A brief overview of six racing cars and three experimental Corvairs Larry Shinoda designed.
Check out our awesome slide show tribute to Larry Shinoda’s designs at the bottom of this post.
Larry Shinoda’s designs were so strong that when his name comes up, it’s almost always first associated with Corvettes. But Larry’s talent for designing fast-looking cars wasn’t limited to Corvettes. I suppose that when you are the go-to-stylist for a legend the likes of Bill Mitchell, you get a few peach projects. In retrospect, what helped make Shinoda’s design work so edgy was his passion for racing. In a sense, Larry’s NHRA Nationals win in ‘55 put him in the same category as 1954 Le Mans racer Zora Arkus-Duntov. As Bill Mitchell used to say, both men had, “gasoline in their veins.”
Shinoda’s race car design credits include: Pat Flaherty’s 1956 Indy 500-winning John Zink Special, Bill Mitchell’s 1959 Stingray Racer, Zora Arkus-Duntov’s CERV I and CERV II, the GS-II (Grand Sport II), Jim Hall’s Chaparral-2, and Peter Weismann’s 1963 rear-engine Indy car.
Although the Corvair never really caught on as a performance car or a sports car, designers such as Shinoda had some jaw-dropping ideas for Chevy’s rear-engine car. The 1962 Monza GT Coupe was in direct competition with Ford’s mid-engine 4-banger Mustang I concept car. What an interesting Chevy vs Ford battle that would have been! When you work in an R&D department often many “variations on a theme” are explored.
The Monza SS was an open cockpit-type design with a racer-like cut-down windshield. Another version was explored with a more traditional type of windshield. And in the same way that other GM divisions glommed on to Harley Earl’s Corvette concept in ‘53 and came up with their own “Corvette” concept cars for the ‘54 GM Motorama (the ‘54 Pontiac Bonneville, Buick Wildcat, and Olds F88). We have an example of a Monza variation that looks a lot like a roadster version of the 1964 XP-833 Pontiac Banshee. It was very common back then for designs to get tossed about within GMs divisions.
One Shinoda design that was not shared by any of GM’s other divisions was the 1967 Astro I. Corvair production peeked in ‘65 for approximately 235,000 Corvairs built. By ‘67 the number went to just over 27,000! The Corvair-based Astro I concept/show car arrived in 1967 and was probably started around ‘65 – ‘66, before the car started to tank. Unlike the Monza GT that eventually became the ‘67 Opel GT, the Astro I was so over the top, none of its design elements were used in any serious fashion. Instead, Chevrolet used the “Astro” name on one of their full-size vans and there was nothing “Astro” about it. Continue reading
Hot rodder Shinoda teams up with Bill Mitchell and defined the “Corvette look.”
Perhaps it was “in the stars” that Larry Shinoda was in the right place at the right time. If you strictly look at Shinoda’s resume in 1956, you might ask, “How did this guy get in the front door?” As a young man, the only thing Larry ever graduated from was high school, Army boot camp, and the School of Hard Knocks. Twelve-year-old Larry had his life turned inside out when along with thousands of Japanese-Americans, he and his family were sent to interment camps for the duration of WW II. The experience had a profound effect on his personality. A self-professed “malcontent” Shinoda could be a little difficult to work with.
After his Army tour of duty in Korea, Shinoda attended Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, but truly hated being there. He could see no purpose in taking the classes in design and the various art mediums, such as watercolor painting. He was a car guy/hot rodder and he wanted to draw and design cars! So he left Art Center without graduating and based strictly on his car illustrations, landed a job at Ford, then Studebaker/Packard. Just a year after starting his career, he landed a job as a designer at General Motors.
The rest is the stuff of legend. Street racing and blowing the doors off of Bill Mitchell’s souped up Buick and quickly being taken under Mitchell’s wing. Things like that happens, but rarely. There was obviously some chemistry between the two men, perhaps it was because both men could be brash and had strong opinions.
Shinoda got his first big break when Mitchell tapped the 28-year-old to translate the body design of the ‘57 Q-Corvette on to the mule chassis from Duntov’s aborted Corvette SS project. The finished car became Mitchell’s 1959 Stingray Racer, which formed the styling theme for the ‘63 Corvette. From there, Shinoda got one peach project after another. It’s worth noting that the design of the Stingray Racer is held in such high esteem that current Corvette chief designer, Tom Peters (C6 Corvette and late model Camaro designer) is on record stating that his ‘09 Corvette Stingray Concept (aka Transformers Corvette) was influenced by the ‘59 Stingray. Continue reading
Tom Benford’s Summer 1997 candid dinner interview with car design legend, Larry Shinoda.
Our celebration of the life and career of car design legend Larry Shinoda continues with this delightful interview that was originally published in the December 1997 issue of VETTE Magazine. Tom Benford and his wife Liz connected with Shinoda in August of ‘97 at the Corvettes At Carlisle Show, in Carlisle, Pa. This may well have been Larry’s last interview, as he died just 2-1/2 months later. Larry’s kidney disease had progressed to the point where he was on the list waiting for a donor kidney.
