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.
Dateline: 3.2.12 -
A Timeless Corvette Beauty
Every so often a car design comes along that is “perfect.” It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you end up stopped dead in your tracks. You find yourself almost unable to STOP looking at the car’s shape. For me, the 1959 Stingray Racer is such a car. The 1959 Stingray Racer was an outgrowth of the dead-on-arrival 1957 Q-Corvette, which never made it past the full-size clay model stage. But the pint-sized concept had a nuclear-powered punch because it set in motion a design process that is still with us today. Consider the lineage…
Q-Corvette leads to…
1959 Stingray Racer leads to…
Mako Shark I show car leads to…
1963-1967 Sting Ray leads to…
Mako Shark-II-inspired C3 “shark” Corvette… that leads to…
C6 Corvette (look closely at the front and rear fenders of the C6 – there’s a C2 Sting Ray in there).
Back to the timeless ‘59 Stingray. Clearly, Bill Mitchell wasn’t done with the design of the proposed Q-Corvette. So, with a borrowed chassis from the aborted ‘57 Corvette SS racer (1957 was a VERY GOOD year for the Corvette!), Mitchell designed a roadster version of the interesting Q-Corvette around the small, lightweight birdcage tube chassis from the mule version of the Corvette SS project. Continue reading
Harley Earl gave us much more than the Corvette. He could have also been called, “The King of the Razzle-Dazzle!”
Three Harley Earl Videos!
Yesterday we shared with you a brief overview of the life and career of General Motors’ first chief of design, Harley Earl. When it comes to Corvettes, it’s easy in retrospect to say that GM should have done this and done that. But it’s essential to remember that when Earl first showed his sports car renderings of what they were calling the “Project Opel,” there were no sports cars being made in Detroit. And no one even knew if there was an American market for the little machines. And on top of that, no one in Detroit really knew “how” to build a true sports car. But, everything has a beginning. And lucky for the Corvette, it skimmed by for a time, just on its good looks.
So much of what Earl pioneered in his career at GM is now commonplace practices in the automobile industry. Two of the best examples of Earl innovations were the “design studio” and “annual model changes.” Today all of the major car companies have their own private facility where ideas and concepts are thrashed out. Before Earl’s Technical Center was officially christened in 1956, there were no such places where ideas could be securely developed in private. Continue reading
Hemmings Motor News old sister publication takes a look back at the first special-built Corvette race car, the SS Corvette
(Be sure to check out the SS Corvette video at the bottom of this post!)
Back in the early ‘80s there was a new trend in the car magazine biz – specialty publications. Marty Schorr’s VETTE Magazine was ahead of the curve when it came out in ‘76. VETTE was the first “Corvette-only” news stand magazine ever published. By the early ‘80s there was a specialty publication for most brand cars. Hemmings Motor News branched out with a unique magazine called, “SIA – Special Interest Automobiles.” While I remember seeing the magazine on the news stands it wasn’t something I was interested in back then, as it featured many pre-WW II “classic” cars, and I was interested in other things at the time.
Fast forward to today and the wonderful world of blogging, Hemmings has one of my favorite car blogs. It’s the preverbal “box of chocolates” because “you never know what you’re going to get.” (thank you Forrest Gump!) Recently at http://blog.hemmings.com/ they posted an interesting and detailed story about the 1957 SS Corvette race car from the October 1988 issue of SIA magazine.
Don’t let the rather scathing introduction put you off, “…the SS was little more than a poorly executed and slapdash affair, deserving of its failure at Sebring and merely spared the pain of further embarrassment… “ The actual article from SIA is very good with lots of pictures, statistics, and some nice technical illustrations of the SS Corvette.
This is just my opinion, but I think that the introduction was a little unjust for the following reasons. While it is true that Duntov and his team copied the Mercedes 300SL race car’s birdcage frame and chassis, so did many other cars. The design was the standard road racing layout of the day. General Motors of the mid-’50s was arguably the least prepared auto company to even take on such a project, as they had NO experience what-so-ever in building race cars. The only part of the car Chevrolet engineers were familiar with was the 283 Fuelie engine. Plus, the small-block was only in its third year of production and F.I. unit was brand new. Continue reading
Dateline: 8.28.11 (Our 150th post!)
