Rare Car Network

Rare Car Network
Unique Classics, Replicas and Build Culture
						Larry Shinoda 1
A Dinner to Remember With Larry Shinoda

A Dinner to Remember With Larry Shinoda

By Larry Weiner, of Performance West Group, Inc.

I’ve been captivated by Corvettes as far back as I can remember. But there’s one above all others that really stops me in my tracks; the Split Window Coupe. When I saw the first one in person in 1963, I was smitten, and knew from that moment that one day I would own one of these amazing vehicles. Over the years, I have learned as much as I could about the history of the ’63 Corvette, the talented people who were responsible for its creation and how it came to exist.

 The design was inspired by the Corvette Stingray race car that was first penned by Pete Brock and refined by Larry Shinoda under the direction of Bill Mitchell who succeeded Harley Earl as the head of General Motors Design. The appearance of the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray was directly influenced by the Stingray race car, and Larry Shinoda designed a real world production sports car whose appearance rendered nearly all others obsolete the day it debuted.

Over the years, my passion for the ’63 Corvette burned brightly and ultimately I did purchase and restore a Split Window Coupe. So imagine my surprise, when I was working at the 1997 SEMA show debuting a new concept for another auto manufacturer, and saw a man sitting in a chair just across from our display. I immediately recognized him as none other than Larry Shinoda. 

Larry Shinoda 2

Not the bashful type, I walked over and introduced myself. He was outgoing and we spent several hours on the show floor talking about cars and vehicle design. As the day wound down, I asked him if he had any plans for dinner. When he said that he didn’t, I invited him to join us and he graciously accepted.

We spent a memorable evening at an excellent restaurant, and Shinoda regaled us with stories about his time at General Motors, working with legends such as Bill Mitchell and Zora Arkus-Duntov, Corvette Chief Engineer. One of the stories he shared with us was about the split window on the ’63 Corvette, and how Duntov hated it. Duntov’s issue was that during the heat of battle in racing, it would be hard to see out the back window, and he fought to have it removed from the production vehicle.

Mitchell and Shinoda were determined to preserve the purity of the design, with the uninterrupted spine that stretched front the top of the windshield to the tip of the tail, bisecting the rear glass. While Shinoda and Mitchell won the skirmish with the ’63, in the long run, Zora won as the split window was removed beginning with the 1964 model year, in no small measure because it did block rearward vision.

Larry followed right up another story on Duntov, this time surrounding the Mako Shark-inspired 1968 Corvette. Zora was not a fan of the voluptuous Coke-bottle styling on the new model, and made his feelings known to Shinoda, who was responsible for the design of the new Corvette. However, one day on the General Motors high-speed track, Zora scraped one of the barriers with the side of a prototype in testing and quipped that, “The bulges saved Zora! Maybe not so bad.”

While Larry Shinoda recounted many great stories that night, when it comes to anecdotes about the Zora, these are truly unforgettable and made for a memorable evening I’ll never forget.

As a testament to his relentless creativity, even in his waning years, Larry told me about a new Mustang program he was very interested in developing, and had meetings scheduled with Ford management in Dearborn in early December, 1997.

The day after the dinner, he asked me if I would consider going to the meetings with him for the presentation and I immediately agreed. We were to go over the details of the presentation later in November. Unfortunately, he succumbed to kidney disease on November 13, less than two weeks after we met at the SEMA show. What a missed opportunity with one of the great ones.

Comments for: A Dinner to Remember With Larry Shinoda

comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories You Might Like

Filed Under

Corvette Larry Shinoda