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lIlustrated Corvette Series No. 26 - 1965 Mako Shark II - "Simply Stunning"
Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda scored big in the automotive world with the 1965 Mako Shark II Show Car. It was a total original, nothing was like it, and it just screamed, CORVETTE !
Bill Mitchell started working on the next generation Corvette the day production on the 1963 Corvette started. He knew that things change quickly in automotive styling , so it was critical that he go way outside the envelope. The first step was to build a functional, single seat, open-wheeled car that would push everything to the extreme. The "X-15", named after the experimental U.S. Air Force jet, was never shown to the public and was later sent to the crusher.
Shinoda and crew had to make a real car now. The styling elements of the hood bulge and the side exhausts were taken directly from the X-15 exercise. Back tracking from the extreme, Mitchell set the guidelines.
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."
The full-size mock-up just blew everyone away. Built on a production Corvette chassis, the Mako Shark also had a mocked- up interior.
The Mako Shark II had an interesting blend of soft curves and sharp break-lines. The tucked in center section, called the "coke-bottle" gave the center of the car a taut, trim look, while the curved fender lines made the car look like it had been working- out. The low, pointed nose made a bold statement while the tapered and pointed tail gave the car a high-speed, wind-swept look.
Since the Mako Shark II was a show-car, it had plenty of gimmicks and was overdone here and there. Some of the grille vents and other details were a little fussy. However, compared with other cars in 1965, the Mako Shark was a vision of the future.
When the car was shown at the New York International Auto Show in April 1965, the press and the public went wild. It was called beautiful, embellished, convoluted, aerodynamic, perfect, and many other things. And this was only the mock-up. On October 5, 1965 the fully functional Mako Shark II arrived. Oh WOW! - K. Scott Teeters
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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 28 1966 Mako Shark II Show Car Corvette
"The Running Prototype"
When the Mako Shark II was first shown at the April 1965 New York Auto Show, jaws dropped and the automotive press gasped. However, making a beautiful clay show car is one thing, making a functional road version is a completely different story.
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.
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.
In October 1965 the Mako Shark began a six month European tour and was the "avant garde" machine. For a show car, the Mako Shark was the closest to an actual production Corvette. Over 30 years later, it's still a stunning machine. - K. Scott Teeters
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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 38 - 1969 Manta Ray Show Car Corvette
The 1965 Mako Shark II may well have been the most exciting Corvette show car of all time. This one show car had more direct impact on future production Corvettes than any other. The car was a world traveler as General Motors trotted the Mako Shark II all over the automotive globe, wowing car lovers everywhere it went.
By 1968, with the debut of the new C3 Corvette, the Mako Shark was old news. But when your pockets are as deep as GM's, why not make a great thing even greater? Even though $2.5 million had been spent on the Mako Shark II, the General spent almost another $3 million on the Manta Ray!
The biggest change was the long, tapered tail, a 'la the Astro Vette Show Car. Endura bumpers gracefully covered functional metal bumpers. The roof line featured a beautiful, sweeping, tapered style, similar to a Sting Ray roof, but scooped out with a small slot for a rear window. For hard braking and turn signaling, flip up lights popped out of the rear deck. Four taillights were fared in under the rear bumper line with a center-located license-plate holder.
An awesome show car should have an awesome engine. The Manta Ray used the new, all-aluminum, ZL-1 engine with a special air cleaner. Side pipes were beautifully crafted into the side rocker panels and sounded great. This was part of the Bill Mitchell trademark.
The nose of the car was basically unchanged, except for an extended bumper ring around the air inlets and a small chin spoiler. Normal sideview mirrors were deleted in favor of small, bullet-shaped mirrors that were attached to the top of the A-pillers. Like the previous Mako Shark cars, the Manta Ray was painted dark blue with pearl white fogging along the lower edges. Special badges and Corvette crossed-flags insignias completed the car.
This may have been the last "pure" show car Corvette. Later show cars were serious engineering studies. Cars like this sure got a lot of us juiced up for the "next" Corvette. Ah, the stuff of daydreams! K. Scott Teeters
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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 146 - Bill Mitchell's Mako Shark Corvettes
Starting in 1956 with the arrival of fresh styling and the 265-inch Chevy small-block, Corvettes have been about guts and glamour. Zora Arkus-Duntov provided the guts, and Vice President of GM Styling Bill Mitchell, provided the glamour. While the public got to enjoy this unique blend, deep inside the Chevrolet design center, a war was being waged between these two strong-willed men.
