It was once a name to be reckoned with, arguably the ultimate American muscle car. But after a more than three-decade absence, the Corvette Stingray is making an unexpected re-appearance at the Chevrolet stand at the 2009 Chicago Auto Show.
The concept vehicle, which took two years to bring to fruition, was one of the most tightly-kept secrets at General Motors, according to Ed Welburn, GM’s vice president of design, after the striking silver sports car made its stealth appearance on the floor of McCormick Place.
“There were a lot of people on the design staff who didn’t know about his vehicle,” said Welburn.
Though the Corvette itself dates back to 1953, the Stingray badge didn’t appear until a decade later – launching in 1962 on a ’63 Corvette – and lasted for just three years. The Stingray designation was used several more times, always for brief production runs, and hasn’t been seen on a new ‘Vette since 1976.
This particular take on the legendary nameplate was conceived as part of the new movie, the “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” The film, scheduled for release by Paramount in June, was directed by Michael Bay, who has worked closely with GM designers for a decade now. Bay had spotted an original Stingray more than a year ago during a tour of GM’s studios in Warren, Michigan. and asked for permission to use it in a movie. GM said yes and also agreed to keep the vehicles out of sight while the next segment of the Transformers series was under development, Welburn said. Bay and Paramount actually constructed the rolling chassis used with the Stingray exterior design in the film.
While the new model is likely to get movie-goers’ blood pumping, GM officials clearly don’t want to build expectations of potential Corvette customers. “This is just a concept,” Welburn stressed over and over again, after the wraps came of the futuristic looking Stingray.
Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager, said the first Transformers movie had been a great success for GM, among other things helping introduce the new Chevrolet Camaro to the public. “We got the names of more than 500,000 people who said they were interested in the Camaro from the movie,” he said. The timing of the release of the new Transformers movie will coincide with the introduction of the production 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, Peper noted.
In addition to the Stingray and the Camaro, the new Transformers movie also will give audiences a look at several other GM models such as Volt and the new Chevy Spark.
But Welburn expects that the star of the show will be the Stingray. “I would say that every Corvette since 1962 has been influenced by the Stingray,” explained Welburn, who said he’s anticipating the Stingray’s appearance in the new movie will generate an “awful lot of interest.”
Welburn said the Stingray was originally done as a design exercise in what is known as ‘Studio X.’ “It’s good to do these kind of exercises,” he explained, emphasizing that the car is not a retro version of the legendary original, but delivers a distinctly different shape from Corvettes past and present.
While the Stingray concept will likely never make it beyond the silver screen, Welburn sidestepped the question of whether it might have an influence on the design of the next-generation Corvette. “It was strictly a design exercise. Designers need to have that kind of space,” he said.