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History is filled with Corvette prototypes, design studies, and one-offs. They range from strange to inspired, stylish to wacky, production intent to pure, unmitigated fantasy. Some foretold Corvettes of the future. Others have slipped quietly into the past.


Chevrolet Corvette CERV

Chevrolet Corvette CERV is a series of experimental Chevrolet Corvette cars, with mid-engine configuration.

1959 CERV I
Zora Arkus-Duntov started development of CERV I (Chevrolet Experimental Racing Vehicle) in 1959, which was later unveiled in public at Riverside International Raceway in November 1960, under the name CERV I (Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicle).

Unlike production Corvette, CERV I is an open-wheeled vehicle, with only 1 seat. According to American Muscle Car, it is also called 'Corvette Experimental Research Vehicle I'.

The "CERV-1" (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle) was developed as a research tool for that company's continuous investigations into automotive ride and handling phenomena under the most realistic conditions.

The car was built at the Chevrolet Engineering Center at Warren, Michigan in a special project headed by Mr. Zora Arkus-Duntov, Chevrolet Staff Engineer and noted designer and driver.

Primarily, it is the function of the "CERV-1", to provide Chevrolet engineers with a test platform from which direct visual studies may be made into all types of ride and handling behavior under amplified conditions. Thus, the stated function of the "CERV-1" largely determines it's concept and final configuration. In order to realistically amplify vehicle responses to handling and road stimuli, the performance capability of the vehicle must be extended far beyond that of regular passenger cars. In other words, a high power-to-weight ratio is mandatory. By such means, suspension phenomena that are extremely subtle, and thus difficult to isolate within the performance capabilities of a regular passenger car, may be studied and treated quantitatively with the "CERV-1".

Another fundamental factor in the experimental car's design is the visibility afforded by the body design. The streamlined, abbreviated body encloses the engine, transaxle, engine cooling system, and provides an open cockpit for the driver, from which all four wheels, in contact with the ground, are clearly visible.

Some broad features of the "CERV-1" are: extremely light weight to afford a horsepower-to-weight ratio such as that usually associated with high performance aircraft; rear mounted engine in unit with a fully synchronized 4-speed transaxle; the only passenger, the driver, sits well forward on the centerline of the car for virtually optimum visibility, and all 4-wheels are independently suspended to provide a high order of stability and positive handling.

The wheelbase is 96 inches (2,438 mm) and the car weighs approximately 1600 pounds (726 kg), ready to run. The chassis is an extremely stiff frame of chrome-molybdenum steel tubes welded into a truss-like structure weighing approximately 125 pounds (57 kg).

The light weight body (approximately 80 pounds (36 kg)) is aerodynamically styled and fully encloses the underside of the car. The body is fabricated of a glass fiber reinforced plastic somewhat thinner than that used in the Corvette body. The wheels are completely exposed to permit visual observation of tire-to-road contact during handling studies.

Power for the "CERV-1" is supplied by an especially developed, lightweight version of the Chevrolet 283 cubic inch. V-8 that develops 350 hp (261 kW) and weighs only 350 pounds (159 kg). Such specific output, only one pound per horsepower, is rarely achieved in reciprocating engines, even in the most highly developed aircraft types. The dramatic reduction of weight was gained by using aluminum for the cylinder block, cylinder heads, water pump, starter motor body, flywheel, and clutch pressure plate. In the cylinder block, no bore liners are used and the pistons run directly on specially treated aluminum bores. Magnesium is used for the clutch housing, fuel injection manifold, and manifold adapter plate. Weight savings achieved through the use of lighter metals in the engine and clutch is in excess of 175 pounds (79 kg).

A number of special design features help the engine to develop 350 hp (261 kW). A special fuel injection unit has ram tubes of larger cross section and 2510 longer than those of the regular production de-sign. Individual exhaust pipes of a tuned length empty into large collector pipes and no mufflers are used. No cooling fan is required or used, and the water pump speed is reduced 30% by the use of a smaller crankshaft pulley. A small, 5 ampere generator is used in conjunction with a lightweight aircraft type battery

In addition to the aluminum water pump mentioned previously, the engine cooling system consists of an aluminum radiator mounted forward of the driver, and two oil cooler radiators mounted one on each side of the main radiator.

Power from the engine is transmitted in a conventional manner through the lightweight flywheel, clutch, and Corvette type 4-speed transmission. Attaching directly to the rear end of the transmission case is the differential and final drive gear mechanism. A feature of the final drive gears is the ability to quickly change ratios so that vehicle performance can be as quickly tailored to a new environment. Power transmission to the wheels is completed through individual axle shafts with universal joints on each end, or a total of four in-all.

The interesting rear suspension permits independent action of each wheel. Vertical movements of the wheels are controlled by two links, in which the upper link doubles as the axle shaft; and a rod, rubber bushed on each end as the lower. A third link runs from each rear wheel hub forward to the frame to transmit driving and braking thrust. Variable rate coil springs unitized with direct, double-acting shock absorbers are diagonally mounted at each rear wheel. Adjustment provisions in the rear suspension linkage permit variations in camber and toe-in to facilitate engineering studies. Front suspension is independent with high roll center geometry, and also utilizes unitized variable rate coil springs and shock absorbers as in the rear suspension. An 11/16" stabilizer bar interconnects the front wheels. The independent suspension design became the basis of Corvette C2's suspension.

So that weight distribution during tests shall vary little if any, two fuel cells of rubber construction and total capacity of 20 gallons, are located on either side of the "CERV-1" at approximately the fore and aft location of the center of gravity. Thus, the amount of fuel in the tanks at any given moment will have virtually no effect on weight distribution.

Brakes on the "CERV-1" are similar to the HD type available on the Chevrolet Corvette. Sintered iron linings are used with fin cooled drums, and the brake drum webs are lightened by drilled holes which also permit the flow of cooling air. The brake drums are cast aluminum with cast-in iron braking surfaces. The rear brakes are inboard mounted next to the differential so that braking torque is transmitted directly to the frame without influencing any of the rear wheel articulating members.

