Corvette: Year by Year1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965
1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978
1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
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.
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.
Note: Clicking on an image with this symbol () will lead to a larger image.