Mako Shark / Maco Shark Corvettes
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…
What A Better Place To Show Off the Mako Shark-I
Lucky for us, GM design chief, Bill Mitchell had a fish fetish. Or should we say, a shark obsession. I once read an amusing story about Mitchell and his “shark thing.” He was talking with someone about the Mako Shark-I show car and he said, (sorry for the paraphrasing) “Look at the open mouth in that grille area. You can just see the blood dripping from the opening!” Yea, he was “into it.”
The story goes that Mitchell caught a big shark off the coast of Bimini and had it stuffed and mounted. It must have been his muse because he obviously picked up on three design elements.
1. The real shark’s side gills. On the car they show up just ahead of the front wheel wells and just behind the rear wheel wells.
2. The real shark’s open mouth snout. Gee Bill, no teeth for the car? I think over the years, a few show car Corvettes have been seen with shark’s teeth.
3. The real shark’s light underbelly and dark blue top. This became the signature “Mako Shark” paint job with lots of variations.
A Salute to the design the set the style for America’s sports car, the Corvette.
It’s only been a week or so since the photos of a disguised C7 Corvette surfaced and already the critics are weighing in. One report commented that the profile and proportions look too much like the current C6. And therein lies the designer’s dilemma when it comes to designing a new Corvette. The new design has to “look like a Corvette,” but has to “look new.” This isn’t a new problem actually. But before we come down on the Corvette design team too harshly, we should all just breath… and be patient. Those disguised cars always look bad.
But, there is no doubt that the Corvette’s image will forever be locked into the design that goes all the way back to 1963-1964 when GM’s VP of Design, Bill Mitchell charged his designers with the challenge to, “Design a “narrow, slim, ”selfish” center section and coupe body, a prominently tapered tail, an “all of one piece” blending of the upper and lower portions of the body, prominent wheels with protective fenders, distinctively separate from the main body, yet gaffed organically to it.” The end result was the Mako Shark-II. Continue reading
So, you want to build yourself a Maco Corvette? Get your work clothes!
We were very pleased with the response to our Mako Shark Attack Week from the beginning of January 2012. I first saw the Mako Shark-II back in ‘66 and thought it was the most stunning car I’d ever seen. It looked like what I had imagined “cars from the future” would look like. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one that was touched, moved, and inspired.
The Cliff Notes version of the Mako Shark-II story is this. Chevrolet blows minds with the non-running Mako Shark-II at the New York World’s Fair in 1965. The crowds went wild and told Chevrolet, “We want one!” And Chevrolet said, “We’ll get right on it!” The running Mako Shark-II with it’s big 427 big-block engine was just “out’a sight!” But when the Mako Shark-II-inspired ‘68 Corvette came out, some said, “What’s that? That’s not a Mako Shark!” One guy took it upon himself to build his own Mako Shark-II body for the new Corvette. John Silva’s “Maco Shark” Corvette body kit filled the void that Chevrolet created. Silva’s Maco kit got the attention of Motion Performance’s Joel Rosen, who had recently unleashed his Phase III GT Corvette, and was looking for something even more exotic to offer his Motion customers. Rosen and Silva made a deal and the rest is history. Motion and Silva made a few turnkey Maco Sharks and sold LOTS of body kits and parts.
The kit car industry has come a long way since the ‘60s when Meyers-Manx, Fiberfab, Silva, Motion, and others were selling kits. The nature of kits cars is that most are never completed, with electrical issues usually being the number one issue. What it comes down to is that for a kit car to turn out great, you need excellent craftsmen and a fair amount of cash. A fully-functional kit car can be as complicated as a manufactured car. Continue reading
The Motherload of Maco Corvette Photos!
Our Mako Shark Attack Week was a big hit (LOTS of visitors) and got the attention of what may well be two of the biggest Maco Shark fans out there in cyberland. The other day we had a brief note from Robert Egli complimenting one of the Mako Shark posts from our “Mako Shark Attack Week.” He wrote, “For more photos of Mako Sharks just check out the gallery above.” So I went to the link and WOW! I didn’t count the number of pictures Robert has on the page, but I spent at least an hour carefully looking over the collection of images. The cars range from stunning to junkyard specials, which is fairly typical of kit cars. To visit the Maco Gallery, CLICK HERE. 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
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
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