1959 Corvette Sting Ray - Silver And Exact

Bill Mitchell's '59 Sting Ray At Atlanta's High Museum Of Art

Jeremy D. Clough Dec 27, 2010 0 Comment(s)
View Full Gallery

Those weren't the only changes he'd had in mind, but they're what he was able to get at the time. Mitchell had announced a contest in 1956 between the different in-house design studios to create a new Corvette for 1960, and the winner he selected was a coupe designed by Peter Brock, which was then tagged as the XP-84. Chuck Pohlmann began work on a companion roadster at Mitchell's request, while Duntov and engineer Byron Voight hammered out the mechanicals, such as engine location and wheelbase. In the due course of time, full-scale clay models-one of the coupe, one of the 'vert-were made by chief modeler John Bird and placed side-by-side for Mitchell's inspection. For cost-of-production reasons, Mitchell picked the roadster concept, which was duly christened the XP-96.

Vemp_1102_04 1959_corvette_sting_ray_concept 2/8

If you know what a '60 Corvette looks like, you pretty much know what happened: Due partly to a change in chairmen at GM, the concept car didn't make the cut. Even Duntov had to admit that the comprehensive rewrite of the Corvette-which included a rear transaxle, dry-sump lubrication, and a curb weight of little over a ton (yes, just one)-was perhaps a bit ambitious.

But the successful are often tenacious. Whether Mitchell intended for the XP-96 to play the starring role in a racetrack Motorama or not, I can't say. What we do know is that Mitchell loved racing (as evidenced by his support of the SR-2), and he wanted a race car. That last conclusion reached, he ponied up the handsome sum of one dollar for the chassis of Duntov's SS test mule, and, hustling it away into the Hammer Room, set things in motion to turn the XP-96 into track-ready reality.

Vemp_1102_05 1959_corvette_sting_ray_concept 3/8

Undoubtedly, there was still a ban on, but Mitchell reasoned that while it prohibited GM from going racing, there was certainly nothing in it to stop him from racing, or any of his close personal friends who cared to join him. In the case of the Sting Ray, that group of friends included designers Larry Shinoda and Tony Lapine, as well as engineer Dean Bedford, who served as his team manager. Bold, but still, let's not forget that the car was basically built in hiding.

The Sting Ray made its debut on the track around tax time in 1959, bright red and equipped with a modified 283, drum brakes, and the De Dion rearend that had been in the SS. While not an independent rear suspension (IRS), the axle linkage of the De Dion system bears a striking resemblance to the factory three-link that showed up on the production car in '63. For the Bondphiles among us, it also undergirded Aston Martins from 1967 to 1989, by which time the Corvette had long since gone to a much-improved five-link.

COMMENTS

subscribe to the magazine

get digital get print
TO TOP