When looking back on the life of Bill Mitchell you are really looking back on the life of the Corvette itself as without the man there would likely be no machine. If there was one thing Bill Mitchell loved it was speed. If there was one thing he hated it was the stuffy suit and tie that he had to wear to work at General Motors. But he mustered through the monkey suit and put his passions of drawing and speed together to inspire all that the Corvette would start out as and all that it would ultimately be even after he was gone.
In the late 1920s Mitchell had a job at a New York ad agency where he would kill time and boredom by sketching the fastest cars of the time such as the Bugatti and the MG. Eventually pieces of his work found themselves on Harley Earl’s desk and in 1935 Earl hired Mitchell at GM. Less than one year later Mitchell was heading up the design team at Cadillac and when Earl retired from GM, Mitchell became the new GM design chief and then made the Corvette his dream and his baby.
Unfortunately GM was out of racing at the time at least in the traditional sense but that did not stop Mitchell form his dreaming or his need to quench his thirst for speed. He rented a garage close to the tech center that GM had in Warren, Michigan and there he formed his own racing team. After purchasing a Sebring SS mule car designed by Zora Duntov and giving it an overhaul both in and out, Mitchell created what he called the Sting Ray. He then hired Dick Thompson, who was a dentist by trade, to drive the race car and the car was the C-production champion in 1960 for the SCCA blowing the doors off of the competition.
That design would prove to be a big influence in the first ever Corvette of 1953 and the new C7 generation Corvette that is rumored to come out in 2013 (on the 60th Anniversary) is said to draw its shape and design based solely on the legendary Sting Ray race car that Mitchell Built back in 1959. If true it will prove to be a fitting tribute to an absolute Corvette legend.
He battled over and over again for his Corvette baby and fought and won the four seater, two seater debates for the first year and every year thereafter as it turned out. He also fought for and received the split window that adorned the 1963 Corvette, though he later ordered it removed for 1964 after seeing just how intrusive it was to the view of the driver. Basically any time someone tried to tamper with his baby he would defend her and defend her good.
Mitchell would work for GM for 40 years before he retired and still enjoyed the hot rod way of living right up until he passed away in 1988. Just one decade later he was forever immortalized in the hearts of all Vette fans as he was deservedly inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame in 1998. Though he has been gone for some time now, he still continues to shape that which is the Corvette and will no doubt do so as long as there is breath in the Corvette body.