Braking effort distribution is 57% front and 43% rear to take advantage of the superior braking characteristics of the weight distribution afforded by the rear engine type vehicle.

The brakes may be actuated by either one of two pedals so that the driver may use either foot depending on the particular driving situation. An unusual brake master cylinder utilizes two pistons operating in series so that it either the front or rear brakes fail the remaining brakes can be actuated.

The steering system features a high-efficiency re-circulating ball type steering gear of 12:1 ratio. Steering linkage is forward mounted and is of a balanced relay link type. The overall steering ratio is a very fast 13. 5:1 and only 2-1 /4 turns of the steering wheel are required from lock-to-lock.

Wheels are of cast magnesium alloy with knock-off hubs to facilitate quick changing. Wheels of 15", 16", 17" and 18" diameters with rim width of 5-1/2", 6", and 8" are used.

Originally Printed by: Chevrolet Engineering Department November 14, 1960
This car is currently on display in Effingham IL at the MY Garage Museum owned by Mike Yager.
Source material from http://www.mamotorworks.com/mygarage/cars/cerv1.html

1963 CERV II
CERV II - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive
Zora Arkus-Duntov began work on the CERV II in 1963, which was completed in 1964. The original plan was to build six cars, three for competition and three spares. The body was styled by Larry Shinoda and Tom Lapine.

To achieve superior performance, the car was built on a monocoque chassis, powered by a 377 ci all aluminum SOHC V8 with Hilborn injection rated at 500 hp (370 kW). Some test results indicated it had a top speed of 210 mph (338 km/h), and 0-60 mph in 2.8 to 3.0 seconds.

Transmission is a 2-speed on each of the front and rear axles, with transferable torque between axles. The top speed was reported by Victory By Design to be 200 mph (322 km/h).

In 1970, CERV II was used to test tire with a ZL-1 engine.

This vehicle and the CERV I were later donated to the Briggs Cunningham Museum, in Costa Mesa, California.

CERV III - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive
In June 1985, Chevrolet Chief Engineer Don Runkle and Lotus' Tony Rudd discuss creating a new show car to show off their engineering expertise. The project would become the CERV III (Corporate Engineering Research Vehicle III). It was first unveiled in Detroit Automobile Show in January 1986 as the Corvette Indy prototype car. The vehicle featured 4-wheel drive, 4-wheel steering, and CRT cockpit screens. The vehicle was styled by Chief of Chevy III Studio, Jerry Palmer.

In January 1990, CERV III (No. 3) made its debut at the International Auto Show in Detroit. The car's mid-engine V-8 is a 5.7-liter 32-valve, dual-overhead cam LT5, with twin turbos and internal modifications, giving it 650 hp (485 kW), 655 lb·ft (888 N·m)- torque, and a top speed of 225 mph (362 km/h). The car was made of carbon fiber with a fiberglass-finish coating, with estimated price of $300k-400k. Other standard features include computer-controlled active suspension system, ABS braking and traction control, six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive and four-wheel steering.

CERV III (No. 3) is a playable car in Test Drive III, under the name 'Chevrolet Cerv III', where CERV means 'Corporate Experimental Research Vehicle'.

1993 CERV-4
On December 1992, General Motors' Corvette group secretly contracts with TDM, Inc. to build a test car of the 1997 Corvette, which was officially called CERV-4 (Corvette Engineering Research Vehicle). Corvette directed the project, with Chevrolet paying for it. General Motors management was not told about it, for fear of cancellation. It was unveiled by Corvette chief engineer Dave Hill on 1993-5-3 at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren. The build cost was about US$1.2 million.

1997 CERV IV-B 
CERV-IVB - by Barrett-Jackson
It was a test mule vehicle for the upcoming Chevrolet Corvette C5. It includes 5.7L LT-1 V8 engine, 6-speed manual transmission axle, 4-wheel disc brakes, front 255/45ZR17 and rear 285/40ZR17 tires on BBS basket wheels, side curtains, no side window glass, and a modified production interior.

The vehicle was sold in 2009 Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach auction for $34000 (before buyer premium).


1954's - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1956 Chevrolet SR-2

The SR-2 acronym stood for “Sebring Racer” or alternatively “Sports Racing”. Starting with a Sebring Corvette chassis, the SR-2 sprouted a rear fin, two small racing windscreens, air scoops on the side coves and an extended front end with driving lights that gave the machine a purposeful appearance.

When Jerry Earl announced he was going to race a Ferrari 250 MM, his father, Harley Earl, commissioned a racing Corvette for him instead. Chevy already had the 1956 Sebring Racers, but Harvey Earl had his designers create a hotter looking Corvette for his son to race. The result was the very first Corvette SR-2.

This “low fin” design had a rear fin that had the same height as the top of the rear deck. It also had a longer nose as the standard Corvette, fairing cones for the headlamps, fog lights in place of turn signals and air scoops at the end of the body side cove. William L. Mitchell had an SR-2 built with a taller fin integrated into a Jaguar D-type style of headrest. Notice the Corvette logo on the tail fin!

1954 Motorama Cars

1954's - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

A Trio of Corvette Motorama Cars for 1954

The Corvettes for '54
For the 1954 Motorama shows, General Motors Styling Section created not one but three distinct Corvette dream cars: the Corvair fastback coupe, the Nomad station wagon, and the convertible coupe. All three shared some recognizable Corvette features, such as the front grille and fascia treatment, but were given certain unique styling elements in order to set them apart. The Corvair and the convertible coupe maintained the same wheel base and overall length as the 1953 Corvette. The Nomad wagon had a longer wheelbase and was approximately two feet greater in overall length.

The Convertible Coupe
The Convertible Coupe - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive
The Corvette Convertible Coupe was the closest in styling to the production model. It was painted in a muted yellow hue and it’s main distinctive was a fiberglass removable hardtop that gave the sports car new ”all-weather utility” as touted in the Motorama brochure. This feature would appear on production models as an aftermarket accessories beginning in 1955 and would officially become an option for the 1956 model year.

