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The Corvette Story #3 – The First Sting Ray Arrives

The Story of the 1959 Sting Ray Racer / Concept Car

Harley Earl retired from General Motors on December 1, 1958. He had reached GM’s then-mandatory retirement age of 65 and left GM after overseeing the final designs of the corporation’s 1959 model line-up. It came as little surprise to most within the GM Styling Department when forty-six year-old Bill Mitchell was named as Harley Earl’s successor.

Bill Mitchell, GM's second VP of Design, succeeded Harley Earl in 1959. (Image courtesy of GM Media.)
Bill Mitchell, GM’s second VP of Design, succeeded Harley Earl in 1959. (Image courtesy of GM Media.)

The Automobile Manufacturers Association ban was still in full effect when Bill Mitchell succeeded Harley Earl as VP of Styling. Although a factory-backed race program was currently considered taboo by General Motors, Mitchell knew that offering consumers a high-performance sports car that they could race would have a positive impact on the company’s sales numbers. He also realized he could advance the reputation of the Corvette at the racetrack if he did so without the consent, cooperation, or participation of Chevrolet/GM. His success would also silence the nay-sayers who had questioned his promotion in the first place.

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