Over the next few years, Bill Mitchell's Shark and Mako Shark concepts steered public opinion
in the direction the C3 Corvette's styling would take in 1968, but life got more interesting in the late 1960s. America's sports car has seldom
been seriously threatened by any real competition, but the fear of a mid-engine rival drove some very cool concepts that kept
magazine covers broiling with Deep Throat exposes and prognostications. And political intrigue behind the scenes drove more
than a few decisions in the day.
Ford scared Chevy into designing the first round of mid-engine concepts when it showed the GT40-inspired Mach 2 (in
1968) and then announced it would sell the De Tomaso Pantera in Lincoln-Mercury dealers beginning in 1970. Rival camps within the Chevy empire set about designing Corvettes to answer these
threats. Frank Winchell's R&D team built the first, dubbed Astro II, powered by a big-block 427 driving through an anemic
Pontiac Tempest transaxle. Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov's team built the second, known simply as XP-882,
using more production-viable Toronado drivetrain parts.
Competition improves any breed, but in any contest to design the next Corvette the smart money
was always bet on the Duntov project. Motor Trend drove the Astro II, but at such low speed that we commented only on its
cramped seating position. Of Duntov's New York show car we hyperbolized: "Chevrolet roared out of the sun with the throttle wide-open and the wind shrieking and watched their tracers stitch into
the shining sides of the new De Tomaso," concluding that Chevrolet "needs the mid-engine car to sustain the dreamlike idealism
of [its] devoted followers." Nevertheless, freshly ascended Chevy boss John DeLorean called a halt to round one on account
of excessive cost and realization that the competition posed no real threat.