THE CORVETTE

 

CORVETTE
T H E   A M E R I C A N  D R E A M   C A R!

 

 

 1963 Sharkcorvette_mako_shark_1963_images_1_b  1963 Sting Ray Corvette1963_corvette_sting_ray-1

        The greatest single attraction at the 6th. Annual International Automobile Show at the New York Coliseum in the spring of 1962 was a dream car.  GM’s experimental Corvette Shark drew more visitors than any other exhibit.  This may not seem especially surprising in view of the dramatic (like it or not) styling of the Shark until you consider that it was displayed not in the regular Chevrolet area, but in “Car and Driver’s Concours d’Elegance” where it competed with such crowd-catching machines as a front-drive Miller, a Ghia-bodied dragster, the very 1st MG, and an inspiring collection of classic Rolls-Royce, Bugatti, Alfa-Romeo.  Significantly, GM chose to unveil its latest “idea” car at the largest and most complete international automobile exhibition, where it would face competition for attention with virtually every other car produced in the world today.  The Shark proved equal to the challenge.  It also proved that GM is continuing its dream car program with renewed vigor.   The Shark was in every sense a prediction of things to come—the just released 1963 Corvette.  GM has been building dream cars for almost 25 years, an experience that Styling vice-president William L. Mitchell affirms has served them more than adequately in the testing  of public reaction to advanced styling concepts.  The least expensive avenue for proposed innovations is the dream-car route.  an automobile company in effect says to the  public, “This is the direction we could go” But dream cars do much more than take the uncertainty out of public response to upcoming design;   they are more than opinion test surveys.   They are exercises of immeasurable value to the engineers and stylist who are projecting a tangible, concrete expression of future automobiles.
          However, too often curbstone and professional critics view the dream car as too far out, impractical, a downright expensive exercise for the talented geniuses of design and engineering.  Often there lurks the suspicion that the thousands of dollars spent building, testing, transporting and displaying these pampered dreams would be better spent elsewhere and that the companies are slyly writing off the cost in the form of higher prices on production.  America’s most advanced over-the-road experimental dream car the  Firebird III.  To put the dream car program of GM into proper historical perspective,  I present a representative series of dream cars, demonstrating the development of styling trends which, when viewed singularly, may  not have appeared at first blush as logical as history has shown.

Buick Motor Division collaborated with GM Styling in 1938 to build the first dram car, the Y-Job, below. After the War Buick also contributed to the XP-300 below,right
 1938 Buick Y-Job. W38HV_BU001  1951-gm-lesabre3

1951_buick_xp-300_concept_car_3and the LeSabre

Introduced in 1951, these had supercharged aluminum V8 engines, transaxles and de Dion rear suspension.  Both foreshadowed later Buick styling themes, while the Y-Job and Le Sabre forecast the concealed headlights of the 1963 Corvette.

 

Two Oldsmobile projections
of 1953 and 1954 were the Delta 88 hardtop, below

and the 1954 Cutlass sports coupe
below.

 

1954 Corvair Coupe

 1953_delta_88  1954_cutlass_sport_coupe  1954_chevrolet_corvette_corvair_dream_car_01

The Delta 88’s combined bumper and grille later appeared in production, as did its integral wheel and brake drum principle.  Aerodynamic design characterized the Cutlass and  the “Corvair” coupe, above right, also done in 1954.  Both have given names to current models, and their rapid lines live on in the 1963 Corvette coupe.

 

Some dream cars provide an experience backlog for stylists.
Having worked on the 1955 Biscayne,    BELOW

Chevrolet designers were ready to execute the compact Corvair.  Other dream cars move almost directly into production, like the 1954 Chevrolet Nomad wagon.     BELOW
Some dream cars are for fun and excitement, and to test public reaction, like the Buick Wildcat II.  It carried its headlights at the cowl, and was powered by a 220 bhp V8.     BELOW
 1955-chevrolet-biscayne-concept-car-d  1954_chevrolet_nomad_wagon  1954_buick_wildcat
Designers like the scope of a two-seater layout.  Pontiac’s bold 1956 club de Mer, like Le Sabre, had a transaxle, and de Dion rear suspension.    BELOW Cadillac’s 1959 Cyclone has a transparent canopy that lifts for easy entry and retracts completely when desired.     BELOW In the same year GM’s Bill Mitchell’s Sting Ray, on the Corvette SS chassis, was first raced.
     BELOW
 1956_ponfiac-club_de_mer  1959-cadillac-cyclone_a  bill_mitchels_sting_ray
    T H E  N E W   1 9 6 3   C O R V E T T E.

BOTH  the Shark and the Sting Ray experimental automobiles contributed to the design of the new Corvette.  When Bill Mitchell designed the Sting Ray, his goal was a sports car “that looked completely American and one that did not owe anything to European spots car designs.”  When the Sting Ray entered national SCCA competition, driven by Dick Thompson, admiring spectators asked Mitchell, “Why don’t you make the Corvette look like that?
 1963-corvette-1920x1080-05_jpg_ec2028408c3340dc77c3c164873d9018  1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (Split Window)  1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window

The 1963 Corvette is a step forward.  In its design there are dram-car touches from the 1954 Corvair (roof and side vents), the Cutlass (tapered fast-back), Le Sabre and Club de Mar (rotating concealed headlamps) and the Sting Ray (hood and fender lines.  Of course to GM  stylists this Corvette is now old-hat: 1965 is current and 1970 is within easy reach.1959_caddy-rear