Corvette Timeline Tales: July 1978 – Chevrolet Studio III Chief, Jerry Palmer Sketches Out the Next Generation C4 Corvette

Dateline: 7.17.11
It all begins with a sketch!

Image from the Dave McLellan Archives and the book, “Corvette From the Inside” by Dave McLellan

When the all-new 1984 Corvette first came out, the press and the public went wild. Perhaps it was because of the C3 platform’s 15-year production run – actually, a 20 year run, if you count the basic frame, drive train, and suspension. So, I guess you could say that the Corvette fans were a little hungry for a new Vette. And the rave reviews weren’t  just baseless praise. Corvette fans backed up their praise with CASH, as 51,547 ‘84 Corvettes were sold the first year of C4 production, up from 25,407 from 1982. But if you follow the used Corvette market, early C4 Corvettes are at the bottom of the barrel! That’s bad news if you spent a lot on one when it was new. But if you’re looking for a starter Corvette, it’s an inexpensive way to get into the hobby. But, when the ’84 Vette arrived, it was red hot!

The design process has to start somewhere and that “somewhere” is a humble sketch. Car guys are always doodling and I’m certain that designer Jerry Palmer probably had a few preliminary loose sketches of what he thought the next Corvette should look like. Palmer was promoted to head of Chevrolet Studio III in 1974 and took over exterior design responsibility in 1977 when Bill Mitchell resigned. The above Palmer pencil sketch was created in July 1978 and soon afterwards, the first clay model was created. Somewhere along the line the below color rendering was created and was one of probably hundreds of color concept renderings. Designing a new car can be a long and torturous process. Graphite, markers, and clay are easy to change and if something can be changed, it WILL be changed.

If you are a C4 Corvette fan, I highly recommend reading “Corvette From The Inside” by former Corvette Chief of Engineering, Dave McLellan. McLellan penned a unique insider’s view of exactly what goes into designing a new Corvette. If you think designing Corvettes is fun, well, in a sense, it is! But it’s one hell’of’a lot of work! And it all starts with a doodle or a sketch! – Scott

PS – If you are a wann’a-be car designer/stylist, learn to DRAW! Draw, draw, DRAW with a pencil, one of the world’s best graphics and design tools ever created. it’s cheap, portable, is never outdated, and never needs upgrading or a new operating system. Just regular sharpening and plenty of paper.

PSS – For more about the legendary Corvette designer Bill Mitchell, CLICK HERE.

3 thoughts on “Corvette Timeline Tales: July 1978 – Chevrolet Studio III Chief, Jerry Palmer Sketches Out the Next Generation C4 Corvette

  1. Thanks very much for this post. I went to CCS in Detroit studying car design, and saw the framed sketch of the c-4 in a Wendy’s in Dearborn, Mich. The C-4 has always been my favorite Vette, and I’ve owned 2 so far.
    I’d like to send you a pic. of one of my renderings do you have an e-mail ?
    Thanks again.

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