The Mako Shark Show Car

Ben: Hey, Scott.

Scott: Hey, Ben.

Ben: Hey, real quick, before we get started, will you do a [inaudible] impression?

Scott: Really?

Ben: I mean, you know.

Scott: Cars are good and good. Just that - just like that?

Ben: That was awesome.

Scott: Yeah.

Ben: I feel like that's a good - that's a good start. Hey, everybody. Thanks for tuning in. You caught a little bit of the - the groundbreaking research that we do on this show before - before we - we start bringing you -

Scott: Yeah. Lots of important topics going on here before the podcast. Yeah.

Ben: Lots of important topics. And I'll admit it, man. You're just - you're better with impressions on that - on - on that scale than I am. But today, we're here to talk about, once again, concept cars, but not just every concept car. We've done some pretty interesting podcasts on those.

Scott: Yeah. That's right. This is a - a much more specific case and one that's - that's - well, its world famous, really.

Ben: Uh-huh. And super cool.

Scott: Yeah, really cool. This is - this is one that's - it's for the history books, and a lot of people - I think you'll be excited when you see it, really, if you haven't - if you haven't checked it out already.

Ben: Definitely. And so, I guess we'll kick off with the first question. Scott, what are we talking about?

Scott: The - the Mako Shark concept car from General Motors. And it was - it was developed or built in 1961 and it was called Project XP755. That was the code name that it went underneath when it was being designed. And basically, this is the design or the concept that eventually became the 1963 Corvette, which is a monumental Corvette, a beautiful Corvette, really.

Ben: Yeah. You may have heard of it.

Scott: Yeah. Yeah. Excellent design, I - I feel anyways. But the car as designed by Larry Shanuta. I think it's Shanuta or Shanota - Shanuta - I'm gonna say Shanuta - under the direction of Bill Mitchell, who is at the time Head of GM Design. This is back in the '60s. Now, Bill Mitchell had been around for a while. He had been there since I - I thought 1930 - 35, I think it was.

Ben: Wow.

Scott: So he had been there a long time. And in fact, his career went all the way until 1977 when he retired. So he had like a 42-year career there.

Ben: Geez.

Scott: So a long time GM employee, again, Head of Design, started out in Cadillac, went to - well, what they called - I think they called it Art and Color at the time - yeah, the Art and Color Group, which - or Division - which was then called GM Design later.

Ben: Oh, okay.

Scott: But anyways, this - Bill Mitchell, he's - you probably have heard his name or -

Ben: Yeah. He's a legend.

Scott: I - are you kidding with me here?

Ben: No. No. I know it's hard to tell sometimes, but - excuse me - even for someone like me who doesn't know that much about the vehicle history, he's - he's got his name attached to a lot of innovations in car design. And one - actually, this is sort of cheating, but you told me about this one - tail fins. Right?

Scott: Yeah. I believe tail fins were - were his.

Ben: Yeah. And -

Scott: So - he's got other vehicles that are associated with him as well, but do you - do you know any other innovations or am I - am I stumping here?

Ben: Oh, man.

Scott: If it's okay.

Ben: I might be a little stumped here.

Scott: I was impressed that you knew of Bill Mitchell. That's good.

Ben: Yeah. Well, you know, there's - I think there might another - another podcast, the Stuff of Genius thing might have - might have something on Bill. We always take a second to - to plug our friends.

Scott: Fantastic. That was good. Good. All right. Anyways, some of the other - no, that was good, really. Some of the other notable designs that - that Bill Mitchell was involved in, and these are cars that I'm sure you've heard of, the Buick Riviera, the Camero from the Chevrolet, the Firebird also from Pontiac, and the Cadillac Seville, and of course, the Corvette. Now, he wasn't - he didn't necessarily father the Corvette. That was Harley Earl, who - I'm sure you've probably heard of Harley Earl or maybe not. I don't know. But he's known as the father of the Corvette, and he was the Head of Design that Bill Mitchell eventually took over for back in the - it was in the late '30s, I guess. I'm sorry. No, I'm - I'm wrong. It was a little later than that, but anyways, he worked - he worked underneath Harley Earl for a while and then he eventually took over that position.

Ben: And - and Shanuta, when he came in, how did he -

Scott: He's - how does he play into it? He's -

Ben: Yeah. How did he play in with the Mako?

Scott: He's a - he's a designer.

Ben: Okay.

Scott: He's the one who designed the car underneath Bill Mitchell. So Bill Mitchell was given direction for this design. This is what he wanted and this is where - well, if it wasn't interesting at this point, Ben, it will be now because it really - the - the design, it's called The Mako Shark. And it truly does come from - from nature. It comes from a Mako shark that Bill Mitchell caught while he was deep-sea fishing.

