The 1965/1966 Mako Shark-II set down the basic look and proportions for all Corvettes going forward. To understand the Mako Shark-II, we have to get into the mind of General Motor Vice President of Design, Bill Mitchell. His task was to see the future and then pull it into reality through his designers and stylists. Mitchell didn’t “draw” a single line of either the Sting Ray or Mako Shark-II, but he knew what he wanted.
Here’s what Mitchell commanded of his troops. He wanted “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.” Mitchell was almost there with the 1962 Monza GT. After the design was nailed down, a fullsize, non-running version was built and shown to management in March 1965. It was unanimous; the Mako Shark-II had to be the next Corvette.
While the Mako Shark-II was making its debut at the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair, work began on a running version—and the production version, scheduled as the 1967 Corvette. Management thought they could take a concept car into production in just 18 months—it didn’t happen. Transforming a show car into the 1968 Corvette took 30 months, and in hindsight it should have been a 1969 model.
The non-running Mako Shark-II was a hit on the show car circuit and when the running Mako Shark was completed on October 5, 1965, it was dripping with special features; too many to outline here. Days later, Chevrolet debuted the Mako Shark-II at the Automobile Salon Show in Paris, then to London, Turin, Brussels, Geneva, and finally to the New York Auto Show in April 1966. On March 21, 1966, GM filed for a U.S. patent on the design. (The official U.S. patent illustrations were essential to Hanspeter Böhi’s project, as we will see.)
What happened to the non-running and running Mako Shark-II cars? After the running version was completed, the non-running car was brought home and disassembled. After the production 1968 Corvette was released, the running Mako Shark-II was transformed into the 1969 Manta Ray, and survives to this day.
The Mako Shark-II was a hottie, though not everyone was thrilled with the production interpretation, but most Corvette fans liked the car. Kit car maker John Silva made his “Maco Shark” full-body kit. Joel Rosen of Motion Performance offered his own turnkey Motion Maco Corvettes. As happens with most awesome Corvettes, they fade from glory thanks to their successors. But some fans never forgot or got over the Mako Shark-II.
Hanspeter Böhi from Muenchenstein, Switzerland, is one such fan. A formally trained auto mechanic in the late 1960s, Böhi’s passion was for Corvettes and motorcycles. In 1976, Böhi opened his company Speed-Shop Böhi AG, specializing in basket case Corvettes. Over the course of his career he has rebuilt basket case C1-C6 Corvettes, giving him a thorough knowledge of Corvette mechanics. Böhi’s shop grew and in 1988 moved to a larger facility with five lifts in Muenchenstein. Through the years, Böhi always owned one or two Corvettes.
Ever since his first Corvette, a 1970 454 LS5, Böhi had his heart set on the Mako Shark-II. In 2004, Böhi launched his project, eventually collecting over 300 images and even photos from when the running Mako Shark-II was in Geneva in 1966. When Böhi got a copy of the U.S. patent, he realized this would be a difficult project, as everything had to be hand-fabricated. Böhi decided to replicate the first version, the non-running Mako Shark-II.
Work began in 2013 as an evenings and weekends project. The chassis is from a 1969 Corvette built to big-block specifications. The LS6 454 engine has Edelbrock aluminum heads, with an original snowflake-type manifold with a single Rochester four-barrel carb, mated to a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. This was the easy part. What’s so stunning about Böhi’s Mako Shark-II is the body. It looks as if he stole the body from Chevrolet back in 1966. Far from it.
Böhi explains; “Starting with the U.S. patent drawing, I measured angle distance and curvatures—all the time comparing the shape of the Mako Shark-II on my donor car. Sometimes I fabricated a partial section three to five times before I was happy with the shape. Then I would add the new part to the donor car. Every section was made with four to five layers of fiberglass, with reinforcements for added strength.
“I started with the rear section lights using 1967 taillights. I patched pieces together for the right and left side, made a negative mold, and then a positive single part. If it wasn’t right, I’d throw it away and start over. When I got it right, I’d take a break, enjoy the finished section, imagine what a wonderful car this would be when finished, and then move on to another section. That’s how I made the entire body and kept my enthusiasm going.
“The really hard work was creating the mounting supports for the headlights and tilt front end. The headlight top and bottom doors took 1 1/2 years to make, and uses four motors. My friend Markus ‘Bowi’ Bowald, an electrical engineer, worked out the mechanism so when the headlights are on the doors open and close when the lights are off. My friend Heinz Breitenstein, a CAD draftsman and machinist, helped with a lot of the fabrication work for the grille parts, side exhausts, center console, headlight doors mechanism, and Mako Shark-II fender emblem. My part was fiberglass fabrication, engine, transmission, chassis, frame, complete exhaust system and unique air filter box. It would have been impossible to complete this project without my two, well-qualified engineer friends. I spent well over 4,000 hours on the project, plus time from my friends. The money spent was secondary, fulfilling the dream was what pushed us.”
Böhi’s Mako Shark-II has lots of special features. When you touch the door handle, the top opens for easier ingress, just like the original Mako Shark-II. When inside the car, if the top is not secured when the transmission is in Drive, a red light goes on. The headlight doors, top, rear louvers and turn signal side doors operate with switches in the middle console. You can change gears with a pushbutton and activate the parking brakes with a pushbutton when the ignition is off. The unique seatbelts are from a set of Boeing aircraft seats. The finned knock-off-style wheels are from a 1982 Collector Edition Corvette, shod with period-correct, genuine Firestone racing tires. The tires came in all black and Böhi hand-painted the thin whitewall.