According to the Pasadena City College Celebrated Alumni Larry Shinoda page , “In poor health, Larry Shinoda remained active to the end. Larry passed away at his home in Michigan of heart failure on November 13, 1997, while working at his design desk with a phone in his hand. Larry had just passed the final tissue-match test for his kidney transplant the day before he died. Though Larry is gone, his legacy lives on.” Continue reading
The next time you see a mid-year Sting Ray or Shark Corvette, think of Larry Shinoda.
He was born “Lawrence Kiyoshi Shinoda” but the automotive and Corvette world knew him as Larry Shinoda – Corvette designer and all-around carguy! Growing up in Southern California, Larry was steeped in the car culture and like many SoCal young men, was into the burgeoning sport of drag racing. In addition to his Corvette accomplishments, Larry also participated in an won his class at the very first NHRA national event in Great Bend, Kansas in 1955.
Larry was only 25-years old when after not completing his studies at Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, he landed his first job with Ford in 1955. A year later, he briefly went to work at Studebaker/Packard, then went to General Motors late in 1956. Larry not only had an impressive portfolio, he had an intuitive sense of styling. If didn’t take long before his talent caught the keen eye of GM’s Bill Mitchell. But it wasn’t just Larry’s skill at wielding a pen and airbrush that helped acquaint him with Mitchell – it was drag racing.
The story goes that one day Shinoda and Mitchell had a chance encounter at a traffic light. Since both men had what Mitchell called, “gasoline in their veins,” neither man needed much goading to initiate a little stoplight grand prix. The light turned green and Larry put a whoop’n Bill, which may have been one of his best career moves. Mitchell drafted Shinoda into his special forces of car design, headquartered deep inside GM’s guarded facilities in a place called, “Studio X.” (sounds like a ‘50s sci-fi b-grade movie, doesn’t it”?) Continue reading
Former Chevrolet General Manager and all-around car guy, Semon “Bunkie” Kundsen’s “Executive Perks.”
Semon Knudsen was the son of former GM president “Big Bill” Knudsen. Although technically a “rich kid” Semon didn’t just have everything handed to him – he had to work his way up through the ranks and pay his dues. For those that are able to climb the corporate ladder into the rarified upper atmosphere of the corporate world, there are perks. And when you work for a car company, there are sometimes special “car perks.”
GM executives were able to have special custom-build versions of production cars, built to their specifications. Not all GM VIPs were offered custom cars, but those that were, got some awesome machines. Bunkie had at least three custom Corvettes built – a ‘63 Roadster and a ‘64 Coupe for himself, and a Mary Kay-like, pink ‘64 Coupe for his wife, Florence. Sweet! For my Illustrated Corvette Series column in the May 2012 issue of VETTE Magazine, I covered Bunkie & Florence’s custom rides. Below is the story copy and the art. Continue reading
CorvetteNews: 3-24-2012: Driver Reports From Gavin & Magnussen, 60th Anniversary TV Ad, & Bowling Green Readies For The C7
Breaking news and information for Corvette friends and fans around the globe!
* Driver Report: Corvette RacingTeam driver Oliver Gavin’s report on the team’s 2nd and 3rd place wins at the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring race. CLICK HERE.
* Driver Report: Corvette Racing team driver,Jan Magnussen weighs in on the 2012 Sebring ALMS race. “We all expected the 12 Hours of Sebring to be one amazing battle, but even I didn’t think we’d end up with three cars from three different makes fighting it out on the final lap.” CLICK HERE.
The 1954 “Could-Have-Been” Motorama Dream Corvettes
Back in ‘09 when General Motors was getting more negative publicity than they ever dreamed, I received a few emails from car pals with images of the 1954 Motorama Corvette variants – the Pontiac Bonneville, the Olds F-88, and the Buick Wildcat II. The gist of the emails was this, “Look at how GM screwed up! The 6-banger Corvette “could have been” a powerful V8, classic ‘50s beauty.” Bla, bla, bla.
While it is true that the above mentioned cars were beauties, there’s no way they would have made it into production. The ‘53 and ‘54 Corvette already had Cadillac prices. The Pontiac, Buick, and Olds versions would have cost even more. But it was an interesting look back, as it turned out that the ‘54 Motorama had numerous delicious concept cars.
In my Illustrated Corvette Series No. 178, I covered the “Chevy/Corvette” concept cars, the Corvette Coupe, the Corvair Fastback, and the Nomad. (The Pontiac, Olds, and Buick concept cars were covered in a later column) Keeping in mind that “concept cars” are three dimensional canvases for designers to try out new ideas, it’s always fun to look back to see what ideas made it into production and where they were used.
David Kimble “Art Of The Cutaway Car 2011” Book Update
In February 2012 I posted a story about technical illustrator, David Kimble’s new book titled, “Art Of The Cutaway Car 2011.” Road & Track Magazine first published an ad for the book last Fall and indicated that Motorbooks International was to be the publisher. After running the post I heard from a friend at MBI that they did NOT publish the book after all and that they weren’t 100-percent certain, but CarTech Books might have had the honor. So, I checked in with my editor at CarTech Books, Scott Parkhurst (Scott edited my Illustrated Corvette Series book in ‘10) and YES, CarTech Books did indeed publish David Kimble’s new book!