The Nomad
The Nomad - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

The 1954 Chevrolet Corvette Nomad concept station wagon, designed by Harley Earl’s design staff, was introduced at the 1954 General Motors Motorama in New York City. Nomad was another name that Chevrolet would tag onto a production vehicle in the near future. Although resembling a Corvette, and in fact using many Corvette components, the Nomad was built on a modified 1953 Chevrolet sedan chassis. From the windshield posts forward, the Nomad was strictly stock Corvette.

The silver-blue and white Nomad was fitted with a Corvette 150-horsepower, 235 C.I.D., 6-cylinder engine with a 2-speed Powerglide transmission. This 2-door fiberglass show car station wagon had room for 6 passengers. The tailgate had electrically-powered glass. The interior was finished in blue and white leather with a fold-down rear seat and a ribbed headliner.

Pieces of the 1954 concept “Corvette Station Wagon” were actually put into production in 1955, and the car became the Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad Wagon.

The Nomad combined the sleek styling of a sports car with the versatility of station wagon. Built with a “glass fiber reinforced plastic” body, the Nomad was two-door with space for six passengers. It was built on modified 115-inch Chevrolet wagon chassis to give it the extra space necessary for this seating capacity. The Nomad also had an electrically operated rear window that automatically retracted into the tailgate when unlocked or could be remotely controlled by a button on the instrument panel. The Nomad was most lauded of the three Corvette dream cars for 1954. A larger version of this concept appeared for the 1955 model year and the nameplate would appear on concepts in the late 1990s and 2000s.

The Corvair
The Corvair - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

The 1954 Chevrolet Corvette Corvair concept was a 2-door fastback, 2-passenger coupe. When it made its debut at the 1954 GM Motorama in New York City. It was a ruby red color but was repainted light sea foam green for the Los Angeles show in March.

The Corvair used the Corvette front end, though it sported ribbed air intakes on the hood that routed fresh air to the interior and fender vents that allowed heat to escape the engine compartment. The Corvair had a wrap-around windshield and the roof was aircraft-inspired sweeping back into the chrome-trimmed licensed plate housing, which resembled a jet-fighter exhaust port.

Inside the body appeared to have the roof grafted right on to a production Corvette, as there was no storage area behind the seats. The stock trunk area was used with a deck lid contoured to the new roofline. The seats had the production fiberglass divider between them, just like a stock Corvette roadster. The remainder of the interior was largely stock, with custom white seats and chromed interior C-pillar trim pieces.

The chassis and power train of the Corvair was strictly Corvette. Sluggish sales of the 1954 Corvette deterred GM management from moving forward with the fastback coupe. The time for a Corvette fastback eventually did come, though nearly a decade later and on a new-generation Corvette. The Corvair nameplate would be recycled later for the 1960 Chevrolet Corvair rear-engine compact car.

The Corvette Corvair was rumored to have survived the crusher, but no trace of it has shown up. Also rumored that there was actually more than one car built, but no paperwork has surfaced that can verify this.


XP-64 - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1957 Corvette XP-64

The Corvette XP-64, also known as Corvette "SS" ("XP" was a GM designation for experimental concept cars) was a purpose-built, two-seater race car that was designed at Chevrolet's high-performance division exclusively to go up against Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche in the Grand Prix, endurance class at Sebring in 1957. The XP-64 was an experimental car, a two door, canopy roadster that incorporated an aerodynamic body over a lightweight chassis. It was built in 1956 by renowned automotive engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov for debut the following year.


The design of the XP-64 borrowed heavily from the stylings of the D-type Jaguar, employing a wind-tunnel inspired monocoque that was made from lightweight magnesium fitted to a rigid space-frame weighing a mere 150 pounds. Retractable headlights, like those on later Corvettes, a low-profile, wrap-around windscreen, and an impressive, teardrop-shaped headrest that extended well back of the cockpit, over the rear deck, were it’s most distinguishing features. The interior was bare-bones, with functional instruments that included a clock, installed to monitor the long endurance races at Le Mans and Sebring. The car was painted blue with white roundals, as per USA's colors in international road racing.

Power plant

The XP-64 was a front engine, rear wheel drive car with the motor mounted under a one-piece cowl that swung forward, well back of the front wheels for improved balance. Power came from a modified Chevrolet 283 in³ small-block engine that was fitted with aluminium heads, high-flow racing headers, and was fuel injected. Total output was 307 bhp at 6400 RPM. Gearing was controlled through a 4-speed transmission.

The 1957 Corvette SS was a 'concept car', created with the goal of competing in the 24 Hours of LeMans. Two chassis were built, 'the Mule' and the car to be raced. However, its first test would not be in the crucible of LeMans, but in its shorter American counterpart, the 12 Hours of Sebring.

The Corvette SS raced for the first time at Sebring, where suspension problems and other mechanical defects forced its retirement after only 23 laps. General Motors was enthusiastic about the potential of the SS based on results from practice and lap speeds.

Juan Manuel Fangio, the winner at Sebring in 1957, was impressed enough with the car to test the SS under practice conditions. The results was astonishing: Fangio completed a full lap a full 3:27.4 seconds faster in a car he had never driven before than other drivers could in cars they were experienced driving.


XP-700 - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1958 Corvette XP-700

The Corvette XP-700 was a one-off, two-seater sports car that was intended by General Motors to be a concept but was actually a prototype that used components from available Corvettes at the time and was modified with subtle embellishments to the body style.

The XP-700 was developed as a personal car for Bill Mitchell, head of GM Styling. The car started out as a 1958 stock Corvette. The fiberglass body was extensively redesigned with a "Grand Prix" appearance. The long, low front overhang, large air scoops, and wire wheels with racing hubs were a few of the "Grand Prix" touches. The XP-700 was painted red and was Mitchell’s personal ride for the first year of its life.

