Illustrated Corvette Series No. 156 - Motion/Maco Shark Corvettes
"Joel Rosen's Sharks"
Even as the new ‘63 Corvettes were hitting the showrooms, GM Chief of Styling Bill Mitchell was dreaming up the next model. With the help of stylist Larry Shinoda and a small team of designers, the radical Mako Shark II was developed and shown to GM management in spring of 1965. The non-running full-size mock-up made jaws drop. Before the car was shipped to the New York International Auto Show, the order was given: “Build a running version!” By October the running version of the new design was complete and headed out to the show-car circuit, where it received rave reviews. It was obvious: The Mako Shark II had to be the next production Corvette.
Building a stunning concept car is one thing, but making it into a production car is a whole other story. Obviously, lots of compromises had to be made to the overall shape and proportions. Challenges pushed the release back a year to 1968. Even though the styling was much more tame, the production version was still gorgeous when it arrived in the fall of ’67. With coupe and roadster versions, lots of options, and seven engines to choose from in dealer showrooms, interest in the two-year-old show car quickly vanished—but not for everyone. Enter, John Silva.
Simply stated, Silva wanted the new Corvette to be the Mako Shark II show car. By the time he got around to designing a body kit for the production Corvette, Joel Rosen had already made a name for himself with his Baldwin-Motion Phase III Supercars. Since Rosen’s Corvettes had a considerable amount of custom fiberglass work, Silva worked out a deal with Mr. Motion. Silva produced three cars for Rosen and authorized the tuner to make molds from his parts. Rosen made quite a splash with his Phase III GT Corvette and began offering the new body kit in 1972 as an addition to his line of supercars.
Motion Performance began offering its “Maco Shark” kits to the do-it-yourself crowd, as well as turn-key Maco Sharks packed with as much horsepower as the owner and his wallet could handle. As with all of the Baldwin-Motion cars, each was built to order, and every car was different. Motion built Macos from 1972 to 1978 and continued selling kits well into the ’80s.
But creative car guys such as Rosen always have another project on the back burner. In 1973 he retired the Phase III GT and created his Manta Ray Corvette. The new design offered the best of the Phase III GT and the Maco Shark Corvette. Built on a ’73 Corvette with the new soft front-bumper cover, the Manta Ray had its own unique look. From the doors forward, it was a Phase III GT with ‘73 side vents. The roof section was pure Maco Shark, rear-window slats and all, and a very tall rear spoiler was added. Motion Corvettes were always pricey, with many costing well over double the price of a new Corvette. Manta Rays were only offered in 1973, and only three were produced.
Rosen’s last venture into shark Corvettes was called the Moray Eel Corvette. Built on a ‘72 Corvette, it was part Maco Shark, part Manta Ray. The Maco Shark flip front end had provisions for the Mako Shark–inspired hood grilles or vent configurations. This detail was glassed over for a smooth look, and the headlights were placed in the front grille. Something went wrong with the original paint, and what was supposed to be pearl yellow turned out lime green. The paint was corrected when the car was restored in 2006. Only one Moray Eel was produced.
The Silva/Motion Performance Maco Sharks follow a long tradition of specialty coach builders that continues today. The formula is simple: start off with a great performance car and make it your own. And it all started because John Silva wanted a Mako Shark II.
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 47 - 1972 Corvette
"Staying the Course"
Despite the storm clouds that loomed over Detroit's performance cars, the 1972 Corvette was thriving, at least in sales. The base price of the '72 Corvette was $5,5533, up only $37 from the '71 model. But sales went from 21,801 in '71, to 27,004 in '72 an increase of 5,203 units. Not bad for a limited use sports car with a high ticket price and sky-high insurance premiums. Chevrolet must have been doing something right.
However, on paper, things looked bleak. There were now only three engine options; the base 350 small-block ZQ-3, with 200 horsepower, the 350 small-block LT-1, with 255 horsepower, and the 454 big-block LS5, with 270 horsepower. By the numbers, these power figures look bad, but keep in mind, these are "net" not "gross" power ratings. Due to cars now using lead-free gas, compression and power rates were down, but not as much as it might have seemed.
Magazine tests still raved about the '72 Corvette, especially the LT-1. One writer referred to the LT-1 as a "real tiger." With 3.70 gears the LT-1 was a solid low 14-second car. With 4.11 gears, high 13s were possible. The only complaint was a lack of torque under 3,500 rpm but from there up to the 7,000 rpm, the LT-1 was heavenly.
The performance dilemma was this: for $483.45, the LT-1 Corvette was a fast, balanced car. The LS5 made 15 more horses for only $294.90, but the car seemed heavy and sluggish. Chevrolet was doing its best to make the Corvette a true GT car. There was a custom interior trim option, and air conditioning was now available with the LT-1, but with a lower redline of "only" 5,600 rpm, in order to keep the A/C belts from flying off. Also, the close-ratio four-speed and three-speed automatic were standard.
1972 was also the last year for several items; the removable rear window, the windshield wiper closet, and bias-ply tires. The LS5 454 was not emissions certified in California, and an alarm system replaced the fiber-optic, lighting monitoring system. Also, this was the last year for the nearly unstreetable, $1,010.05 ZR-1 option, which provided a base car for racers.
