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The Founders

History of the Corvette Sting Ray - Part 1:

The Founders - Earl, Mitchell, Shinoda, and Duntov
The history of the development of the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray


Harley J. EarlHarley J. Earl

He was an automotive stylist and engineer and industrial designer. He is most famous for his time at General Motors from 1927 until 1959. Earl was instrumental in establishing the industry or business of designing cars and the rules and principles behind the "Automobile Design" profession when none existed before in America. His list of other firsts is equally impressive. They include but are not limited to being the father of the Corvette, introducing the annual styling model change, putting the first-ever onboard computer in an automobile, chrome trim, two-tone paint, hardtops, and wrap-around windshields, but he is probably best known to the general public for beginning the tailfin craze that dominated automobile styling in the 1950s and early 1960s.


William "Bill" MitchellBill Mitchell

The notion of the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray sprang from the fertile mind of William "Bill" Mitchell. He was short, loud, profane; and, according to some, an occasional racist. But he was also an automobile design wizard, the head of
design for General Motors from 1958 to 1977. He wielded much power and influence in the world of the automotive business during this time, but is rarely remembered today -- and he should be remembered. In 1958, he was Harley Earl's successor at GM, -- and those were giant shoes to fill.

Bill Mitchell, however, was Earl's design opposite. Harley Earl believed in innovating with all the splashy customized bells and whistles that were emblematic of the fifties. For the sixties, Bill Mitchell stripped off all chrome, tailfins, and the like. The operative word; and most frequently heard description for Bill Mitchell's brand of car styling was "tailored." His design philosophy: create a car that looks like it's (in his own words) "going like hell standing still."

Mitchell was also a big fan of European car styling. Inspired by the Rolls Royce, his first design masterpiece (with Ned Nickles) was the Buick Riviera. It was created in "Studio X", Bill Mitchell's secret experimental lab under the lobby of Detroit's GM headquarters. So was the Corvette Sting Ray.

Larry ShinodaLarry Shinoda

Bill Mitchell put Larry Shinoda in charge of designing the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray.

During World War II, Larry Shinoda (born as Lawrence Kiyoshi "Larry" Shinoda) and his family were part of thousands of Japanese Americans interred at U.S. government-run camps. His family was sent to California's Manzanar Camp. After the war, back in Los Angeles, Larry Shinoda was a street racer, flunking out of the Art Center College of Design. His automotive design ideas didn't conform to the school's curriculum, but this didn't stop Shinoda. He plunged onward, converting a 1924 Ford roadster into a hot rod that won the first NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Nationals race.

In 1955, Shinoda was hired as a senior designer at GM's Chevrolet division.

One night in 1956, Larry Shinoda was driving home from work in his self-customized 1955 Ford, when General Motors head designer Bill Mitchell pulled up at a traffic light next to him. Mitchell's car was a customized Pontiac with a supercharger, a muscle car forerunner.

They raced from the light. According to Shinoda, he waited for the Pontiac to shift into second gear. To Mitchell's surprise, Shinoda's Ford then easily passed the supercharged Pontiac in first gear. At work the next day, Mitchell approached Larry Shinoda and asked to look at his Ford.
 Shinoda showed him the customized 352 Ford stock car racing engine. Mitchell hired him to join the Studio X team.

In Studio X, Mitchell, Shinoda, along with race car designers Peter Brock and Chuck Pohlman went to work on a race car that didn't set out to become a Chevrolet. It was a kick-ass race car initially called the "Q Corvette" and then the Sting Ray.

In 1961, Bill Mitchell put Larry Shinoda at the head of the team. His main task was to integrate the Sting Ray's streamlined race car body style onto a Corvette production sports car SS chassis. This would be the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray.

Zora Arkus-DuntovZora Arkus-Duntov

Zora Arkus-Duntov was the engineer who designed the Corvette Sting Ray's signature fuel-injection system, four-wheel disc brakes, independent rear suspension, and limited slip-differentials.

In 1934, as a Belgian-Jewish engineering student in Germany, Duntov fled the Nazis for France, where he became a combat pilot for the Free French. When France fell to the Nazis, Duntov left for England, where he became an engineer for a British car racing team. In 1941, he immigrated to the United States where he continued as an automotive engineer as well as a highly respected race car driver. Zora and his brother Yuri then opened an auto engineering shop where they helped develope the Flathead V8 engine for Ford.

Besides being an automotive engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov was also an auto racer. In 1953 and 1954, he won his divisions at Lemans.

Duntov attended the General Motors Show in New York where he saw the Chevrolet Corvette for the first time. He loved the Vette's body styling but not its modest 150-horsepower engine. This spurred him to write a
 letter to GM's chief engineer Ed Cole. In this letter, Duntov offered suggestions on how to improve the Corvette's design as well as the company's marketing approach. At the time, General Motors was considering shutting down production on the Corvette because of lagging sales due to stiff competition from Ford's Thunderbird.

