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SNAPSHOT 274: 1958 Chevrolet XP-700

This experimental car was designed and built under the personal supervision of Bill Mitchell, Vice-President-in-Charge of General Motors Styling, to test design ideas and safety devices.  It was mounted on a conventional Corvette chassis and powered by a 283 cubic inch 230 bhp V8 engine with a manual 4-speed transmission.

The caption below its image pointed out its bubble-type roof, brake-cooling air scoops and a periscope rear-view mirror.  Other sources mention the floating, shock-dampened bar around the radiator grille, providing bumper protection for the front end.

The bubble canopy was coated inside with vaporised aluminium (or should that be vaporized aluminum?) to block the sun’s rays.  It therefore worked as a one-way mirror: passengers could see out, but outsiders would see their own reflections.  The rear of the double-bubble was split by a metal strut with louvred vents to promote air flow and to further cool the passengers.  That strut can just be seen in our picture.

First shown in 1959 in red, with a shorter nose and tail, larger grille and in open-top form, it became Mitchell’s personal ride, but was then revised in 1960 to the form shown in our Snapshot, repainted in metallic silver – and revealed to the public in April 1960 at the 4th International Automobile Show in New York as a ‘show car’ and a prototype for the 1961/1962 Corvettes.  For example, its sculpted rear deck is credited with influencing this second generation of Corvette models.  Not mentioned in any literature that we can find is the possible influence of the rear central strut upon the design of the 1963 Corvette – the only production Corvette model to have a central spine in the rear window.  Without the luxury of the XP-700’s periscope rear mirror, the car was criticised for its restricted rear view – and the spine was dropped for 1964.

In 1961 the XP-700 disappeared – according to Mark Jordan, son of the famous GM designer Charles ‘Chuck’ Jordan, because it was used as the basis for the XP-755 concept car, also known as the Mako Shark, designed by Larry Shinoda under the direction of Bill Mitchell, and prototype for yet another generation of Corvettes.

Picture courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive


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