All you’ll need is a knockwurst with mustard on a bun and a tall, frosty root beer!
Perhaps you are simply too far away from southeastern Pennsylvania to attend. Fret not, we’ll bring the show to you. Unless you have been holed up in your Corvette or in your man-cave, you may have missed the news that a hurricane zipped up the East Coast. Hurricane Irene made a mess here and there. While the southeastern part of Pennsylvania only caught the western edges of Irene, Saturday was a yucky day and Sunday was only better in that it was not raining like it was Saturday night. While Irene didn’t deliver a washout, it didn’t help.
I can only describe the Corvettes at Carlisle experience as a “happening.” Pardon the 60s expression, but I AM a baby boomer. There’s so much to see, look at, oggle, take in, sounds, smells, talking, laughing, smiling. Plus, the Corvettes! (12 more videos below) Continue reading
It all had to begin somewhere…
What an OUTRAGEOUS proposal! Take a Chevy sedan chassis and drivetrain, soup up the in-line-six “Stovebolt” engine, and dress it with a sexy lightweight body made of an exotic new material – fiberglass. That’s was GM chief of design, Harley Earl’s idea of an American sports car.
The Stovebolt-Six engine was goosed by adding three Carter one-barrel carbs, a more aggressive solid-lifter cam, increased compression to 8:1, dual valve springs, stronger exhaust valves, and a high-efficiency water pump. The 115-HP Stovebolt six was reborn as the Blue Flame Six and packed a mighty 150-HP @ 4200 rpm and 224 LB/FT or torque. (calm down, calm down) The transmission was the tried-and-true Chevrolet Powerglide automatic with the shifter on the floor.
While the fiberglass was exotic for 1953, there was a more practical reason for using the plastic material – COST. Even though finishing the body was more labor intensive, it was no where near the cost of making the huge metal stamps for steel body parts. Chevrolet engineers determined that if the car failed, they would have a minimal financial risk using fiberglass. Continue reading
Take a trip in the CorvetteReport.com Video Time Machine to 1957!
Many times, a bold project must have a bold leader. Zora Arkus-Duntov was one of the all-time great corporate outsider misfits. Not only was he the only executive at GM that had actually raced cars, he had raced at Le Mans! Plus, he was constantly wandering off the reservation!
After Sebring in ‘57, it was obvious that modified stock Corvettes would never be competitive against the Jaguars and Ferraris. GM’s chief designer, Harley Earl proposed building a “Corvette” based on a D-Type Jaguar with a Corvette engine and a modified body. When Zora heard about the proposal and looked into what would be needed to create such a car, red flags popped up all over the place for the wild Russian. But Earl was no fool, he was a master tactician, and may well have made such an outrageous proposal as a way of pushing Chevrolet towards building their own purpose-built Corvette racer.
Obviously, because of Duntov’s background, he was the only man to lead the project. After he put together his team of designers, draftsman, and fabricators, the chassis of a Mercedes-Benz 300SL was used as a model for how to construct a tube space frame. Continue reading
Passion and love bring a famous old Briggs “Swift” Cunningham 1960 Fuel Injected Corvette war horse back to life and into the lead roll in a movie!
Restored old race cars has become an exciting aspect of the Corvette hobby. If you have ever wondered if master craftsmen are still working today, I suggest checking out the work of Kevin MacKay, at Corvette Repair. Kevin and his crew have brought back to life famous Corvette race cars, including the Roger Penske ‘66 L88 Corvette, several of John Greenwood’s Corvettes, and Briggs “Swift” Cunningham’s 1960 Fuel Injected Le Mans class-winning 1960 Corvette, the star of the new documentary film, “The Quest.”
Here’s the official movie preview…
Here’s what I find to be so cool about these kinds of cars. The men that build or buy race cars do it to win races. Some cars become champions, others just competitors. But what usually happens is that this year’s used up race car is sold off and the team owner buys a new fresh car. The new owner of the used racer usually repaints the machine, Continue reading