Mako Shark Attack Week!!! The 1965 Mako Shark-II

Dateline: 1.3.12

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.

There were a few things about Bill Mitchell that were very consistent. He was extremely passionate about cars and design. He was quick to anger and equally as quick to get over it. “Too much” was one of his favorite things when it came to styling. He always followed his gut and detested focus groups. In a magazine interview after his retirement from GM, Bill expressed his displeasure of the then-new concept of marketing analysis through focus groups by essentially saying, “Do you think that Frank Lloyd Wright went around asking common everyday people, “So, what would you like in a house design?” No! He designed great homes and buildings and let the world catch up.”

After the designs for the new Corvette concept car were finalized, a full-size, non-running version was built to present to GM’s upper management. Think back to 1964-1965 and to what cars looked like then. Now try to imaging the reaction when the Mako Shark-II was first shown. We’re all so used to the “shark-look,” its hard to imagine what it must have been like seeing the car for the first time. Kind of like imagining the first time someone tasted Coca-Cola.

Management wanted the Mako Shark-II in production immediately. Now this part is really astonishing. The non-running Mako Shark-II was shown in the Spring of ‘65. Management wanted the design to go into production as a ‘67 model, meaning that Chevrolet would have to start building the Corvette with a totally new body and interior in about 15 months. NOT POSSIBLE! And what amazes me is WHY management didn’t know that.

But it didn’t take long for management to realize that the Mako Shark-II, as a ‘67 model, was not possible. Building a one-off nonfunctioning and later functioning show car is one thing, translating the design into a buildable, ergonomically livable, mass-production car was a whole other story. The production schedule was pushed back a full year and in retrospect, it should have been pushed back two years.

When the ‘68 Corvette was shown to the automotive press in the Summer of ‘67 and later in the Fall of ‘67 to the buying public, people were flabbergasted! “The future had arrived!” That is, until buyers took delivery of their cars. Not to disparage current owners of ‘68 Corvettes, but the fact of the matter was that some were okay and too many were not good. And honestly, when a customer buys a Cadillac-priced car, there was really no excuse for shoddy builds. Fortunately, the ‘69 cars were vastly improved.

Next up with our Mako Shark Attack Week, the ‘66 running prototype. Chock full and dripping with features!  – Scott


 Corvette Timeline Tales: July 1977 GM’s Chief of Styling, Bill Mitchell Retires

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