In spite of all the changes and reductions, the '72 Vette did surprisingly well. But challenges were on the horizon that no one anticipated. Ultimately, the Corvette was developed into a much better performance car, even if it took almost 12 years to make it so. - K. Scott Teeters
llustrated Corvette Series No. 48 - 1972 Heinz & Johnson Racing Corvette
One of the most important aspects of the Corvette story is its racing heritage. Corvette fans have Zora Arkus-Duntov to thank for that. Zora started offering go-fast parts for the Corvette in 1956. "For Racing Purposes Only" option RPO449 (Special High-Lift Camshaft) was only available with RPO469, the dual four-barrel carburetor engine. This was the beginning of a long line of over-the-counter racing parts for the Corvette.
Over the years, Corvettes have not done well at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It's a tough race and most cars don't finish. Until recently, the only Corvette to actually finish the Le Mans race was the Rebel Red big-block, '68 Corvette driven by Bob Johnson and Dave Heinz. The car was owned by Toye English and was built and worked on by his son, Dave. After taking first in GT class at the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring, the team decided to race the car at Le Mans.
When they arrived at the race, they almost weren't able to race because they did not have an invitation! Luigi Chinetti, an importer of Ferraris, had entered only two cars and agreed to let the team use his third invitation, as long as they repainted the car to look like Chinetti's Ferraris: red with a blue and white stripe, and wearing the N.A.R.T. decal. A small price to pay after going all the way to Le Mans.
The car could not have performed better. For the entire 24 hours all the car needed was a driver change every hour, gas, tires, and oil. On the very long Mulsanne Straight, the car topped out at 210 mph! Only the prototype cars were faster.
The Corvettes were the biggest and heaviest cars in the GT Class, prompting many to ask, "What's in that dinosaur?" Just good, strong, Chevy parts, thanks to Duntov and crew. The car is basically a '68 L-88 model. Under the hood, the L88 was balanced and blueprinted. An 850 Holley carb sat on an aluminum high-rise manifold, and header-side exhausts helped crank out over 560 horsepower. The suspension used heavy-duty L88 parts, along with solid suspension bushings, heavy-duty springs, anti-roll bars, and double- adjustable Koni shocks. A standard M22 transmission and heavy-duty Posi unit were used as well as.
Additional body work included factory fender flairs, L88 hood with the cowl-induction, plexi headlight covers, and the factory hardtop. A front spoiler helped keep the front end down on the Mulsanne. The interior had a full compliment of gauges, a bolt-on eight-point roll- cage and a Vega steering wheel. American Torque- Thrust aluminum wheels and Goodyear racing tires gave the car a distinctly American musclecar, tough guy look.
This is exactly what Zora had in mind with his "for racing only" parts program. With the right parts, carefully assembled, the average guy had a chance. Completing the 24 Hours of Le Mans is an amazing achievement for any car, let alone a production car with over-the-counter, bolt-on factory parts. Thanks Zora! - K. Scott Teeters
lIlustrated Corvette Series No. 49 - 1972 John Greenwood B.F. Goodrich Racing Corvette
"John Greenwood's Street-Tire Racer"
Zora Arkus-Duntov's plan for the Corvette was two-fold. First, he wanted to make the Corvette the kind of car that was capable of being driven at 100% by 10% of the Corvette drivers. And second, if the stock Corvette wasn't up to delivering what the customer wanted, he could buy all of the go fast parts he needed. This basic plan not only helped win races, but helped make legends.
John Greenwood was a typical drag racing guy in the '60s. At his wife's suggestion, John discovered the fun of gymkhana competition at a local supermarket parking lot in his '68 427 L88 Corvette. Having been bitten by the road racing bug, he went to road racing school to get his SCCA driver's license. John already knew how to goose a big-block Chevy for more power and by 1970 was racing an A/Production, 427 Corvette.
In short order, John defeated the Owens-Corning Corvette team of Tony DeLorenzo and Jerry Thompson after they'd won 22 straight races. Driving with comic Dick Smothers, John then went on to win the American Road Race Championship in '70 and '71. Greenwood was beginning to get a lot of attention. BF Goodrich had a racing marketing program and financed Greenwood with over 6-figures to race on their new, high-performance street radial tires. This was a radical plan, but the cash was great.
With great financing and sponsors like Briggs Chevrolet, John was racing big-time. Although racing on street tires put the car at a slight disadvantage, Greenwood's strategy was to race the long courses where cornering power wasn't as critical as speed on the straights.
The plan sort of worked. Greenwood's cars always qualified well and often set records. At Le Mans the ZL-1 powered car was clocked at over 200 mph! But hardware woes hurt the team for two years, and BF Goodrich ended their sponsorship after the '73 season.
In '71 John created "John Greenwood Sales" in partnership with Briggs Chevrolet. Here's where John really made his mark in Corvette history. By using his skills as a parts developer, John made and sold go-fast hardware. Racers could get everything from body parts and tube chassis, to suspension systems and window nets. Everything was race tested and proven.
John may not have won as many races as he wanted to, but he sure helped a lot of other guys make their Corvettes winners. - K. Scott Teeters