Ben: Oh, wow.

Scott: Yeah. It's this kind of legend that's floating around that this happened, and I guess it really did because you'll see as we go on that a lot of his designs are reminiscent of - of things that you'll find - aquatic animals, water animals, particularly deep-sea animals, like rays and stingrays and manta rays. And we'll - we'll talk about that in a moment. But anyways, this Mako Shark, he apparently caught one while he was deep-sea fishing and just was blown away by how beautiful the shark was because the - the coloring on it and just the shape of the - of the - the fish. So I guess in his design studio, he actually had one of these mounted and placed it on the wall in the design studio. And this - again, this is all legend and hearsay, I guess, passed down now.

Ben: Right.

Scott: But he had it mounted and placed on the wall and told his designers that that's what he wanted the Corvette to look like, the coloring, the shape of the car, everything. He wanted it to mimic that - that shark. That's pretty difficult. Right?

Ben: Yeah. What a crazy day at the office that is. Right?

Scott: Yeah. Yeah. No kidding.

Ben: You're just sitting there looking from the wall to Mr. Mitchell to the wall, and he's basically saying make something like that, but a car.

Scott: Yeah. Make - make your next car look like a shark. So they - they did it, and they did it very effectively, I think. If you - if you see the Mako Shark Show Car, they did it effectively. The - the problem was with the paint. Now, a Mako Shark is like a blue-gray on top and it - and it transitions down into a - like a white, almost a silvery white. And he wanted that to match exactly, that - that color in nature, so this is really difficult to do at the time. It was tough to get the - the color to match exactly right and the - the [inaudible] looked. So they got the body designed. Everything was all take care of. They got this long front nose on it that looks like a shark's nose. The car has gills on it. That's where - you've probably seen a lot of older Corvettes that have these gills, slits in the side. It looks like -

Ben: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Scott: It looks exactly like shark gills, and that's where that originated.

Ben: That's on purpose.

Scott: That's on purpose and that's from this design, this concept. And so, they're trying to get the coloring right, and apparently, it took two or three, maybe even more, times to get this - this paint job right. So you can imagine the frustration that's going through these guys. Right?

Ben: You just keep taking it back and painting it again.

Scott: So - yeah, exactly, again and again and again.

Ben: And again.

Scott: Sand it, paint it, etc.

Ben: Geez.

Scott: So they get frustrated with this, and - and again, legend here that one night they kidnap the fish, painted it the way - so that it would exactly match the car and then put him back on the wall. And then, they said that Mitchell didn't notice a difference and thought, well, look, they've done it perfectly this time. And everything was fine after that point.

Ben: That's crazy. Do you think that's true?

Scott: I - you know what? I actually kinda believe it. I've - I've heard some crazy stories from the design group, from that era. I had an uncle who worked for General Motors and he told me some pretty crazy things that happened. It was a fun place to work. They got a lot of work done, and it was very effective. It was a good - good place to work, but there were some pretty funny things happening there, too.

Ben: And - and you know, what can you except when you work with a bunch of people who are paid to think outside of the box.

Scott: Yeah. That's right.

Ben: So that seem - that does seem like a pretty intelligent solution.

Scott: Yeah, it does. It seems - it seems pretty - I mean, after you've painted a car, a show car, three or four times in a row -

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: - that's probably what you would do. It seems logical to me.

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: So anyways, there's this - this wild show car. Right? It looks really cool.

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: Really forward thinking. I mean, it's got a glass bubble top. It's got a periscope rearview mirror, and I - I think it had knock off wheels. I'm trying to think of some of the other things it had, but it was - it was just really unique design. It had that long front end. It looked like a shark.

Ben: Didn't the hood open up? Am I thinking about the right one?

Scott: You may be thinking of the next one.

Ben: Okay.

Scott: We're gonna get - we're gonna get to that, but -

Ben: I'm jumping the gun.

Scott: You are, but -

Ben: I'm jumping the shark.

Scott: You have jumped the shark, Ben. Some people say you jumped the shark early - much earlier than this, but - I'm kidding with you. Anyways, so anyways, this thing - you probably agree the Mako Shark looks like a shark. It really does.

Ben: Yeah. Yeah. It does.

Scott: It looks like an aquatic animal. Well, when it came time to redesign this thing, when it came time for the next design - oh, by the way, it was a big hit. So when it came time to redesign this, they wanted to do something similar, of course, still under Bill Mitchell. He wanted to design the Mako Shark II, which makes sense, but as a dramatically different body. This is what became - eventually became the 1968 to 19 - I think it says 1982 Corvette design.