Ed Cole hired Duntov to redesign the Corvette engine. At the top of the line, Duntov designed a 265ci engine with a "Duntov Cam" that resulted in 240-horsepower.

Duntov vs. Mitchell

While Arkus-Duntov was a well-respected engineer, he had no political clout and was a strong critic of the Sting Ray's design. He claimed that the body shape wasn't aerodynamic, and he especially thought that the tiny gap in the split-window was dangerous.

Duntov favored his own more aerodynamic wedge design for Chevrolet's second generation of Corvette that would be emblematic of the 1960s. Bill Mitchell touted his Sting Ray, his Studio X race car that was destined to be Corvette's second generation. This led to a small war between GM's engineering and design departments. There were even screaming matches where Mitchell would call Duntov "Zorro" or "f*cking white Russian"; and Duntov would call Mitchell a "red-faced baboon."

Bill Mitchell had the clout and the Sting Ray became the Corvette Sting Ray, split-window included. To Duntov's satisfaction, however, many Sting Ray buyers wound up removing the split-window and replacing it with a solid piece of glass. All Sting Ray models after 1964 did not include the split-window.

The Fathers

Harley J. Earl passed away April 10, 1969 and Bill Mitchell died in 1988.

Zora Arkus-Duntov went on to design a legendary racing package for the legendary 1963 Z06 Corvette. In 1996, he died in Grosse Pointe, Michigan at age 86.

In 1997, Larry Shinoda died in Farmington Hills, Michigan. A few months later, The Industrial Designers Society of America gave him its annual award posthumously.






History of the Corvette Sting Ray - Part 2: 

Sting Ray - Stingray (1963 - 1976)

1953 saw the muscle car sector of America tremble as one of the greatest muscle cars of all time was born, the Corvette Sting Ray. At that time it was simply known as the Corvette, with the words Sting Ray not being added to the name until 1963. However, from the moment you set eyes upon the unique shape of this beautiful car you could feel the sting under the hood.

The roar of the engine of the Corvette has always been able to turn heads and, once turned the eyes were captivated by the sleek and unusual, although definitely muscle sports car looks.

There have been several generations of the Corvette to date, but those built between 1953 and 1976 are regarded by the connoisseur as the real muscle cars. Indeed the name Sting Ray was dropped altogether after this year.


There's the Sting Ray and there's the Stingray. Either or both terms refer to this classic GM concept car. Evolving from first generation Corvettes as the Chevy SS in 1957, the Sting Ray emerged as itself in 1959. Sting Rays saw production from 1963 to 1967, losing the "Sting Ray" emblem with the 1968 models. GM returned the emblem to the 1969 model spelling it "Stingray" as one word, and the last Corvette to carry the Stingray emblem was the 1976 model.

However, the name still follows the Corvette line among enthusiasts.


Sting Ray, Stingray, Vet, and Corvette are often used as interchangeable terms referring to the classic, sporty GM speedster. Bill Mitchell, GM chief in the 1960s, was the brain behind the Sting Ray. Its forerunner was the 1957 Corvette SS, which debuted at the Le Mans specifically as a concept race car. Shortly thereafter the Automobile Manufacturing Association banned manufacturing sponsored racing and the SS became a test car, giving birth to the Sting Ray racer in 1959.

After showing its stuff at the Marlboro Raceway in Maryland in 1959, finishing in fourth place and winning an SCCA National Championship in 1960, Mitchell officially retired the Sting Ray as a racer. However, the design and performance of the Sting Ray featuring a lightweight body, a 92 inch wheelbase, a fuel injected 283 cubic inch V 8 engine with four speed manual transmission producing 315 horsepower influenced the next generation of Stingrays.

The Sting Ray is inseparable from the Corvette itself, whether referred to as Sting Ray, Stingray, or Vet. Various production models across the years introduced change, modification, and modernization, but the Vet is still referred to by fans as the Sting Ray. After 1962, influenced by the Sting Ray, the classic style of the first generation Corvettes changed drastically, letting go of the curved windshield, solid rear axle and convertible only body style. In '62 the engine was enlarged from the small block to 5.4 L producing 360 horsepower making it one of the fasted C1s and the most popular American sports car on the road.

The C2 era - The Sting Ray

Most of the problems with the earlier models were resolved when the C2 version arrived in 1963 and this model was to grace the roads for four years. This 1963 version stepped the Corvette Sting Ray up to the top of its class, not least because of the unique look with phoney hood vents and a characteristic split rear window screen. Unfortunately this unique style had to be withdrawn after twelve months for safety reasons.

In 1964 the phoney hood vents was discontinued since Chevrolet felt that they made the overall design too busy. The power was increased from 365 hp (272 kW) to 375 hp (280 kW).

In 1965, the Corvette Sting Ray got four-wheel disc brakes which improved the braking capacity and made the car safer to drive. Another new feature was the so called “big-block” engine option, the 6.5 L V8 (6.5 L =396 in³). The new model also got side exhaust pipes, a design that continued until the 1970s. If you were prepared to pay extra, you could get the 1965 Corvette sting ray with telescopic wheel.

