While skin-diving in the Bahamas GM styling chief William Mitchell spotted a sleek shark gliding by. Inspired by its lines, he incorporated elements of the predator’s “design” into a series of concept cars that later became blueprints for the marque’s production cars. In particular, Chevrolet’s 1961-65 Mako Shark concepts influenced Corvette design for a couple decades.
Designed by Larry Shinoda as directed by Mitchell, the fiberglass-bodied 1961 Mako Shark I (originally called simply, Corvette Shark) prepared the public for the radical lines of the all new Corvette Sting Ray that would debut for 1963. A pointed snout, shark-like fade paint job, and fender gills gave credence to stories of its undersea design origins. The Mako’s clear bubble top was one of GM’s final uses of this signature feature of mid-century cars of tomorrow.
The Mako Shark starred in an episode of the popular television show Route 66.
The Mako Shark II debuted at the 1965 Paris auto show where its low-slung shark style wowed the international crowd. A roaring 427 cubic inch big block V-8 ensured the car’s performance lived up to its aggressive looks.
The Mako Shark II featured the same fishy fade paint as the original along with a pop-up front clip, louvered rear window, a driver-adjustable rear wing, knock-off aluminum wheels, and way-advanced-for-its-time digital instrumentation. A dashboard button commanded the rear bumper to extend while the car was parked to protect its bodywork. While serving as Mitchell’s daily driver, its lines were adapted for the new 1968 (C3) Corvette bodywork, a style that lasted through the sports car’s 1982 model year.
Renamed Manta Ray, the Mako Shark II was modified again in 1969, sporting a new front end, rear window, and side pipes. The meanest looking iteration yet, today it survives alongside the Mako I in General Motors' Heritage Collection. Both cars are occasionally loaned out to car shows and museums where their timelessly sleek shark derived designs still stun onlookers.
Written by Jim Cherry