By 1959, the XP-700 was modified with a longer and smaller oval grille, extended tail and double bubble plastic canopy, coated with vaporized aluminum to help block the suns rays, complete with periscope type rear view mirror. It was repainted metallic silver and was elevated to show car status. The rear end styling influenced the second generation Corvette models and found its way to the 1961 Corvette.

Other features included Lucas "Flame Thrower" headlamps, Dayton wire wheels, integrated front brake cooling ducts below the headlights, forward slanting vertical louvers at the front of the scoops on the body side coves, twin outlet side exhaust pipes and ribbed mufflers, rear brake cooling ducts and a special hood.

The XP-700 was a front engine, rear wheel drive car with the motor mounted under a conventional hood that swung forward. Power came from a conventional Chevrolet 283 in³ small-block engine that was fitted with steel heads, factory manifolds, and was naturally aspirated through a single, four-barrel carburetor. Total output was 230 bhp at 4800 RPM. Gearing was controlled through a 4-speed manual transmission.

According to Mark Jordan, son of GM designer Charles M. Jordan, the XP-755 (Mako Shark) was built on the XP-700 chassis, explaining its disappearance.

Stingray Racer

Stingray Racer - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive1957 Corvette Singray - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1959 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Racer

Stylist Bill Mitchell’s XP-87 "Stingray" project was a privately funded project that was to lead to the development of the next generation of the Chevrolet Corvette.
The Corvette StingRay Racer was designed by Bill Mitchell, GM Vice President of styling, and Larry Shinoda in 1959. The basis of the Stingray was an engineering test mule chassis for the foundation of an official Chevrolet race effort culminating with the 24 Hours of LeMans. But, soon after its race debut, the Automobile Manufacturer's Association had banned manufacturer-sponsored racing, and the SS had been relegated to test track duty.

The Stingray featured a 92-inch wheelbase and was nearly 1,000 lb lighter than a 1960 production car. Its fuel-injected 283-cubic-inch (4.6-liter) V-8 engine produced 315 hp at 6,200 rpm. Billed as a car 'built to test handling ease and performance,' Mitchell arranged to race the car quite extensively. In the hands of Dr. Dick Thompson, it made its debut at Maryland's Marlboro Raceway on April 18, 1959, finishing in fourth place. It went on to win an SCCA National Championship in 1960.

The Stingray was then retired from racing and modified by Mitchell. A passenger seat was added, among other things, and it was exhibited as an experimental show car even while Mitchell regularly drove it personally on weekends.

The Stingray's body design strongly influenced the styling of the next generation Corvette (1963). It also was a test bed for many technical developments with a four-speed manual transmission, extensive use of aluminum and a de Dion rear suspension.

Because of its SS underpinnings, the Stingray was exceptionally light, with a dry weight of 2,200 pounds. The car today has a 327 Cubic inch (5.4 liter), fuel-injected V-8 with 375 BHP.
Bill Mitchell loved Corvettes, so it's fitting that his first secret Studio X car, and perhaps the most historically significant, was his 1959 Corvette Stingray Racer.

'I knew they had three or four chassis that Corvette Chief Engineer Zora Arkus- Duntov had built,' Mitchell told historian David Chippen in a 1985 interview. 'It had a tubular frame, de Dion suspension, inboard brakes, everything! And I went down in the hammer room and designed this Corvette Stingray in clay. Nobody int he corporation knew about it.'

According to the book, A Century of Automotive Style, by Mike Lamm and Dave Holls, junior designers Peter Brock and Chuck Pohlman won an internal sketch competition to design its body. Then Pohlman and Corvette Lead Designer Larry Shinoda crafted the clay model, then a fiberglass roadster body that was mated to the racing chassis.

In 1960, driven primarily by Chicago dentist Dr. Dick Thompson, it won the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) C-Modified class championship. More importantly, it introduced the folded-crease styling that would become a trademark of Mitchell's 1960's designs and the beginning of the path to his revolutionary 1963 production Corvette Stingray. 'When it came time to face-lift the Corvette,' he told Crippen, 'I took the lines right off that car.'.

Specifications (1957 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray):

    * Year: 1957
    * Make: Chevrolet
    * Model: Corvette Stingray Racer
    * Frame:Space frame
    * Body: Fiberglass
    * Engine location: Front
    * Drive type: Rear wheel
    * Weight: 2,200 lb (1,000 kg)
    * Engine
          o Engine configuration: V
          o Cylinders: 8
          o Aspiration/Induction: Normal
          o Displacement: 283.00 in³ | 4638 cc
          o Valvetrain: OHV
          o Power: 315 hp (235 kW) @ 6200 rpm
          o Torque: 295.00 ft·lbf (400 N·m) @ 4700 rpm
          o Power to weight ratio: 7.0 lb/hp
          o Power to volume ratio: 68.5 bhp/L
          o Bore: 3.87 in | 98.3 mm
          o Stroke: 3.00 in | 76.2 mm
          o Compression Ratio: 11.0:1

Mako Shark

Mako Shark - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1961 Corvette Mako Shark

The XP-755 Mako Shark show car was designed by Larry Shinoda under the direction of GM Design head Bill Mitchell in 1961, as a concept for future Chevrolet Corvettes. In keeping with the name, the streamlining, pointed snout, and other detailing was partly inspired by the look of that very fast fish. The "Mako Shark" was very similar to the 1963 Corvette, with some alterations. These included adding two more brake lights in the rear (six total), making the nose of the car longer and more pointed, creating a clear glass roof with a periscope-like rear-view mirror, and remodeling the interior.

A widespread story has it that Mitchell had an actual shortfin mako shark mounted on the wall in his office, and ordered his team to paint the car to match the distinctive blue-gray upper surface gently blending into white underside of the fish. After numerous attempts to match the fish's color scheme failed, the team hit upon the idea of kidnapping the fish one night, painting it to match their best efforts on the car, and returning it to the office. Mitchell never realized the difference and pronounced himself pleased with the team's duplication on the car of nature's handiwork.

