1976 may have been America’s Centennial with a lot of pride and red white and blue but it was not a great time for the American car. That is unless you were GM Chief of Design, Bill Mitchell. His achievements during his term which lasted from 1959 through 1979 created some of the most iconic GM cars ever.
The 1959 Cadillac was one of his with the ulta extreme tail fins. He followed that up with the totally different and even more beautiful 1963 Buick Riveria and 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Seville. Not enough? He was also responsible for the iconic 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window! That is a pretty good resume if you ask me.
Arguably, the 50s and 60s had some of the best, most radically designed cars ever. With the coming of Federal regulations on safety, emissions and even design the offerings from the 70s and 80s began to lose a lot of originality and pizzazz.
The mid-70s were especially bad for the automobile enthusiast. However, if you are Bill Mitchell at GM you have a pretty good playground to tinker in. Mitchell was a big believer in concept cars and giving designers opportunities and challenges. In 1976 his team created “The Great White”.
This very special one of one concept car was an opportunity for the Corvette team to exercise outside the government design box a little. The third generation of Corvette, known as the Shark body, began in 1968 so by 1976 it was beginning to age a little even with some of the updates that had been incorporated over the years.
By 1976 the shark bodied Corvette’s drive train was more like that of a minnow than a shark. The Great White, therefore, had to have more power under the hood. The build team added an all-aluminum 454 cubic inch engine mated to an L88 drive train!
Additional tweaks to the body and interior ensured that this was a very special Corvette that might bring more buyers into showrooms and stimulate Corvette engineers and stylists to push the design envelope a little more in future models.
When Bill Mitchell retired from GM he purchased The Great White and took it home with him!