In 1959 Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda set out to create a race car based on the Corvette and its intended purpose was to be a test car for the future of Chevy racing. But as fast as it was developed, the powers that be at GM decided to scrap the racing program and lend no factory support to the endeavor, but that didn’t stop Mitchell or Shinoda.
The work continued on the race car prototype and when the dust and clay settled a fiberglass racing machine called the Stingray Racer was born. The Stingray had an overall wheel base of 92 inches and when compared to the weight of the regular production Corvette of that year it came in at about 1,000 pounds lighter.
Under the hood lived a 283 cubic inch V-8 engine monster that was capable of putting out 315 bhp at 6,200 rpm. Initial speed tests were spectacular and Mitchell could hardly wait to get his baby on the track.
He hired the “Flying Dentist,” Dr. Dick Thompson to pilot the car and it made its debut in Maryland at the Marlboro Raceway in April of that year. The end result was Dr. Thompson soaring to a fourth place finish.
In 1960 the Stingray Racer, being driven primarily by Dr. Thomson, went on to dominate the SCCA and the car won the National Championship in the C-Modified Class for that year. After the 1960 season was over, Mitchell took the Stingray Racer out of competition and then treated it to a series of modifications.
One of the most notable modifications was the addition of a passenger seat. Mitchell then took the Stingray Racer all across the country to car shows as a sort of a prototype dream car. However, those that knew Mitchell best said this was merely an excuse so that he could drive the car on the weekends.
In 1963 the C2 Corvette would be born and much of the design would be derived from Mitchell’s Stingray Racer. Because the Stingray Racer was never an actual car it was made a testing mule and many components that ended up on later Corvettes were first on the Stingray Racer. Four speed transmissions, different rear ends, and experimentation with aluminum all got their start in the Stingray.
While it is a shame that the Stingray Racer never got the backing it deserved from GM to be all that it could be in the racing world, it least its influences made their way back to the Corvette. In fact, the latest Corvette prototype that came out in 2009 was dubbed the Stingray and it too took much of its styling cues directly from the 1959 race car version.
So the Stingray Racer that started out as a simple test machine ended up dominating a year of racing, influencing the second generation of the Corvette, and influencing a prototype some 50 years later. If rumors prove true, there may also be some huge undertones of the Stingray Racer in the next generation of the Corvette that is speculated to come out in 2013 on the super car’s 60th birthday. Bill Mitchell would be proud.