The Automobile Driving Museum as been celebrating two 50th anniversaries – the Mustang and the GTO – but don’t let them distract you because there’s more celebrating to be had, this time with the Corvette. No, there’s no Corvette birthday, but the ADM is presenting a special tribute to Corvette design for April 12, 2014, along with a special Corvette exhibit.
However, this isn’t your generic gathering of Corvettes, as legendary designer Peter Brock will be in attendance signing his new book Corvette Sting Ray: Genesis of an American Icon.
When the Corvette went from show car to production car in 1953, it left sports car fans scratching their collective heads – how could Chevrolet offer this fiberglass two-seater with its stodgy Blue Flame six and an automatic transmission? Chevrolet fixed it for 1955 with the introduction of the small-block V-8, plus racing efforts (spearheaded by Zora Arkus-Duntov) proved the Corvette’s mettle. With the introduction of fuel injection in 1957, it could not be denied that the Corvette was any less a sports car than the best from Europe.
During that time, a 19 year-old GM Styling designer named Peter Brock was involved in a Corvette design study which adapted an independent rear suspension from Chevrolet’s development of the Corvair. At the behest of boss Bill Mitchell, Brock and Bob Veryzer came up with a slim profile with a horizontal character line and bulges over the wheels, much like Pininfarina’s Abarth and other Italian designs. This design study, the “Q Corvette,” ended up stillborn, but the spirit of this design went into the 1959 Stingray Racer (XP-87) thanks to the design wizardry of Larry Shinoda. Said Brock in an interview with Corvettes.nl:
I worked for Bill Mitchell in Research Studio B under studio boss Bob Veryzer where the Stingray project was hatched in late 1957. As you know the AMA ban on “performance” was then in effect so Mitchell had to be very careful that upper management didn’t learn about his plans to create a “new Corvette” as that would have been in direct conflict with top management’s directive. This is why the project was initiated in secret, downstairs in Studio B, instead of “upstairs” in the main Chevrolet studio. Under Mitchell’s direct guidance, with influence of what he had seen in Turin that summer (Alfa Romeo Disco Volante, etc.) the main themes of the XP-87 were laid out. Among the dozens of sketches on the walls were mine. Mitchell warmed to what I had drawn and encouraged their development until he saw what he deemed “the direction” in November of 1957.
Making its debut at Marlboro Raceway in Maryland on April 18th, 1959, the Stingray Racer finished in fourth place but went on to win an SCCA National Championship in 1960. By this time, Larry Shinoda completed project XP-720, which was approved for production for 1963 and becoming the Sting Ray. Starting with the “Split-Window coupe” and roadster, then the big-block L78 396 for 1965 and 1966 L72 427, and culminating with the L88 427 in swan-song 1967, the C2 (as it is affectionately known) is one of the epic production designs in American history.
Join the ADM for a special day of Corvettes on April 12th with Peter Brock signing his new book, plus be sure to catch the Corvette exhibit from March 28th to April 21st featuring C1-C5 Corvettes.
Automobile Driving Museum