My trivial pursuit of truth in branding cuts through some of the confusion surrounding one of the most beautiful and iconic Corvettes ever.
It all started with an innocent note I sent to a friend, Frank Markus, Technical Director at Motor Trend. Essentially I called his attention to what I thought was a typo – referencing Bill Mitchell’s legendary ’59 Corvette Racer (XP-87), above, as Stingray - in the 55 Years of Stingray article in the September 2013 issue. When Mitchell had the Corvette built for him as a racecar, it was indeed, Stingray. However, during the years that I was Editor of Hi-Performance CARS (1964-1973) and later when founding and editing VETTE Magazine (mid-1970s-1981), it was universally known as the XP87-Corvette Sting Ray or Mitchell’s Racer.
The one thing I never expected when sending Frank the email was that Motor Trend would publish it. That was never my intent. The last thing I had wanted to do publicly as a professional PR guy was call out a major automotive publication for making a mistake. Well, they did publish it along with a rebuttal from Christo Datini, an archivist at GM’s Heritage Center. I do not know Mr. Datini, but judging by the politically correct response, I’m guessing it was probably drafted by someone way above his pay grade!
When press introduction plans for the all-new 1963 Sting Ray were being finalized, a new production Sting Ray emblem was added to the XP87’s rear deck and the existing Stingray script side emblems were cut into two pieces, retaining cap S and lower-case r to reflect the new two-word ID. More than likely the surgery was executed by the Design Staff Graphics Department.
every Corvette enthusiast’s library.
At one point the only real Corvette magazine was CORVETTE NEWS, a slick professional publication published by Chevrolet’s Sales Department primarily for Corvette owners with
some media, dealer and internal GM distribution. In April 1960, Joe Pike took over as
Corvette Sales Promotion Manager and one of his responsibilities was content control of CORVETTE NEWS. And, he did an incredible job growing the magazine and creating Corvette Corrals at major sports car races. In Volume 5, Number 6, 1962, the cover story was
Two Exciting New Looks for Corvette; 1963 Coupe & Convertible, which included
references to the ex-Mitchell racer as Sting Ray!
It’s totally understandable why GM insiders, enthusiasts and the media have been confused about the one-word/two-word branding of Mitchell’s racecar later XP87-Corvette Sting Ray. Regardless of branding, it remains an ageless/timeless treasure of American automotive styling that is as fresh and exciting today as it was a half-century ago.
Motor Trend published my explanation in the current April 2014 issue, on newsstands now. Gary Smith, an ex-GM designer also supported clearing up the confusion in his blog, http://deansgarage.com/2014/stingray-name-controversy/
For the latest Corvette information, please visit http://www.chevrolet.com/2015-corvette-stingray-z06-supercar.html