After a period, he removed the original body and redesigned it as the "Mako Shark II" in 1965. The original Mako Shark was then retroactively called the "Mako Shark I".


Corvette Rondine Pininfarina Coupe - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1963 Corvette Rondine Pininfarina Coupe

The world’s only 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe Speciale Rondine was sold for $1,600,000 during the 37th Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event in January 2008, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Penned by design legend Tom Tjaarda while he was at the world renown Pininfarina design house in Italy, the Corvette Rondine was built for the 1963 Paris Auto Show. After its conception, the Rondine Concept remained in the collection for almost 45 years and was shown only on very few occasions.

Based on the 1963 Corvette C2 chassis, the Rondine featured a classic Pininfarina body with strong Italian influence. The front end sloped forward along a smooth curve that ended with a thin, horizontal chrome grille that provided air to the engine. This was an attractive yet practical design element to keep the engine cool. A sharp line originating from the grille accented the side panel. The angle ran along the front fender, through the side of the car and ended at the crest of the rear fender, giving the Rondine a slender, European look.

The rear end featured the celebrated "swallow tail" arrangement, which minimized the visibility of the car’s tail due to projecting rear fenders. Under the hood was a 327 CID, fuel injected V8 that produced 360 horsepower hooked to a 4-speed manual transmission. The Rondine’s interior featured the original white leather and comfortable wrap around seats.

After a number difficult years, the Chevrolet Corvette slowly but steadily grew in popularity throughout the 1950s. In 1960 the production reached the planned 10,000 units for the first time. Ten years after the first Corvette was released, a completely new Corvette replaced it. Today these are referred to as the C1 and C2 Corvettes, although the C1 Corvette changed slightly in design and specification every year. One of the side effects of these changes was an increase size and weight, which was partly cured when the C2 Corvette saw the light in 1963.

Although the overall design of the C2 was completely new, the rear end design introduced on the C1 in 1961 was carried over. One of the most striking novelties on the new Corvette were the reverse rotational flip up headlights, which would remain a Corvette feature until the C6 was introduced in 2004. Another important change was the introduction of the Coupe bodystyle, which for 1963 only featured a unique split rear window. This was replaced by a regular window after customers complained about poor visibility.

Technically the C2 followed the same principles as the C1 with a steel ladder chassis and a fiberglass body, but both were completely redesigned. Handling was much improved by replacing the live rear axle with a double wishbone and transverse leaf spring setup. The engines were carried over from 1962 and all displaced 327ci and produced 250 to 360 bhp. In the C2's last year of production, 1967, the engines had grown in size to 427ci and in power to a factory claimed 430 bhp.

For 1963 Chevrolet also changed the optional package codes, which now consisted of one or two letters combined with two or one numbers. From then onwards the specific models were often referred to by their optional package code, some of which have become legendary among automotive enthusiasts, like Z06 and L88, both of which referred to performance enhancing options.

A new body design was adopted for 1968, but the basic chassis remained unchanged for almost twenty years. Around 22,000 units of the C2 Corvette were produced annually in those five years. Today the C2 or 1963-1967 Corvette is among the most desirable of all Corvettes built in the last 50+ years.

At a time when many manufacturers switched to a unitary chassis construction, the fiberglass bodied Corvette was a popular subject for Europe's coachbuilders. Pininfarina was one of them and at the 1963 Paris Motorshow they launched the featured Rondine Coupe. Based off the recently introduced C2 chassis, the Rondine sports a very elegant shape of which various cues were later found on the Fiat 124 Spyder. Still owned by Pininfarina, the unique Corvette is seen here at the 2005 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este where the Italian coachbuilder's 75th anniversary was celebrated.

After its conception the Rondine Concept remained in the Pininfarina collection for almost 45 years and was shown only on very few occasions. All that changed in the fall of 2007 when it was announced that the Rondine was going to be offered in January of 2008 at the annual Barrett- Jackson auction in Scottsdale. At previous editions concept cars based on American mechanicals had proven very popular. The Rondine continued that tradition by selling for $1.6 million without commission and taxes. Hopefully the first! owner will bring the beautiful Corvette out more often.


XP-819 - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1964 Chevrolet XP-819

The 1964 XP-819 was an engineering study used to test a rear engine concept concerning the correct direction for future Corvette development. The XP-819 was the result of a disagreement between Zora Arkus-Duntov and engineer Frank Winchell. Winchell claimed you could make a balanced, aluminum rear-engine, V8 powered sports car. Duntov disagreed. A loose design was drawn that drew some very unflattering remarks from Duntov and Dave McLellan with Duntov giving it the nickname "ugly duckling".

Winchell then asked designer Larry Shinoda to improve on the design. Shinoda and designer John Schinella sketched out a new body design that was approved and a working prototype was ordered. Shinoda supervised the styling and in only two months the XP-819 was on the test track

Shinoda’s design was well received but Winchell’s theory about rear engine V8 cars didn’t work out so well. However, Shinoda's design was well received. They were obviously into the "shark thing" and picked up styling points from the Chaparral cars. It even had wheels from a Chaparral.
This car was definitely a Corvette, even though the back end was big. Unfortunately, with all that weight behind the rear axle, it was only a matter of time before it crashed during a high-speed lane change test. It bounced off the wall a couple of times and was wrecked.

The question of stability was answered, and XP-819 was sent off to Smokey Yunick’s shop in Daytona, Florida were the chassis was cut in half and usable parts removed. What was left was stored in an unused paint booth as just "old junk".

Years later, a Corvette collector was buying some parts from Yunick and offered to buy the junked XP-819. So the pile of car scrap was rebuilt and finished as a streetable car, like a kit car. A cast-iron V-8 was used in place of the original all-aluminum engine. We're talking serious rear weight bias here. It's quick and now does awesome wheelies!

The pile of car scrap was rebuilt and finished as a streetable car and has been on display at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Mako Shark II

Mako Shark II - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1965 Corvette Mako Shark II

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.

The 1968 Corvette styling was highly derivative of the Mako Shark II.