For our readers that are familiar with the Mako Shark-II, you are probably wondering if Böhi is planning to offer reproductions of his body molds. Sorry, this is a one-of-a-kind car and he has no plans to sell body kits. The car was built for local events, car shows and possibly a trip to America. It would be so cool to see Böhi’s handmade Mako Shark-II between the Mako Shark-I and the Manta Ray at the GM Heritage Center.
Hanspeter Böhi credited his good friends. “I could not have completed my Mako Shark-II without the help of my friends.” (Left to right): Hanspeter Böhi, Markus Bowald, and Heinz Breitenstein.
The Mako Shark-II was one of those designs that’s perfect from every angle of view. The extremely pointed nose and pronounced center crease were essential parts of the overall design, but did not make it into the production version. The C3 is a classic but looks tame next to the Mako Shark-II.
The Mako Shark-II’s roof connects it to the 1963-’67 Sting Ray. Fans of the Mako Shark-II were disappointed when the C3 arrived with the “sugar scoop” roof design. Both designs had severely restricted rear vision.
Show cars and concept cars are deliberately over-done so that when it comes time to make the production version, extreme details can be rolled back. The C3’s nose is pointed, but not this much!
Bill Mitchell was a big fan of side pipes. The non-running version featured covered exhaust pipes protruding from the front fender. The running version had rear-exiting exhausts. This might have been done as a matter of expediency to get the running version completed in time for the Paris Automobile Salon show in October 1965.
The 1982 Collector Edition Corvette finned aluminum wheels are a dead-ringer for the wheels used on the Mako Shark-II and are shod with period-correct Firestone racing tires.
“Good crowd!” Böhi’s Mako Shark-II was a big hit at Super Corvette Sunday, Switzerland’s biggest car show. The almost 53-year-old design is still a head-turner! Böhi heard many times, “I’ve never seen anything like this before! Great! That was a show!” The Mako Shark-II is overwhelming.
Two of the Mako Shark-II’s “gee wiz!” features are seen in this photo; the hidden headlights and the automatic roof hatch.
The non-running Mako Shark-II’s interior was not well documented, but the most atypical feature was the aircraft-style steering wheel with twist-controls. Böhi’s version captures the look of the original. The center console is fully functional, as are the gauges on the passenger side. The seatbelt and buckle are from a set of Boeing aircraft seats.
Here’s how you create complex compound curves. Böhi used the same technique ship builders use to create the hull of a ship.
Looking like “Dr. Mako Shark” Böhi poses with one of the many parts he hand-fabricated. Each section was created separately. Böhi said, “If it wasn’t right, I’d throw it away and start over.”
The nose mold has 10 parts. You can see each fender is made in two parts, front and rear. The front chrome bumper surround is made from four parts.
Böhi had to carefully work out the headlight buckets and mechanism so that when he took his cutter to the actual nose of the Mako Shark-II’s body, his first cut was spot on. Böhi said, “Believe me, you hesitate when you make your first cut. You can’t reanimate fiberglass. Cut is cut.”
The Mako Shark-II’s nose is complicated. The bracketry for the tilt front end, the hidden headlight assembly, oil and water filler access and special grille inserts all had to be worked out in advance.
Being a muscle car guy, Böhi chose to use an LS6 454 engine, whereas the non-running Mako Shark-II had a stock 396/425 big-block engine.
Böhi’s friend Markus Bowald designed and built the Mako Shark-II’s several brain boxes.
There’s a subtle detail that Böhi handmade for his Mako Shark-II. Mitchell’s design called for hidden side marker/cornering lights. It’s a detail that Böhi could have left out and no one would have noticed.
Böhi hand-fabricated the unique air filter cover.
Exactly how the side pipes on the non-running Mako Shark-II were supposed to work is not known, but Böhi came up with this unique solution. The cast-iron exhaust manifolds are connected to standard exhaust pipe fittings and then to a performance muffler. The exit end of the muffler then does a U-turn, running back to the front where it connects to the handmade side pipes.
Only the front two downpipes actually carry exhaust.
The side pipe rocker panel case is hand-fabricated and is basically an open box with a perforated inner tube for additional sound reduction.
The side pipes’ downtubes have a metal sheath with added-on ribs.
The side pipes are coming together. The exhaust tube sheaths and ribs are almost complete.
Here we see how Böhi built the ribbing on the side pipes rocker.
The completed side pipes were painted matte black with the polished raised ribbing.
Hanspeter and Margrit Böhi at home with their Mako Shark-II. Böhi’s other interests are flying helicopters and motorcycles.
Here’s what made Böhi’s Mako Shark-II project possible. While William L. Mitchell was credited with the patent, aside from a quick sketch on the back of an envelope, Mitchell didn’t draw a single line on the Mako Shark-II, but he guided and controlled the entire project.
Photo courtesy of GM Archive
It was a cold day in March 1965 when the non-running Mako Shark-II was rolled into Styling’s viewing yard to be photo documented. Chevrolet photographer Myron Scott (the man responsible for finding the word “Corvette” for Harley Earl’s sports car) photographed the new Corvette concept car. The model was Connie van Dyke—a recent Miss Teen America winner. Not many of the photos from the session were published. There has to be a treasure trove of photos somewhere.
Photo courtesy of GM Archive
It’s interesting how none of the surface details on the Mako Shark-II (the front hood grilles, the hood dome, the roof and the twin triple taillights) make it into any production C3 Corvette, but the overall shape did. Mitchell used most of his running concept cars as personal transportation.
Photo courtesy of GM Archive
While many of Mitchell’s designed cars had a heavy Italian influence, the Mako Shark-II was a one-of-a-kind original and after 50-plus years is still as head-turner, as Böhi’s replica proves.
Photo courtesy of GM Archive
Photos courtesy of Hanspeter Böhi