The Mako Or Manta Ray II
This one is going to be stretching the barriers of our focus here on The Jalopy Journal a bit, but bear with me… Last week, I went on a dive trip to Belize. Somewhere around 100′ deep on the South Water Caye, I ran into a massive Manta Ray in the middle of a hunt. As I lumbered along his side and did my best to keep up, he gracefully cut through the water with his mouth agape – taking in anything worth eating and filtering out anything not.
It was an absolutely breath taking experience and you’d think such an extravagant environment would cleanse my mind of anything car related. But, I’m a sick man… And all I could think about while watching this glorious beast was Bill Mitchell and his Mako Shark concept cars.
It’s a common misconception that the original Mako’s design was inspired by a Mako shark that was mounted on Bill Mitchell’s wall. The original design language of the car was actually taken from the sweeping lines of a Manta Ray illustration found in a school book belonging to one of Larry Shinoda’s kids. It was only after the car was built that Bill Mitchell decided on the Mako paint job and nomenclature. In fact, the design team actually took the mounted fish off of Bill’s office wall and color matched the paint to the shark.
The end result was the Mako I concept car. It debuted in 1961 to a large amount of fan fare. In fact, the response was so positive that GM decided to keep the design team together for another attempt at the design. Four years later, they released what might be the most gorgeous Corvette ever built – the Mako II.
While the first Mako concept felt like a car with a fish theme. The Mako II felt more like a car that was born from a fish out of necessity for aerodynamics and speed. The low and long grille resembled a feeding Ray’s open mouth. The huge fenders looked like the wings of a Ray in motion. The grilles located low on the car’s quarters resembled the gills of a shark. And the perfect swoop of the rear deck perfectly emulated the profile of a graceful Manta Ray slicing through the ocean.
In my mind, the Mako II is the only American made car to ever approach the styling perfection of the original Bill Mitchell designed Rivieras. And this is a thought I never really had before I swam with that Manta Ray in Belize. There is just something about seeing that creature in it’s natural environment and then comparing it to something that has been burned in my brain since I was a kid. Suddenly, everything about the Stingray generation of the Corvette made sense to me.
Bill Mitchell was a god damned genius.