Mitchell became the GM design chief as Harley
Earl’s successor in 1958. He wanted to build a Corvette racecar capable of beating Europe’s best
and with the availability of Zora
Arkus-Duntov's defunct 1957 SS test mule chassis, Mitchell’s XP-87 was underway. Seeing as factory backed
racing was taboo at the time due to an AMA (Automobile Manufacturer’s Association) ban on manufacturer-sponsored racing,
Mitchell’s project had to be privately financed and the powers that be insisted that Mitchell’s design have no
recognizable association with the Chevy brand or Corvette name so the XP-87 name was dropped and changed to Stingray. With
Mitchell’s own time and money heavily invested into the project, he contracted stylist Larry
Shinoda to assist in the development of the revolutionary concept.
Combining the 1957 SS chassis with the new
fiberglass body resulted in a sleek and muscular state of the art open roadster. Mitchell’s Stingray was completed in
1959 and with the engineering help of Duntov, was fitted with a high-compression, fuel injected 283 cubic-inch V8 engine that
produced 315 horsepower and entered into SCCA C-Class competition.
Driving duties for the Stingray were handed
over to accomplished SCCA driver, Dr. Dick Thompson. Thompson raced the Stingray in any and all the races Mitchell could afford
to enter, and in the end piloted the Stingray to two consecutive class championships in 1959 and 1960. At the end of the 1960
season, Mitchell retired the Stingray from competition, detuned it, added a full windshield and passenger seat, drove it on
the street and exhibited it as an experimental show car.
The Stingray’s body design strongly
influenced the styling of the next generation Corvette (1963). It also was a test bed for many technical developments with
a four-speed manual transmission, extensive use of aluminum and a DeDion rear suspension.