From the Pontiac Phantom to the Mini-Camaro and Monza GT: The Cars of Studio X

Concept Cars

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Based on extensive research of work orders by Studio X designer Roy Lonberger and GM Design chief archivist Christo Datini, we traced 11 notable designs most accurately cited as following the awesome Stingray Racer from Bill Mitchell’s original Studio X.

Learn more about GM’s Studio X in this feature.

1961–’62 XP-777 Monza GT

This mid-engine beauty started as a Chevrolet Engineering study of a front-engine, front-wheel-drive Corvair as a reaction to safety activist Ralph Nader’s charges of instability against the rear-engine Corvair. Mitchell had its modular six-cylinder engine relocated to ahead of its rear wheels in a monocoque structure with four-wheel disc brakes inside magnesium-alloy wheels, and he assigned Larry Shinoda and Anatole Lapine to design a swoopy body, which foreshadowed Corvettes to come.

1961–’67 XP-755 Shark/Mako Shark I

Penned by Shinoda and Lapine, this show car previewed the coming ’63 Sting Ray. The supercharged Shark show car sported multiple vents, wire wheels, four-into-one side pipes, the XP-700’s double-bubble top, and pop-up mirrored rear-deck brake lamps. Its blue upper body blended into its white lower to mimic the predatory fish (like the one proudly mounted on Mitchell’s office wall) for which it was named, and it was later updated and renamed Mako Shark for 1965.

1976–’77 Pontiac Phantom

Mitchell reopened Studio X for one last project, a special one-off he wanted as his retirement gift. Designer Bill Davis successfully captured Mitchell’s favored themes of excitement, originality, power, elegance, extreme proportion, flowing lines, sheer surfaces and innovative features. Pontiac supported it at first but later backed out. It lives today in the Flint, Michigan, Sloan Museum.

1962–’65 XP-797 Corvair Monza SS Spyder

Another Shinoda/Lapine stunner, this one had a Corvair flat-six behind its rear wheels and finned knock-off mag wheels, and its cut-off windscreen was barely at eye level. It was later modified with racerlike clear lenses over recessed headlamps, an integral rollbar, underbody aerodynamics, and a new rear deck.

1964–’69 XP-800 Astro III

Designed by Lonberger and Studio X head Bob Larson and powered by a GM Allison gas turbine, the Astro III was just hip-high, its nose on tandem tires, its canopy powered up and forward. “It had been an ongoing project for a year,” Lonberger said in a 2011 interview, “but did not have the aircraft look that Mr. Mitchell wanted. So we turned it from a three-lump collection of elliptical forms into an aircraft look inspired by the supersonic transport.”

1964–’67 XP-830 Corvette Mako Shark II

Designed by Mitchell, Shinoda, and John Schinella in the Warehouse studio then moved to Studio X to be finished, this was Mitchell’s best expression of what he believed the next-gen C3 Corvette should be. It was a Mitchell driver and a personal favorite.

1966–’67 XP-842 Astro I

Designed by Lonberger under the supervision of Shinoda in the Warehouse Studio (and later Studio X), this concept was less than 3 feet tall on an 88-inch wheelbase, with clamshell cockpit access, center steering, a periscope mirror, downforce-creating body shapes, and movable underbody aero devices.

1966–’68 XP-866 Toronado XX

The next Larson/Lonberger project was Toronado XX. “Mr. Mitchell wanted … a personal version for himself with a shortened wheelbase, extended front fenders, and a lowered fastback roof,” Lonberger told Dean’s Garage. Its back window was tinted body color for a smooth, windowless look. Mitchell loved it, but it was never built.

1966–’68 XP-880 Astro II

This curvalicious drivable mid-engine exploration was much less radical than Astro I. Designed by Shinoda, Lonberger, Dave Clark, and Chuck Jordan, its suspension was (Corvette) transverse leaf-spring, and its rear section was raised for access to its mid-mounted V-8 and modest cargo space.

1967 XP-873 Mini-Camaro

In early 1967, after Lonberger sketched a “Mini-Camaro GT” in the Chevy 2 studio, Mitchell moved him back to Studio X, along with fellow designer Geza Loczi, to develop a small coupe to compete with VW’s Beetle and other small cars. “It was intended to be the size of (and cost less to manufacture than) the Volkswagen Beetle,” Lonberger said. Mitchell wanted Camaro-like aggressiveness, but chief designer Irv Rybicki wanted it to look more like a Corvair. It was canceled in late summer.

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