All the excitement surrounding Discovery Channel’s highly anticipated annual Shark Week got us here at E3 Spark Plugs reminiscing. Back in 1961, General Motors created a sleek, sharp concept car inspired by and named for the Mako Skark.
In the deep of the ocean the Mako Shark appears in two forms – the common shortfin and the rare longfin. They can grow to 15 feet long, weigh up to 1,750 pounds, dart through the waters at speeds of up to 38 miles per hour and leap 24 feet in the air.
But on asphalt, GM’s celebrated concept car is just as impressive. Designed by GM Vice President of Design Bill Mitchell and co-designer Larry Shinoda, the 1961 XP-755 Mako Shark I was created as a follow up to Corvette’s Stingray and, legend has it, inspired by sharks that Mitchell had caught while vacationing in the Bahamas. It’s said that Mitchell ordered his team to paint the car to match the distinctive blue-gray surface blending into white underside of the shark. But that proved a tall order. After multiple failed attempts, the team instead swiped the fish from Mitchell’s office, painted it to match their best effort on the car and returned it. Word has it, Mitchell was none the wiser.
The Mako Shark I proved a favorite on the auto show circuit and even appeared in a 1961 episode of the CBS TV series Route 66, customized with a double bubble top and side exhaust pipes. While it never made the production line, various features of the car did make it into the design of the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette.
In 1965, the concept car underwent a makeover. Just two Mako Shark II models were crafted – one fully functional, one just for show. The non-running show model featured square section side pipes and a squared-off steering wheel. The functional model sported a retractable rear spoiler and optional square section bumper, and was powered by a 427 Mark IV engine. Like its predecessor, the Mako Shark II never made it into production, but features, including the engine, were integrated into later Corvette models.
In 1969, the Mako Shark II underwent a transformation as well. A front spoiler, revamped grille and side pipe exhausts, a flying buttress-style rear window and a longer, more horizontal end section, along with a ZL-1 427-cubic-inch big-block V-8 engine turned the Mako Shark II into the new Manta Ray.
Today, the Mako Shark I and Manta Ray are part of the GM Heritage Center Collection, in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The center houses more than 600 cars and trucks that represent many of GM’s industry firsts, experimental and concept cars. The center hosts group tours are available for clubs, organizations and companies with groups of at least 30, and can be reserved for special events.
What do you think? Should the Mako Shark I or II have been put into production? Would you drive one today? Post your thoughts on the E3 Spark Plugs Facebook Fan Page.