Ben: Oh, yeah.

Scott: And this is probably the one that you're - well, you've probably seen this one, of course. It's the - the real wide front end and real wide back end. I think it's narrow in the center.

Ben: Yes. Yes.

Scott: Some people called it a Coke bottle design. It just - it's interesting design. It's really cool. I like that - I like that body style. The Stingray is what that one is called, so in 1965 we get this Mako Shark II car, which is - it's called the Project XP830, so you can search for that and you'll find it as well. And it has almost an identical paint job, which you know - you know was difficult to achieve. And again, this is - this is one of those cars that it - a lot of this made it into production and a lot of it didn't. It had a lot of, again, real forward thinking technology on it that - people were surprised by some of the things that they - this - this vehicle had. It had moving body panels, like it had - it had a bumper at the back that could extend to protect the bodywork when you parked.

Ben: Oh, wow.

Scott: Yeah. It had - it had - it did have real limited rearview - rear vision.

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: But the interior was pretty unique. A lot of gauges were on the passenger side of the vehicle facing the driver. It just -

Ben: That's wild.

Scott: Yeah. It had movable pedals that - that moved on one - one big platform, I guess. They - they would move to accommodate different size drivers, just a really unique car. And there were two versions of this, actually, and the first version was a vehicle that - it cost, I believe, it said it cost three million dollars to create. That's US - US dollars, three million dollars. And it was a non-running full size model of this car that - that never ran, and it debuted at the New York International Auto Show in 1965.

Ben: Three million dollars?

Scott: Three million dollars.

Ben: In 1965?

Scott: In 1965, so this is - this is no cheap car. And this is not a running vehicle, even. This doesn't even have an engine or drive train or anything with it. That gives you an idea of how expensive concept cars are to make, so you can imagine if you translate that to now what concept cars cost.

Ben: Man.

Scott: They're really expensive. Now, a running model of that car was debuted later that year in October of - October of 1965. And that came out at the Paris auto show in France, of course. And that one had a - it was fully drivable and it had a 427 cubic-inch engine, which is the big block at the time was - it was a big engine. It could - everybody loved this one. And they got just a ton of offer - orders to buy this thing. They wanted - they wanted this car. It was immensely popular car again, and of course, that - that design then was translated into a production car. And that's the 1968 through 1982's Corvette that we saw. The C3 is what I think they called it.

Ben: They should have still called it the Shark [inaudible]. I mean, no offense to -

Scott: Well, Stingray is still in there. That's close.

Ben: Stingray's good. Stingray's good. We were - remember what we were talking about before the podcast, how difficult it is to just sit and think of a car name.

Scott: Oh, yeah. It's really tough because it either has multiple meanings.

Ben: Sure.

Scott: Or it just doesn't sound like a car.

Ben: It's weird. Yeah. Like in Brazil, do they - you remember that story, the Nova came out and -

Scott: No.

Ben: Oh, okay. The Nova came out in Brazil and it did a terrible job. The sales numbers were - were horrendous and that's because in Portuguese, Nova means it doesn't go.

Scott: Oh, bummer.

Ben: Yeah. So -

Scott: That's - that's bad news.

Ben: Yeah. But the shark, I only bring this up because the Mako Shark, that's such a cool name.

Scott: It is a cool name, and I - I don't think that can be translated into anything accept Mako Shark. I don't know.

Ben: No. I think you're - I think you're just - hopefully, there's not a language where Mako Shark is actually a curse phrase or something.

Scott: Yeah. I would hope not because we've used it several times today.

Ben: Yeah. We're not gonna be popular in that country, Scott. Or we'll be really popular.

Scott: Well, how about Manta Ray?

Ben: Manta Ray is awesome. That sounds like a super [inaudible].

Scott: Well, in 1969, the Mako Shark II was - it was re-bodied and renamed the Manta Ray. And that was, again, under Bill Mitchell, so you can see this - this trend. He had this real underwater theme going, and it worked for him. It really did because this vehicle, for whatever reason, it - it just became his thing. It was just kinda - everybody -

Ben: It was like his signature thing.

Scott: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. And I guess he - he enjoyed driving these cars as well, so he would use these show cars to get back and forth to work. And they were personal favorites of his.

Ben: Wow. What's - what's different with the Manta Ray?