Astro I

ASTRO I - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1967 Chevrolet Astro 1

The Chevrolet Astro I concept car appeared in 1967 as a radical-looking fastback coupe designed for the show circuit. The car’s height was under three feet, and hinged rear body/door section allowed access to the cockpit. A periscope rearview mirror on the roof provided a wide-angle view. Twin aircraft-style controls were used in place of a steering wheel.

The Astro I was designed under the direction of GM Vice President of Design, Bill Mitchell, with the actual work being led by Larry Shinoda. The first thing that showgoers noticed about the red and black two-seater was how low to the ground it was, with an overall height of just 35.5 inches.

Up front, the nose design of the bright red Astro was quite similar to the Mako Shark show car, and also predicted the 1968 production Corvette, though on a smaller scale. Twin rectangular grilles were set in a V’d nose section, while hidden pop-up headlamps were located on the leading edge of the hood section, just above the grilles. A small hatch was located on the hood surface to facilitate access to the master cylinder, windshield washer tank and the battery. A three-element periscope was used in lieu of a rear view mirror. It gave the driver a wider field of view and compensated for the lack of rear glass.

The rear of the Astro I actually resembled a design one might find on a Can-Am of the era. Pop-up panels provided air braking when needed and air extractors on the rear deck vented engine compartment heat. A recessed license plate housing was trimmed in chrome and set in the middle of the tail panel. A large lip that merged the quarter panels and deck framed the tail panel itself. Simulated vents, located on the tail panel directly behind the wheels hid the small, slotted tail lamps.

Without a doubt, the Astro I’s most unusual feature was its method of allowing passengers in and out. With such a low overall height, conventional doors were not going to work. Instead, Mitchell’s team went with a wild clamshell entry system that really made the show car crowd stop and take notice. The entire body aft of the windshield was one piece and tilted up and back with a large screw mechanism. At the same time, the two bucket seats lifted out of their normal positions to aid getting in and out. Once the driver and passenger were seated and strapped in, the clamshell would close and they would be lowered into their normal semi-reclined seating position. Once inside, the driver was presented with a variety of aircraft-inspired design cues, ranging from the "head-to-toe" bucket seats, the control pod to the left of the driver and the twin handgrips that replaced the conventional steering wheel. Very little was conventional about the Astro I.

The Astro I also sported a complete four-wheel independent suspension system. Custom control arms were used at all four corners, as were disc brakes and custom magnesium eight bolt wheels, which featured removable outer rims available in a variety of widths. The two-seater was fitted with 5.5-inch wide wheels in the front and 7-inch wide wheels in the rear. Prototype Goodyear redline tires were used.

Due to its very low profile, a conventional V8 engine could not be used, so a Corvair powerplant ended up in the one-off machine. Chevy engineers came up with a very special variant of the air-cooled, horizontally-opposed six-cylinder. New cylinder heads were designed for the larger engine. They featured a belt driven, SOHC valve train, hemispherical combustion chambers and inclined valves. The carburetion came from a pair of prototype GM three-barrel, inline carburetors that used Weber internals. The castings were designed to place the carburetor barrels right over the ports, giving the air-fuel mixture a straight shot at the valves.

Although it was never a runner, the 1967 Astro I was a huge hit for Chevrolet and for GM Styling. Show goers were simply astounded by the two-seaters proportions. It seemed impossible to them that a closed car less than three feet high could actually accommodate passengers-until the clamshell entry system was revealed. The Chevy Astro I is still owned by GM and was completely restored several years ago. Now it is part of the GM Heritage Center Collection. Though the Astro I was never intended as a production car, it nonetheless features a variety of innovations that have yet to reach the marketplace, all packaged in a design that looks very modern-even today. As it did over 40 years ago, at its debut at the 1967 New York Auto Show, it still has no problem blowing away present-day car enthusiasts.

Astro Vette

Astro Vette - Image Courtesy of General Motors ArchiveAstro Vette - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1968 Chevrolet Corvette Astro-Vette

The 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Astro-Vette concept car was an aerodynamic study to see how slippery the Corvette could be made. This show car took the new C3 design and made it aero-slick, with flat-disc wheel covers, rear skirts, and minimal ornamentation. Of course, the open cockpit and the occupants' heads protruding above the low-cut windshield were bound to add drag.

Two notable styling features were picked up in 1973 and 1974. In 1973, when most cars got huge, chrome, front bumpers; Corvettes got the Astro-Vette treatment. Then in 1974, the tail end was restyled, a la Astro-Vette.

The obvious features on the Astro-Vette were the extended nose, roadster windshield, closed rear wheel openings and extended tail. The nose was extended considerable and the grille opening was kept to a minimum. The long hood has no bulge, indicating that the car was a small block. Scribe lines on the front fenders were to be pressure actuated flaps that opened if under the hood pressure was too high. Designers took advantage of the B-pillar by crafting an airfoil to minimize air drag. Taking cues from the hot cars of the 30’s, the Astro-Vette had smooth wheel disks on very narrow tires, and rear fender skirts that were hinged at the top for tire access. Like the front, the back end was extended and tapered. Designers even added partial front and rear belly pans to smooth underside airflow. The interior was medium blue and stock, except for the racing steering wheel.

Astro II

Astro II - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1968 Astro II

The 1968 Chevrolet Astro II (XP-880) was introduced at the 1968 New York Auto Show as a practical, personal sports car designed to carry two passengers and their luggage comfortably and rapidly. A hint of Astro I styling flavor is seen in the frontal appearance of this running experimental car, but unlike the Astro I, Astro II had doors to access the passenger compartment. The contours had been altered slightly to accommodate wide section tires, which promoted stability and handling and reflected the change in dimensions, which resulted from the adoption of a mid-wheel base location for the engine.

