Last month, car lovers everywhere celebrated 60 years of the Corvette. Originally created under the name “Project Opel” by one of GM’s most memorable leaders Harley Earl, Chevrolet’s Corvette became America’s first beloved sports car. After the Corvette turned ten, Chevrolet expanded upon their original design and the Corvette Stingray was born. In honor of 60 years of the Corvette, we’re diving deep into the history of the Stingray, the most iconic of the Corvettes models.
The Sting Ray as we know it today started as a wild dream back in 1959. Based on the 1957 Corvette SS concept design, the team at Chevrolet went to work to develop a new line of Corvettes that would woo the nations. Three men, Pete Brock (the youngest designer at GM at the time), Larry Shinoda (another designer at GM that later left for Ford), and Bill Mitchell (GM’s Vice President of Styling) developed the first concept Sting Ray that was meant for the racetrack. Only a few years later, did the public have access to their very own version.
In 1963, Bill Mitchell and his team came out with the first public edition of the Sting Ray, or C2. Unlike today’s “Stingray” the words were separated in 1963 and later combined for future models.
The C2 Sting Ray model was inspired by three things: the Jaguar E-Type (Bill Mitchell’s favorite car to drive), the previous Sting Ray concept car, and a Mako shark that Bill Mitchell had caught while deep sea fishing.
The difference between the Sting Ray of 1963-1967 from the standard Corvette was the many accommodations that GM made to improve the driving experience. The C2 Sting Ray was the first Corvette coupe and had a futuristic style. It was also the first vehicle to feature a divided rear window that was later discontinued in 1964. You could also purchase a Sting Ray convertible.
Not only was the Sting Ray an innovative ride, but it also had nearly twice as much steel support compared to previous Corvette models all while weighing less than a roadster. The Sting Ray set the standard for a safer and sturdier sports car. With less weight on the front wheels, drivers would have an easier time steering and while still receiving good traction. Maneuverability was also increased with a recirculating ball, also known as “Ball-Race” and a shorter wheelbase.
With improved passenger and luggage accommodations, a superior ride, and better handling, the Sting Ray was an all-new way to experience a sports car.
For the third generation of the Corvette, GM merged the two words “sting” and “ray” to form today’s version of the Stingray. This model of the Stingray is also known as C3. It didn’t have many changes to the engine or chassis, but the main difference between this model and the C2 was the interior design and body style.
Larry Shinoda, a designer who worked on the concept Stingray, had created another concept called the Mako Shark II, later known as the Manta Ray, which lent much of its design to the C3. With a new sleek body style, the C3 was poised to make a statement.
The C3 Stingray was offered in both the convertible and coupe styles, but the coupe became a notchback that made it easy to remove the roof and rear window. By 1972, convertible Stingrays were a thing of the past and coupes took over until the Corvette returned many years later. The cars still offered the same 3 and 4-speed transmissions, but only a handful of the 3-speeds were sold. By the end of 1972, over half of the C3s sold had automatic transmission installed.
As the years went by, small adjustments were made to the Stingray along the way. By 1979, the C3 Stingray set a sales record with 53,807 vehicles sold.
Corvette didn’t give the Stingray title to the C1, C4, C5, and C6 models. These models were slightly different in style, chassis, and frame from the traditional Stingrays. As the years went by, these C models were more modern and steered further away from the original Stingray design, so Chevrolet dropped the name and stuck with C and a model number instead. The C6 was the last model before Chevy called it quits for mass production of the Corvette until 2014.
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Stingray, a concept car was made for the stage at the February 2009 Chicago Auto Show. This concept car was developed to have the classic Corvette cues with high tech, modern features. Inside, the driver could adjust the power and efficiency of the ride with touch controls. With scissor-style doors and a clam-like hood, the 2009 concept car was everything the people wanted. After this concept showcased at the Chicago Auto Show and its appearance in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, another surge for the Corvette began.
It was rumored in 2007 that GM executives were in the midst of planning another Stingray Model (C7), but nothing came about until six years later. On October 12, 2013, GM announced the new Stingray C7 to be delivered by 2014. With an all-new LT1 6.2L Small Block V-8 engine, the C7 Stingray was equipped with 455 HP and 460 pound-feet of torque. With an acceleration speed of 0-60 mph in 3 seconds, Stingray fans everywhere were excited to get behind the wheel again.
On the outside, a carbon hood and removable roof panel were implemented into the design. Inside the interior, many modern changes were featured, including a driver mode with 5 driver settings, an in-car display that offered over 69 resources, and two seat options: competition sports seats or touring seats.
During the years of the C7 Stingray, several special edition models were made including the Corvette Stingray Coupe original and Premiere editions, the 2014 Corvette Stingray Convertible original and Premiere editions, the Corvette Stingray Convertible Atlantic concept, and the Corvette Stingray Coupe Pacific concept.
GM-Chevrolet has continued to make small updates to the C7 over the last few years. Many still standby for its creators to bring back the old body style from the beginning of the Stingray’s career, while others want to see more futuristic updates.
With 60 years of the Corvette behind us, the Stingray is officially a classic car we will never forget. The Stingray gave Chevrolet what it needed to boost sales back in the 1950s and 1960s, which partially led to its great influence as a brand during the time. With its sleek body style and speed, it instantly became a popular sports car near and far, as well as a “touring” car for driving around town.
What started as a car modeled after a shark has become one of the most coveted and classic vehicles of our time. Here’s to the Corvette Stingray and 60 years of sports cars in America!
Find other classic sports cars to collect like the Stingray here.