The 1966 Corvette sting ray is one of the most popular Corvettes ever and it still has a huge group of admirers and collectors world wide, over 40 year after its introduction. The engine in the 1966 Corvette sting ray was a 427 in³ (7 L). This was also the year when Chevrolet decided to offer its customers head rests.

In 1967 one of the engine choices could be the L88 (427 in³ = 7 liter), which some said could develop 550 hp, making it one of the fastest muscle cars of its day. Watch the girls' hair dance in the wind as their heads turned at speed, eyes fixed on the Sting Ray that was disappearing into the distance. Disc brakes and independent rear suspension also made this generation a much more comfortable and safer car, but it gave up none of its performance to achieve these improvements.

The C3 introduction - The Stingray

1968 saw the introduction of the C3 version of the Sting Ray which, as was mentioned earlier, was the last of these proud muscle cars to bear this unique name. Improvements with this version were subtle but important. Chrome bumpers gave way to urethane compounds which were merged into the car's body paint. The graceful curves remained, if anything becoming more sensuous. Larger engines continued to enhance the performance.

Only 20 L88 versions were ever sold and the cars are today much sought after and extremely high priced. Throughout 1969, the 427 in³ (7 L) Corvette Sting Ray was offered with a 1282 cfm Holley triple two-barrel carbuetor.A dream car for the muscle car era took a bow, smiled, roared and said goodbye as the "Sting Ray" took its proud place in history, although the Corvette upon which it was labelled remains to this day.


Patterned after Chevrolet's "Mako Shark II" (designed by Larry Shinoda), this generation has the distinction of being introduced to the motoring public in an unorthodox—and unintended—fashion. 1968 marked the introduction of Mattel's now-famous Hot Wheels line of 1/64-scale die cast toy cars. General Motors had tried their best to keep the appearance of the upcoming car a secret, but the release of the Hot Wheels line several weeks before the Corvette's unveiling had a certain version of particular interest to Corvette fans: the "Custom Corvette", a GM-authorized model of the 1968 Corvette. The C3 Corvette kept the bulging fenders from the C2 Corvettes and had a more aerodynamic shape than the C2. The C3 Corvette influenced the body shape of the C4, C5 and the C6 Corvettes.

In 1969, GM enlarged their small-block V8 again to 350 in³ (5.7 L) and the ZL1 option was offered, with an all aluminum 427 big-block engine listed at 430 horsepower (320 kW) but generally accepted as delivering at least one hundred horsepower (75 kW) more than that.

This option cost $4,700 (the ZL1 was a $3,010 option that consisted of an assortment of aluminum cylinder block and heads on top of the $1,032.15 L88 race option.), and only 2 were ever built. Although some rumors have it that a few people bought the ZL-1 engine separately and placed it into their own Corvettes. Although in 1968 the name Sting Ray wasn't used, it came back in 1969 as "Stingray", lasting from 1969 until 1976-1977, which brought the end of the Stingray body style. 1969 was also the year where they re-introduced the factory mounted side-pipes which came into play first in 1965. Also, the small-block 327 was dropped, making way to the 350 (5.7 L).

In 1970 the 427 big-block V8 was enlarged to 454 in³ (7.4 L)., and the Corvette got the LS5 engine which had a power output of 390 horsepower. The Corvette did not receive the LS6 engine which made 450 horsepower, but was instead given to the Chevelle.

Power peaked in the 1970 and 1971 models, with the 1970 LT-1 small-block putting out 370 hp (276 kW). In 1971, the Corvette got the LS6 454 big-block which was minorly detuned from the year before dropping the power output from 450 to 425 hp (317 kW).

In 1972, GM moved to the SAE Net measurement for power (away from the previous SAE Gross standard), which resulted in lower values expressed in reported horsepower. Along with the move to unleaded fuel which required lower compression ratios, emission controls, and catalytic converters, power continued to decline and bottomed out in 1975 the base L48 engine put out 165 hp (123 kW), and the optional L82 engine put out 205 hp (153 kW). This was the lowest power Corvette since the first year of production. Nevertheless, Car and Driver magazine found the Corvette to be the fastest accelerating American car for 1976, with a 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds.

Styling changed subtly over the generation. In 1973, the Corvette dropped the front chrome bumpers for a urethane-compound "5 mph" bumper but kept the rear chrome bumpers. In 1974, The rear chrome bumpers became urethane, too, making 1973 the last Corvette model year with any rear chrome bumpers. 1975 was the last year for the convertible. In 1976 alloy wheels an option and it was the last year of "Stingray" emblem.


The Sting Ray enjoyed a celebrated career as a concept car and was ultimately retired to the GM Design Studio as a classic car of historical significance. The famous Corvette Sting Ray racing car gave birth to the Corvette-mania that swept the nation in the 1960s, continuing still. Car enthusiasts, still getting their kicks on Route 66, celebrate the famed Sting Ray as the forerunner of present Corvette popularity.

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