The air-cooled, single overhead camshaft six-cylinder engine used in the Astro I was replaced with a liquid-cooled 390 horsepower MK IV big block V8 engine, with power passing through a two speed torque converter from a Pontiac Tempest transaxle. Unlike many European mid-engine vehicles, the Astro II carried its radiator at the rear; a location intended to minimize the amount of plumbing required and to keep the hot water lines from passing through the passenger compartment. This arrangement freed the front compartment for the storage of luggage. The sponson area on either side of the car behind the passenger compartment was available for extra storage on the left and a collapsible spare tire on the right. The rear section of the Astro II raised immediately aft of the passenger compartment to allow access to the sponson storage areas and to the engine and suspension. The Astro II has a wheelbase of 100 inches, overall length of 181 inches, and a height of a mere 43.7 inches. Overall width is 74 inches.

Inside, driver and passenger were snug, surrounded by well-padded surfaces, which provided a maximum of lateral support, advantageous because of the high maneuverability of this vehicle. The instrumentation was normal with 270 degrees sweep speedometer and an 8,000-RPM tachometer. The conventional complement of gauges included water temperature, air pressure, ammeter, and gasoline gauge. A sliding transmission selector replaces the usual lever.

Lead engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov and GM styling chief Bill Mitchell were hoping Astro II would be the concept for the next generation Corvette, but the GM management figured the public was not ready for a mid-engine car.

The Astro II is currently part of the GM Heritage Center Collection.


XP-882 - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1969 Chevrolet XP-882 Corvette

The 1969 Chevrolet Corvette XP-882, designed by Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov was one of Chevrolet’s early attempts at producing a mid-engine sports car.

The XP-882 concept was first shown at the New York Auto Show in 1970 but during its lifetime underwent several changes and was displayed at motor shows up until the mid 1970s.

Zora Arkus-Duntov's solution to the XP-880's transaxle problem was to mate a 454 V-8 to a Toronado transmission and mount it all transversely to lower the mass. A bevel gear allowed a prop-shaft to run back through the oil pan to a Chevrolet differential. It worked and paved the way for future all-wheel drive, but the powertrain weighed a significant 950 pounds.

Duntov’s engineers built two XP-882’s, yet almost on the day they were finished, John DeLorean became Chevrolet general manager and cancelled the program as impractical and too costly. His decision stood only a short time, when Ford announced plans to sell the Italian built mid-engine DeTomasa Pantera through Lincoln-Mercury dealers, he ordered one of the XP-882s displayed at the 1970 New York Auto Show.

It stunned the press and stole the show but GM never said anything about production.

Manta Ray

Manta Ray Concept Vehicle and Bill Mitchell - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1970 Corvette Manta Ray

Chevrolet show car stylists and designers sure knew how to milk a prototype. The Manta Ray was actually the 1966 Mako Shark with a few upgrades.

The front end had a pointed chin spoiler and the headlights used 2 banks of 3 quartz-halogen lights. The covers for the side pipes eventually showed up as an option on the ‘69 Corvette Most dramatic was the all-new roof line. The Stingray-like pointed roof with its louvers was replaced with a long, pointed, scooped out design that was very cool. The Manta Ray also packed the new, lightweight, all-aluminum ZL-1 427 engine!

Hard braking caused flaps on the rear deck to rise, reflecting light from upward facing stop-lamps (a feature first shown on the original Shark).

Even though the shark-inspired ‘68 production Corvette was in showrooms, the Manta Ray was just too cool to retire just yet.


XP-895 - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1972 XP-895 All Aluminum Corvette

The 1972 XP-895 was built on an extra XP-882 chassis. DeLorean authorized further development of the XP-882 chassis, but with steel bodywork the car weighed 3500 pounds. The XP-895 was designed by GM and built by an outside supplier for Reynolds Aluminum. The idea was to try and convince GM to make a production Corvette with an aluminum body. An aluminum-bodied car wasn’t a new idea, since many European exotics had aluminum bodies, as well as the Cobra, but an aluminum production car was another matter.

Reynolds Aluminum used their new 2036-T4 alloy to make the all aluminum Corvette. Except for the bumpers, tires, and interior parts everything else was aluminum. Chevrolet supplied stress analysis and Reynolds sorted out everything else. The main constraint was that the body would have to be spot-welded like a production car. To compensate for aluminum’s lower modulus of elasticity, many of the parts and attaching flanges had to be thicker. Two-part epoxy was also used for added strength and to eliminate crevices that would trap salt and dirt.

The Reynolds car had minor body differences from the 2-rotor prototype and was powered by a transversely mounted 400 cid V8 small block mated to a 3-speed automatic transmission. It had “roll-over” headlights and an all coil spring suspension. It had separate rear deck lids for the engine and luggage compartments.

Side by side, the Reynolds car weighed over 400 pounds less than the steel bodied 2-rotor prototype.

Although undoubtedly valuable as a research tool, XP-895 was tossed in the corporate wastebasket after 1974, for one simple reason. The traditional fiberglass bodied, front engine, V8, Corvette was still selling well enough to make a replacement unnecessary, never mind one that would certainly have cost a lot more to build.

XP-897GT 2-Rotor

Corvette 2-Rotor - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1973 Corvette 2-Rotor

Ed Cole, president of GM, who had become an ardent rotary engine advocate, ordered up a sports car concept designed around the developing two rotor GMRCE (General Motors Rotary Combustion Engine). Coded XP-897GT, this 1973 Chevrolet Corvette concept was designed by GM’s Experimental Studio and built on a modified Porsche 914 chassis, with a Pininfarina steel body. It was powered with a 180 horsepower, transversely mounted rotary engine mated to a new automatic transaxle being developed for the forthcoming X-body Chevrolet Citation.

The Corvette 2-Rotor made its show debut at the 1973 Frankfurt Auto Show. After its career on the show circuit GM decided to cancel the rotary engine program, due to poor emissions and mileage problems. The car minus engine and transaxle was put in storage in the UK after its British Motor Show debut.