Mitchell joined GM in 1935 and was heir to the throne of legendary GM designer (and Corvette creator) Harley Earl. Duntov was hired in 1953, and by 1957 he had been promoted to director of high-performance sales at Chevrolet. In Mitchell’s world, everything was about style. From his silk suits to his long white sideburns and passion for fast cars, style was everything. From Mitchell’s perspective, “engineering never sold a damn thing.” Duntov, on the other hand, was a consummate engineer, a mechanical man for whom form followed function. The glue that kept these two men together was their shared passion for fast cars—especially Corvettes.
The evolution of Mitchell’s shark cars began in the mid ‘50s. The 1957 Q-Corvette was the genesis, but it never went beyond a full-size clay mock-up. Mitchell enlisted the help of stylist Larry Shinoda to design a roadster version of the Q-Corvette body that would be fitted to the mule chassis from the aborted Corvette SS racer. Mitchell had two objectives. First, he liked fast cars and wanted to go racing, and second, he wanted to test the public’s response to the new shape. Named “Sting Ray” and raced with Mitchell’s funding, the car won the SCCA C/Modified Championship in 1960. The public loved the new design, and by early 1960 it was decided that the ’63 Corvette would use the styling of the Sting Ray racer.
Duntov did not like the new design and let Mitchell know it. The practical Duntov saw the long hood/short deck configuration as being stuck in the ‘30s and an impediment to the driver’s forward vision. Mitchell was outraged that an engineer on a low-volume Chevy would dare to question his design. Mitchell called Duntov “Zorro,” and Duntov called Mitchell “a red-faced baboon.” Obviously, Mitchell won the day, so Duntov set about making the new Sting Ray as good as he could. As work progressed to bring the car to market, Duntov was working on the RPO Z06 “racer kit” option and was letting select drivers—but not Mitchell—sample the new package in a mule car.
So Mitchell decided to build his own hot-rod Sting Ray. Named the Mako Shark, after a shark Mitchell caught while on vacation in Bimini, the car was an exaggeration of the production car that was then being built. Once again, Larry Shinoda was charged with working out the styling. Though based on a production ‘61 Corvette, every surface of the Mako Shark was stylized. The car had supercharged 327, a double-bubble Plexiglas roof, side pipes, gills for front cornering lights, vents, scoops, a rear-view periscope, wire wheels, and iridescent blue paint that faded into white along the lower edge. The car was shown at Elkhart Lake in the summer of 1961 and was a smash hit. No sooner had the ‘63 Corvette hit the streets than Mitchell was busy designing the next Corvette. Once again, Larry Shinoda and a small staff were brought in to assist. But this time, Mitchell had an unusual design mandate.
Mitchell wanted to see a “narrow, slim, selfish” center section and coupe body, a prominently tapered tail, an “all of one piece” blending of the upper and lower portions of the body, and prominent wheels with protective fenders that were separate from the main body yet grafted organically to it. The end result was the Mako Shark II, and jaws dropped when the full-size mock-up was shown in April ’65. There were two immediate responses: first, build a functioning show car, and second, make the car into the next Corvette.
Built on a production chassis fitted with the new 427 engine, the functioning Mako Shark II was loaded with special features. The public was blown away, but again, Duntov was not happy. Management liked the concept because there was little hard tooling to create. Duntov saw it as representing no forward progress and moving further away from his vision of a mid-engine Corvette. Again, Mitchell won the argument, and the Mako Shark II was rushed into production as the ‘68 Corvette.
But Mitchell wasn’t quite done with the Mako Shark II. Renamed “Manta Ray,” the car was restyled with a tapered tail, a scooped-out roof, side pipes, and a ZL1 engine. As great as the C2 Sting Ray design was, the Mako Shark II shape would forever define the look of the Corvette. Despite their differences, both Mitchell and Duntov had deep respect for one another. As Mitchell liked to say, they both had gasoline in their veins. Thanks to Duntov and Mitchell, Corvettes would always have glamour and guts. - K. Scott Teeters