasked with the job of CUTTING THE CAR UP to make the Manta Ray? Oh, that first cut must have been painful! It must have felt like sacrilege taking a zip saw to such a beauty. Continue reading

Mako Shark Attack Week!!! The Running 1966 Mako Shark-II

Dateline: 1.4.12

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

Corvette Timeline Tails: Happy 102nd Birthday Zora Arkus-Duntov

Dateline: 12.25.11

Where the Corvette Got Its Mojo From!

Don’t miss the Duntov video at the bottom of this post!

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

Vette Videos: 1973 4-Rotor, Mid-Engine AeroVette

Dateline: 8.13.11
Take a trip in the CorvetteReport Time Machine back to 1973 for a look-see at what could have been the first mid-engine production Corvette!

 

 

Chief of GM Design, Bill Mitchell had one order for designer Henry Haga, "Make it sleek!"

With all the chitter-chatter in the C7 Corvette rumor mill about a possible mid-engine Corvette, we thought it would be fun to take a trip back to 1973 for a look at what many thought would be the replacement for the C3 Mako Shark-styled Corvette. Corvette chief of engineering, Zora Arkus-Duntov had been pitching the mid-engine layout since the 1960 CERV I car. Not only was the AeroVette a mid-engine layout, it was to be powered by a 420-horsepower, 4-rotor Wankel rotor-motor engine. GM had licensing rights to develop the radical rotary engine that seemed to have a lot of potential.

The car's bi-fold gull wing doors made it fairly easy to step into the car.

In ‘73 there were two, rotary engine-powered Corvette prototypes. The XP-892 used a 2-rotor engine and had a body designed by Pininfarina. While it was a nice-looking car, it really didn’t shout, “CORVETTE!” The 4-rotor car was built on the chassis platform of a previous 1970 experimental Corvette that was simply known as the XP-882. The 4-rotor car definitely screamed, “CORVETTE!” Continue reading


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