In 1982, Englishman Tom Falconer, a car collector, heard the XP-897GT was scheduled for the car crusher and was able to convince Chuck Jordan, head of GM Styling, to let him save the car. He installed a four cylinder Vauxhall Cavalier engine and automatic gearbox just to get it mobile. In 1997, it was fitted with a Mazda 13B rotary engine matched to a Cadillac front-wheel drive automatic gearbox.

Today the car is on display in Tom’s showroom in the town of Snodland, Kent, England.


1973 Corvette 4-Rotor - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1973 Corvette 4-Rotor

In the early 1970’s, Ed Cole (GM President) was fascinated by the smoothness and power of the Wankel rotary engine and talked GM into buying a rotary engine license from Curtiss-Wright, the U.S. license holder. The 2-rotor engine GM developed was a fuel and oil hungry engine. GM finished two concept cars, Corvette 2-Rotor and Corvette 4-Rotor and showed them during the 1973 season, even though the company knew it was canceling its entire rotary program.

The Corvette 4-Rotor came along when GM saw that Mercedes-Benz and Mazda both had three and four rotor experimental cars, and GM wanted to show it could match them. The 4-Rotor was built on the chassis of a previous GM show car, the Corvette XP-882, which had a transverse mounted 400 CID V8. The V8 was removed from the chassis and replaced with a pair of RC2-195 GM Research Engineering 2-rotor engines bolted together for a total of 585 CID’s producing 350 horsepower.

Bill Mitchell had his design staff do a completely new body for the "Wankelized" XP-882 chassis with gull winged doors that folded in the middle, vents, louvers, scoops and lots of show car trim. As a result of GM canceling the rotary engine project and the OPEC energy embargo, which began almost simultaneous with the 4-Rotor unveiling, the 4-Rotor was put in cold storage, but would eventually emerge as the Aero-Vette in 1976.


Aero-Vette - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1977 Chevrolet Aero-Vette

The Chevrolet Aero-Vette is a concept car created by the Chevrolet division of General Motors, beginning life as Experimental Project 882 (XP-882). It has a mid engine configuration using transverse mounting of a V-8 engine. Zora Arkus Duntov's engineers originally built two XP-882s during 1969, but then John DeLorean, Chevrolet's general manager, cancelled the program because it was impractical and costly.

In 1976, the 4-rotor engine was replaced by 400 cu in (6,600 cc) Chevy V-8, and was renamed 'Aero-Vette'. The car was approved for production in 1980. Aero-Vette featured double folding gullwing doors. The production car would use a 350 cu in (5,700 cc) V-8, and be priced around $15000-18000. However, after chief supporters Duntov, Bill Mitchell, and Ed Cole had retired from General Motors, David R. McLellan decided that a front/mid-engine car would be more economical to build and would have better performance, and cancelled the production of Aero-Vette. However contemporary import mid engine cars also had poor sales in the United States compared to the Datsun 240Z, which would be the ultimate factor for terminating Aero-Vette's production.

XP-897GT was later sold to Tom Falconer and fitted with a Mazda 13B rotary engine in 1997.


Corvette Indy - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy

What started as a removable-roof clay-model concept designed around Chevy's 265-cubic-inch Indy engine was eventually rolled out as a runner powered by the ZR-1's 380-horse LT-5 engine in a T-top body filled with enough electronics to intimidate Buck Rogers.

The 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept was constructed in 1985 and first shown at the Detroit Auto Show in 1986. This was an inoperative show car powered by a mid-mounted twin-turbo 2.6 liter V8 engine rated at 600 horsepower designed by Lotus Engineering. Two additional fully roadworthy prototypes followed and were powered with experimental, all aluminum, 5.7 liter (350 CID), 32 valve, V8 engines.

The Corvette Indy concept was created to showcase Chevrolet’s advanced automotive technology, and as such the car featured 4-wheel drive, 4-wheel steering, active suspension, rear view camera with in dash view screen, drive by wire system and traction control. The body was made of carbon fiber/Nomex composite with scissor style doors. Ready to run the Corvette Indy stood only 42 inches tall and was expected to reach a top speed of 180 mph and reach 60 mph in less than five seconds.

Sting Ray III

Sting Ray III - Image Courtesy of General Motors Archive

1992 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray III

The 1992 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray III concept (known internally as the "California Corvette") made its debut at the 1992 Detroit Auto Show. It was a totally original design using new architecture and hi-tech materials. One of these was carbon fiber, which gave the vehicle strength and flexibility without adding extra weight. Painted black cherry, with styling reminiscent of Corvettes of the 1960’s, the Sting Ray III had the same 102-inch wheelbase as the 1992 Corvette, but its body was two inches shorter.


Mounting the base of the sloping windshield far forward increased interior dimensions and created a feeling of spaciousness for the driver. The seats were fixed in place, and the steering wheel and pedals moved. A unique safety idea was a rollover bar that popped up when needed.

The original running prototype proposed a high-output V6 engine but by its 1992 show debut it was packing 300 horsepower from a LT-1 V8 with a rear-mounted gearbox.

The active suspensions optical sensors shone four beams of white light down from the undercarriage and the car also had four wheel steering. Low side sills and an instrument panel pod that articulated up when the door opened for improved knee clearance made climbing into the fixed seats easier. The seatbacks were raked to a nearly recumbent position, and the gauges were visible over the top of the small steering wheel.

The car was considered for production, but the price was deemed prohibitive.


Corvette Centennial "Sideswipe" -  Drew Phillips / Jeremy Korzeniewski / Weblogs, Inc.

2009 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray "Sideswipe"

The Chevrolet Corvette Centennial concept which was revealed at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show is a futuristic design which will feature in the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The Centennial concept will play the role of Sideswipe, a skating robot with wheels for feet.

While the role of the concept in the movie is designed to draw attention to the Chevrolet brand, the styling of the concept could also be seen as a possible design direction for the next generation C7 Corvette. Although any production design would be radically toned down and very different from the Centennial concept.

The styling of the Corvette Centennial concept - which is also designed to celebrate GM's 100 year anniversary - was influenced by Corvettes of the past, specifically the Corvette Stingray model with the split rear window.

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