Scott: Manta Ray? It was just re-bodied. It was just a - I could try to describe it. The back end was considerable different. The best way to do this is to look it up, and - and - and look at them side by side. And there are several sites that you can go to that will - just do a simple search for Mako Shark II, Manta Ray. You'll find these side-by-side comparisons, and you'll see the difference in the vehicle. But most of all, take a look at just the whole group of cars, the Mako Shark, which was not called Mako Shark I until after the Mako Shark II came out. So it was just The Mako Shark. But if you search for all three of these vehicles, you find some great photos. And it will give you an idea of the - the - this excellent paint job that they have. It's really cool.

Ben: Yeah. The - I - and you know what? While we're - while we're on this subject, of course, I - I have to ask have you ever owned a Corvette or owned a Stingray?

Scott: I have not but I - I desperately wanted one when I was in high school.

Ben: Oh, man.

Scott: I really - I had friends that had them. I had three friends that had Corvettes. One had one from the '60s. I think it was like a '66.

Ben: Geez.

Scott: And then another one that had one that was an '82 and another one that was a '79, I believe. And I wanted one so bad, but they were just - they were - they were far beyond my - my budget at the time and probably still.

Ben: Man, yeah, and -

Scott: How about you, any - any Corvette - Corvette dreams or Corvette summer for Ben?

Ben: Corvette summer. Then the - the Corvette dream, yes. As for Corvette summer, man, I probably - I hate to say it because it's such a awesome looking car. I - I probably would have wrecked it just - just from trying to drive it.

Scott: I don't think you would have. I think you would have been so careful in it to begin with that you would have been fine.

Ben: Oh, you flatter me.

Scott: What - what was your - just what era would you have liked? Are we talking - are we talking the first one in the '50s? Are we talking in the '60s, '70s? What?

Ben: Oh, definitely probably the - the - let's see, Mako II - Mako II.

Scott: Oh, you were talking the - oh, the - that design, that body.

Ben: Yeah, that specific design.

Scott: Oh, I thought you were talking the show car, the three million dollar show car.

Ben: Oh. Oh. The one that doesn't go, the Nova?

Scott: No, the other one, I guess. Yeah, the other three million dollar car!

Ben: Yeah. Yeah. I think I - I think I'd probably - I don't know, man.

Scott: So late '60s, '70s?

Ben: I almost - you know what, though? Now that I think about it, probably I would go for late - late '70s, just because now if we're driving it it would be a little bit easier to work with and get parts.

Scott: Understood.

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: Understood. I also like the new one, the - the [inaudible] One, of course, beautiful car.

Ben: Man. Well, is that - is that on your plan? Is that - is that an official?

Scott: Oh, no, no, no. That's - that's still beyond reach. That's like -

Ben: Well, hey. Hey.

Scott: - equivalent to buying a house or something.

Ben: Well, you know, you could also just put it down on a Christmas list.

Scott: It's a small house, but it's a house.

Ben: A small house.

Scott: Yeah.

Ben: Well, hey, man. Do we have - oh, I'm sorry.

Scott: I - sorry. No. I didn't mean to jump on you but I've got one more thing to - to mention here is I guess the wrap up of where these things ended up.

Ben: Oh, yeah. Where are they now?

Scott: Because - because I - I find this interesting. I tried to find out where they - where they headed, and I finally found one place that told me where they - where they had gone. And apparently, when - when the - it's - when the Manta Ray was - was finally done with the show circuit and Bill had been driving it to and from work, I guess he - he just - now they - I'm assuming that GM gave it to him, but he took it home, parked it in the garage right next to the Mako I. So he had the - the original Mako already that was his car. So I don't know how things worked back then, but I guess - I don't know if he bought it from GM. It may have been one of those purchases for a low dollar amount or maybe they just gave it to him because it as his baby. But he had the Mako I. He also had what was the Mako II, which then became the Manta Ray, parked side-by-side in his garage. And of course, that lasted until he passed away, and now, those vehicles are part of what's known as the GM Heritage Center collection. And the GM Heritage Center is in Michigan, to open to the public, but it's got this unbelievable collection of GM vehicles. I guess they have something like 800 vehicles that are in rotation. They can only display 200 at a time. It's not really a museum. It - it kind of is. It's more of a warehouse, but it's - it's - I've seen it. I've seen a video of this place. It's really cool looking and they're all spaced out appropriately. You can look at them as if it was a museum but there's no ropes or anything.

Ben: Wow.

Scott: Again, it's not open to the public.

Ben: Right.

Scott: It's open occasionally to employees and their families, and that's it, so interesting place but not everybody's gonna get a chance to see them. But you can look online and find some short videos of the GM - what's it called, the GM Heritage Center Collection. So I encourage you to look it up because there's some - there's beautiful pieces of - pieces of artwork, really, these cars. And it's really the whole history of GM from the beginning to end or beginning to now, I should say.

Ben: Yeah because it's not - the story is not over.

