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.
The only thing about the running Mako Shark-II that was atypical for a Mitchell-directed show car was that it didn’t have side pipes. That detail aside, the rest of the car was dripping with show car goodies. GM tech experts Ken Eschebach and Art Carpenter headed up the crew that put every conceivable performance and luxury goodie you could think of into the running Mako Shark II. The chassis and running gear used standard 1966 Corvette parts. Under the hood was the brand-new 427 Mark IV engine coupled with the not-yet-available-in- the-Corvette three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. Show cars always have lots of fru-fru. I call them “give-aways.” LIttle, interesting design elements that can be easily sacrificed. The vents on the hood could have been give-aways. The engine dome was very nice. Too bad the Sting Ray-like roof didn’t make it into the production car. It would have been a nice connection to the car’s history.
The entire front end tilted forward like an XK-E Jaguar. The headlights were made up of three quartz-iodide beams that were covered with “eyelid” panels. The top surface of the hood had cooling vents and round lids for fluid refills. The windshield wipers were hidden in a closet at the base of the windshield. At the back end, the window slats, bumper and spoiler were all electrically controlled from the interior. The seats were in a fixed position, while the gas and brake pedals were adjustable. Seat frames had racer-like, four-point seat belts. The roof- mounted headrests were adjustable, and had speakers connected to an AM/FM radio. Lights and windshield wiper controls were on the turn signal stalks and the dash had neon digital readouts. The car used seventeen electric motors to power various features.
There’s only ONE sad part of the running Mako Shark-II story. No, the car wasn’t crashed and didn’t go off to the crusher. After the ‘68 production Corvette came out, Mitchell had a few more ideas he wanted to explore before finishing up with his shark-design experiments. The running Mako Shark-II was brought back into the Corvette styling design group and used as a foundation for Mitchell’s Manta Ray Corvette that hit the show car circuit in 1969. The Manta Ray survives today, but it’s original configuration (the running Mako Shark-II), as shown here, is long gone. Perhaps using the running Mako Shark-II as a starting point for the Manta Ray was the quickest way to get the new design completed. Or, it could have been a budget issue. So while the running Mako Shark-II lives on under the skin of the Manta Ray, all that’s left of the original running Mako Shark-II are photographs. Oh well. – Scott
PS – Next up the long, tapered, Manta Ray!
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