Designed and built under the personal supervision of Bill Mitchell, the wild-looking XP-700 used many regular Corvette components, such as the frame, chassis parts and engine. Bill Mitchell had a lot of “customs” built for himself. This XP-700 previewed the new tail of the upcoming 1961 Corvette. The elliptical grille cavity strongly resembled that of a one-off Ferrari 250GT by Pininfarina. The fiberglass body was extensively redesigned with a “grand prix” appearance. The long, low front overhang, large air scoops, exposed frontal areas and wire wheels with racing hubs were a few of the ‘grand prix’ touches.
The XP-700 received the blessing of management and was going to be used to travel the show car circuit after it had been Mitchell’s personal car for a year. Before this, the car received an extensive remodelling.
The grille cavity was refashioned in a more elliptical shape and the car was resprayed metallic gold. The front under-tray air scoop seems inspired by aircraft design. Harley Earl liked bubble-tops, hence the XP-700’s Plexiglass top.
The bubble-shaped laminated plastic canopy – coated with vaporized aluminum to help block the sun’s rays – was one of the most memorable features of the car. A metal strut in the center of the canopy featured louvered vents, which enhanced circulation in the passenger compartment. Among the more exotic concepts: An overhead mirror, mounted above the windshield with a viewing porthole in the roof structure. The rear end styling influenced the second generation Corvette models.
Automotive enthusiasts can thank Bill Mitchell for a lot of things. The charismatic, often tyrannic Mitchell served as GM's vice president of design from 1958 through 1977. Many of the best-ever Corvettes (not to mention many, many other important GM products) were created on his watch. Some were personal pet projects, like the original Mako Shark, which later became the new-for-'68 Corvette. One less than successful venture was this XP-700 concept car that bowed at the New York Auto Show in April 1960.
The XP-700 clearly stemmed from the '60 Vette, then went on a bit of a rampage from there. While its ducktail rear end foreshadowed the look worn by the '61-'62 models, the front resembled botched plastic surgery. Aircraft canopy-style "bubble tops" were the rage of the day, so the XP-700 got one. Mitchell and company then fished up an incoherent variety of air intakes and glued them to the nose and flanks. The sidepipe exhausts and wire wheels were decidedly Euro-racer touches-inspired by the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, perhaps? The coolest detail was the XP's "periscope rearview mirror, which provides a completely unobstructed view of the road behind."
GM brass wisely elected to obstruct any further view of the overly festooned XP-700. And what we got instead was magic: the '63 "split-window" Sting Ray.
- Matt Stone