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Building Anticipation for the All-New Shark Corvette in 1967

From the Archives: A Shark is Born

Drew Hardin Mar 22, 2017
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Rumors of the third-generation Corvette had been leaking out of Detroit and lapped up by eager Vette fans since Bill Mitchell’s Mako Shark II hit the New York Auto Show in 1965. Chevrolet planned to release its all-new Corvette for the 1967 model year, but it took Zora Arkus-Duntov and his engineers longer than expected to mate the outgoing platform with Larry Shinoda’s curvaceous Mako body. So expectations—and demand—were fairly high when the car made its 1968 model-year debut.

Recognizing an editorial (and newsstand sales) opportunity, the editors of Motor Trend produced stories about the new Corvette in three separate issues in 1967 and 1968. A rendering of the car, still looking very Mako-like, was featured on the cover of the August 1967 issue, fronting a preview article about several of the new models for 1968.

It’s obvious in hindsight that the story was written well before the Vette’s launch. The authors said the car would have a Targa-style roof but didn’t yet know that late in its development, the body would need a central reinforcing rib between the windshield header and the B-pillar hoop to reduce flex, giving birth to the car’s T-tops. MT also predicted “the fastback Sting Ray model” would remain in the line, though we know now there was no fastback, and the Stingray name wouldn’t appear on a Shark until the 1969 model year. The editors did correctly predict that the car’s chassis would largely carry over, and that the cockpit would have an “Italian-like svelteness,” perhaps code for “it’ll feel smaller inside.”

1968 Chevrolet Corvette Motor Trend Cover 2/7
1968 Chevrolet Corvette Zora Arkus Duntov 3/7
Archive 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Engine Detail 4/7

The press finally experienced the car firsthand during a media preview in July 1967, when the photos you see here were taken. From what we can tell there were at least two 427-powered cars at the event, a coupe (with the number 14 stuck to the top of the windshield) for driving impressions, and a T-top model for photos. Zora himself attended the preview (captured on film by Car Craft’s Dan Roulston), likely to make sure last-minute modifications to the car’s cooling system kept engine temps in check during the day’s heat. Petersen’s Bob D’Olivo was on hand to shoot for Motor Trend, while Eric Dahlquist covered the event for Hot Rod.

D’Olivo’s photos appeared in MT’s October 1967 issue in a story by John Ethridge that summed up the changes to Chevy’s Corvette, Chevelle, Camaro and Chevy II. He said the new Vette “isn’t merely good looking. Its styling tells at a glance the true character of the car: powerful and fast, but sophisticated and controllable.”

Archive 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Interior Detail 5/7
Archive 1968 Chevrolet Corvette T Top De 6/7
Archive 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Static Front Three Quarter 7/7

That’s as close as the story got to a driving impression, which had to have frustrated readers back in 1967. At least Ethridge had the details of the car right, from the body types available down to the wider wheels, up from 6 to 7 inches “to put lots more rubber on the ground.”

Over at Hot Rod, Dahlquist was light on driving details too, though his October 1967 story did call it “the hairiest thing to roll off a Detroit production line” and said “cornering and steering are better than ever, and many people will buy the car for that alone. The rest will buy it because it isn’t even two weeks old and it’s already a classic.”

It wouldn’t be until the March 1968 issue, nearly six months later, that Motor Trend readers would get a full test of the new Corvette, as Steve Kelly compared it with Shelby’s new G.T. 500. He called it “the best of all U.S. cars,” and said “the Shelby has much to do before overwhelming the well-established Vette.”

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