But the story is a mix of good news – bad news. Obviously, the good news is that the 168-page, 10” x 12” full-color, $100 book, with 138 illustrations was published, so KUDOS to David Kimble and CarTech. Now the bad news. The book is SOLD OUT! Yes! All 1,000 copies have been scooped up and are no doubt thrilling 1,000-plus readers.
Since the first printing of the books are all sold, the mind wants to know, will more be printed and at what price? It’s a little disconcerting because if you go to Amazon.com, the book’s listing page says that Motorbooks International is the publisher and that no books are available. Also, there’s a mistake on the Amazon listing, as they indicate that the book is only 24-pages. Then if you go to CarTechBooks.com the title is not listed. And over at the world’s largest flea market, eBay.com, there are no listings. Parkhurst explained that since the book is sold out, they are not showing or advertising the book. Continue reading
Breaking news and information for Corvette friends and fans around the globe!
* Look’n Back! CERV III Video – Late ‘80s mid-engine experiemental advanced design Corvette – CLICK HERE.
* FINALLY! Corvette Inducted Into the Sebring Hall of Fame – CLICK HERE.
* Video Review of 2012 ZR1 Corvette by Cars.com’s Joe Bruzek - CLICK HERE.
Feast your eyes on the lines and shapes of this classic Bill Mitchell Shark Corvette
For shark Corvette fans, this is a MUST-SEE Corvette video. The video looks to have been shot inside a long, lighted roadway tunnel because the light reflections is what creates this artistic, dreamy video.
As you are watching, keep in mind that the shape of the car was worked out almost 50 years ago! And it still is dripping with sexitude. Continue reading
The Civilized Grand Sport Corvette Replica – Sort of…
Today you can go to your local Chevrolet dealer today and buy a Grand Sport Corvette to your liking. Almost 50 years ago, there were only five Grand Sport Corvettes in existence and they were NOT for sale. “Unrealized potential,” “the ultimate could’a been Corvette” and many other expressions tell the original Grand Sport Corvette story. Unlike today’s C6 Grand Sports, the originals were all-out racing Corvettes, designed to give the Cobras a good run for it.
But GM had a completely different attitude about racing back then that can be nicely described as “backward.” Fortunately, all five original Grand Sports are still around. Along the way, there have been numerous companies that offered Grand Sport replicas – some, better than others. But today there is only one “officially licensed” by GM, Grand Sport replica, and that is the Duntov Motors Grand Sports.
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.
Car and Driver Splashes the C7 Corvette – A PERFECT swan dive or a belly flop?
Cast your vote at the end of this post.
Don’t you just love a nice surprise in your mailbox? You know, a nice fat IRS tax refund, a Publishers Clearance Warehouse winner notification, or a letter from an old flame. (okay, maybe not that last one) The April 2012 issue of Car and Driver arrived in my mailbox today and I was greeted with what appears to be the real car that the November 2011 Jalopnik illustrations were based upon. It’s SO hard to tell computer rendered cars these days. “Usually” computer images are a little too flashy and that’s the telltale sign. A year, or less, from now, we’ll know for sure how spot on Jalopnik and Car and Driver are.
But for now, it’s deal with what’s in front of us. Sometimes, cars look better in person. But the C7 is looking more like a C6.75. I know that Corvettes tend to be evolutionary in their design, but honestly, there’d better be some stunning things going on under all the pretty fiberglass and carbon fiber.
The front view of the car is interesting, but two design elements bother me. The front grille opening looks awfully close to that of the 1993 – 2002 Camaro with its Billy Bass mouth. Going by the Jalopnik renderings, the hood vents and vents on the tops of the rear fenders indicate that this is the 2015 ZR1 configuration. But the vents on the hood look like those on the new ZL1 Camaro. Since when does the Corvette FOLLOW the Camaro? (when Camaros outsell Corvettes 6-to-1?) I suppose we’ll get used to it. But we’re not supposed to “get used to it,” we’re supposed to LUST for it!
And now to the back end. (sigh) PLEASE!!! Don’t let this be the real back end of the C7 Corvette, PLEASE. If so, we’ll never hear the end of the “Cormaro” of the “Camvette.” Continue reading
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
Watch “The Master of Oversteer” Enjoying a Day’s Work!
It’s been a pleasure to get to know the family of Corvette racer Dave MacDonald. The April 2012 issue of VETTE Magazine has part 1 of my story about the career of MacDonald and the May 2012 has part 2, the conclusion. While pictures and words are great, video just adds some dimension. So, I thought some vintage MacDonald videos were in order.
MacDonald’s racing career path was similar to John Greenwood’s, in that like Greenwood, MacDonald started out in drag racing. But like many guys that like to drive Corvettes in, shall we say, a “spirited” way, it didn’t take MacDonald long to get used to not only thundering down the straight-aways, but sliding the back end around the corners. MacDonald was known as “the master of the oversteer” and his tail-out driving style was very popular with the spectators.
Back in the day, there was little-to-no video coverage of motorsports, so what we have are essentially home movies. Sometimes the manufacturers would produce promotional movies, Continue reading