Photo: GM Archives
The 1959 Sting Ray Racer was Bill Mitchell's (GM Vice President and head of Design Staff from 1958 to 1976) brainchild. During a 1957 visit to the Turin Auto Show, his keen eye was drawn to a low, aggressively streamlined form draped over a miniature racing car. It was a Fiat, heavily worked on by famed tuner Abarth and styled by coachbuilder Pininfarina. It had a very low wind cheating shape and four distinctive blips above each wheel. That mercurial moment - centered on the blips above the wheels - would lead to the creation of the Sting Ray Racer and forever change Corvette history. After it was purchased by GM, it was painted silver and featured at the 1961 Chicago Auto Show. A passenger windshield was also added.
To get around an industry wide racing ban, Bill MItchell (above) purchased a mule (industry term for a prototype used for testing and development) chassis and proceeded with a private racing endeavor. Designer Larry Shinoda was responsible for transforming Mitchell's ideas into reality. Since the car was owned by Bill, it carried no GM, Chevrolet or Corvette labels until it was purchased by GM.
The wheelbase for the Sting Ray Racer was 92 inches, 10 inches shorter than the standard 1959 Corvette. Overall body length was 175 inches, only a bit shorter than the 177.5 inch '59 Corvette. Weight was around 2,100 lbs., about 1,000 lbs. less than the 1959 Corvette. The frame was not related to the stock Corvette and consisted of steel tubing. The front suspension was a short / long arm and the rear was a deDion design, which can be thought of as halfway between a straight axle (as seen on 1953 to '62 Corvettes) and an independent arrangement, as on 1963 and later vettes. The differential was a quick change Halibrand unit. Originally the braking was via finned drums, with four wheel disks being the current arrangement. All four corners featured coil springs.
Above: 1959 Corvette Stingray doing exhibition laps at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion
The body skin was made of comparatively thin fiberglass backed up with aluminum reinforcement which was eventually replaced with balsa wood. The engine compartment featured a mechanical fuel injected small block with aluminum radiator and high compression cylinder heads.
As originally built by Bill Mitchell, the 1959 Sting Ray Racer did not carry any GM, Chevrolet or Corvette identification. This was because an Industry agreement forbid racing by manufacturers. It was OK for Mr. Mitchell however, which was one of the many end runs made to circumvent the ban. The insignia, the same as used on 1963 Corvettes, was added in 1961.
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