Scott: No, not by any means. There's a lot more going on there.

Ben: That's - you know what? That's awesome, but I've gotta admit I'm a little bit jealous sometimes by your insider status. Did you - did you actually go in there? Or you just -

Scott: I have not gone in there. I wish I had been in there now that I've seen it because it's - it's beautiful. It really - I mean, it's - it's almost shocking to see the - the - just the sheer volume of cars that they have, and the - and the - the variety because the - they're just - they're perfect cars. They're beautiful. They're - they're museum quality cars and they're just such a mix. They have groupings of cars that are - that are somehow related, but to - to know that the collection that you're seeing is only 200 and they've got 800 available that they kind of rotate in and out of that place, that's impressive.

Ben: Yeah. Oh, man, you know what? I almost forgot something, too.

Scott: What's that?

Ben: We didn't - the reason we're talking about the Mako Shark, right?

Scott: About this, right, yeah. There's a - there's a very good reason for this. It was inspired by Discovery shark week, which I think it's the first week in August between - let's see, it's August 2nd through August 8th.

Ben: Every year.

Scott: That's right. And there are some awesome fan sites that you can go to if you wanna check out shark week a little early or if you wanna do it during the week, whatever. I always get pretty jazzed by shark week. I love it. I've watched it for probably 25 years.

Ben: Sharks are - I mean -

Scott: Oh, not 25, 20 years. 20 years I've watched it.

Ben: Sharks are pretty awesome, man -

Scott: Yeah.

Ben: - in - in real life or up close. Their - I think their - the biological processes these animals are amazing. They have - they have a sixth sense.

Scott: Do you get - do you get excited by it like I do?

Ben: Yeah.

Scott: Because every week, I'm anticipating shark week coming, seriously, since I've been in high school and this is like 20 years ago. I can remember parking myself in front of the television every night to watch whatever feature they had. It was much smaller back then, but - but now, it's over-the-top and it's - it's awesome.

Ben: Yeah. It's super interesting.

Scott: It is. And if you wanna go to these fan sites, there's one that you can get to from the Discovery homepage, and if you - it's real simple. Select TV shows from one of the - the drop downs on the left hand side, and you can select shark week, and there's some good stuff there. There is another one that's called Friends Eat Water, and it's another fan site. And this one's awesome, too. And that's just, and again, these things are really cool. You'll - you'll get hooked, I promise you. There's a lot of good information there, so check it out.

Ben: No pun intended.

Scott: Yeah. Oh, I didn't even think of that, man, get hooked.

Ben: Yeah. Pun busted, my friend.

Scott: Yeah, okay.

Ben: Oh, but - but yes, anything people wanna know about sharks at all, this is the week.

Scott: I know.

Ben: And check it.

Scott: We're talking about sharks and cars, Ben. How cool is that?

Ben: Yeah. How did we - we pulled that one off, huh?

Scott: Yeah. Yeah. It worked out well.

Ben: And so, I guess we should probably - since - maybe we should congratulate ourselves with a quick - with a quick thank you for a - a listener mail thing. You wanna do that?

Scott: I'd love to.

Ben: Okay. So listener mail, I'll just grab this one real quick. I know usually this is - this is your part, Scott, so we won't - we won't do - we won't take up too much time. But remember earlier, we did the - the mentioned the GTO and then in a later episode, we also mentioned when it was made. And we've got some listeners who wrote in, and we just - we just wanted to go ahead and give them a quick shout out on - on the air here. So thanks - thanks to Will from Texas. Thanks to Earl from Washington. Thanks to Jim from Atlanta. And thanks to Thomas E. - I'm not clear, exactly, where Thomas is from. But all of these guys and maybe a couple more people - I apologize if I missed you there - also told us about the GTO. So we wanted to make sure that you guys knew your response is very much appreciated.

Scott: That's right. That was the day that I - I mistakenly neglected to - to add to the podcast or my notes to that podcast, anyways, so I appreciate it. That was - that was good. Thank you.

Ben: Okay. Scott, one day we might be riding in one of those cars. And so, I need you to make a deal with me. You don't have to say yes now , but I want you to think about it. One day on your lunch break, I might come by and say, "Come to the parking deck, and you might find one of those cars. And then, we're just gonna take off."

Scott: That would be excellent. We could spend the full day out just cruising around in a Corvette. That would be great.

Ben: Who knows where we would go.

Scott: I - I love Corvettes, so this would be a fantastic day.

Ben: Yeah. And for our listeners out there, you guys, thanks again for tuning in. If you wanna learn more about Corvettes, automobiles, anything, basically, that goes fast, then please do send us an email at

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