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1969 Corvette

1969 Corvette 03

In 1969 Chevrolet released the first of its third-generation Corvettes — the ultimate expression of late-1960s automotive Americana.

1969 Corvette 02

Throughout the 1960s, the team behind the Corvette had been experimenting with more and more radical one-off concept cars aimed at a new version of the company’s flagship sports car — explicitly based on the “stingray” and “shark” concepts that had been adopted as parts of the car’s name for a few years.  First was the 1965 Mako Shark II, shown here with a model in a pose and outfit very much of the era:

1969 Corvette Shark 01

Both the car and girl looked radically aerodynamic. Then, early in 1969, the “Manta Ray” concept was unveiled, building excitement for what by then had been locked in as the new Stingray’s design:

1969 Corvette Shark 03

More radical than the Mako Shark II (which ended up being fairly close to the eventual basic production design), perhaps the Manta Ray’s lines were even more “sharky” in an attempt to get the public ready for what would be a very new look for an American icon:

1969 Corvette Shark 02

The final product was amazingly true to the “wild concepts,” though:

1969 Corvette 01

The new Corvette carried over much of the already superb and, for the time, state-of-the-art sports car underpinnings of the short-lived second-generation car: four wheel disk brakes, an independent rear suspension, and power by increasingly refined versions of Chevrolet’s misleadingly-named “small-block” 327 cubic inch V-8 and then the monster 427.

A country that was about to land men on the moon needed a car that looked like this.

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