It was way back in 1958, when Bill Mitchell, then Vice-President of General Motors Styling, worked with the Chevrolet design studio to create a concept car that would be called the XP-700. According to a GM document “The XP-700 Corvette, one of the latest experimental vehicles by which Chevrolet tests new ideas, will be a top show attraction. The car combines an extreme sports car image with unusual ideas about driver safety.” One of those ideas was the special bubble top roof that was said to eliminate glare, a ventilating system built into the bubble, and a periscope-type rear view mirror to provide a completely unobstructed view of the road behind. The report continued with, “Although chassis components are production-Corvette, the low hood overhang of the fiberglass body, broad frontal air scoops, transparent passenger canopy, and snubbed rear quarters impart a flavor of the most advanced race cars of the day.” The design utilized front fender air scoops for brake cooling, and a floating grille. To say this dream car was unique is an understatement.
The car actually started life as a stock 1958 Corvette. But that didn’t last long, as the fiberglass body was heavily modified to give it a Grand Prix race car appearance. The front of the car featured a long and low overhang, large air scoops, and wire wheels. Initially, the XP-700 was painted red, and Bill Mitchell actually used it as his personal car for the first year of its existence.
As futuristic as the car looked when it was built, the double bubble top that was added on October of 1959, had to be the car’s most intriguing feature. The laminated plastic canopy was coated with vaporized aluminum. This coating helped block the sun’s rays, which would have surely turned the interior into a Terrarium.
This transparent canopy acted in many ways, like a one-way mirror. It is easy to see how the rear styling of the car is credited with influencing the second-generation Corvette. During the first year the XP-700 was completed, it was actually painted red, but in 1959, it was repainted a metallic silver, and this “Dream Car” was revealed to the public on April of 1960, at the 4th International Automobile Show in New York.
When seated inside the car, passengers were met with a metal strut in the center of the canopy that featured louvered vents. This ventilation system was a must, to keep the bubble-covered interior comfortable.
Since the car started life as a ’58 Corvette, under the hood was a small-block 283 cubic-inch engine with 230 horsepower, and behind that was a four-speed manual transmission.
As far as what happened to the XP-700, we found a GM document that states; “3/28/61, Plans made to use components from XP-700 for XP-755” (Mako Shark). Does that confirm the reported statements that the chassis of the Mako Shark is truly that of the XP-700. That same document also shows that in 1962, the interior trim design of XP-700 was updated and incorporated into the existing car. Is the existing car the XP-700, or XP-755? What do you think?
So we want to know, are you like Bill Mitchell, and like the Grand Prix styling, or do you prefer the way the stock ’58 Corvette looks?