In 1964, Chevy engineers imagined hanging an aluminium Corvette engine off the back of the frame as part of an engineering study on safety and crash zones. Zora wasn’t really on board with the project until Larry Shinoda penned a design that many claim was the genesis for the C3 Corvette. The result was XP-819, a radical looking rear wheel drive prototype.
The Corvette was famously wrecked on the GM proving grounds after a tire test and while it was put back together, Chevy pretty much washed it hands of XP-819 after the accident and moved on in developing several other notable rear-engine prototypes.
Chevrolet Chief Bunkey Knudsen sent the Corvette down to stock car builder Smokey Yunick’s garage in Daytona Beach with instructions to cut it up and strip whatever parts he wanted. The Corvette’s frame was chopped in half, usable parts were salvaged and the rest of the car was dumped unceremoniously in an old paint booth.
Several years later, Corvette collector Steve Tate was in Smokey’s shop and recognized the pile of parts for being a Chevy XP car. He bought the Corvette from Yunick and had it reassembled. The car was then sold several times and for a while it was on display at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY.
Mid America Motorworks Founder Mike Yager purchased XP-819 in 2002 and for the last two years, the Corvette has been in shop of Kevin Mackay’s Corvette Repair, Inc. in Valley Stream, NY.
On Saturday’s Amelia Island Concours D’Elegance, XP-819 made its public debut as a drivable chassis on the greens of the Ritz Carlton. “Chief Cheerleader” Mike Yager drove the experimental chassis himself with Kevin Mackay riding shotgun.
The restoration has been a challenge according to Mackay, whose shop is known undertaking rare and and unique Corvette projects and returning them to like-new condition. Luck was on their side when a one-inch binder containing photos and engineering designs for XP-819 was passed along Yager. Still, because many of the parts have the “0” code for experimental, Mackay and his team have had to fabricate many of the new parts by hand.
With the Corvette now in a driveable state, Yager and Mackay plan to show it without its body on for the next year or two so that Corvette enthusiasts can see the engineering details and what Chevy was trying to accomplish with the prototype.
Here is 1964 Corvette Prototype XP-819 at Amelia Island’s Concours D’Elegance:
Check back later this week for an exclusive interview with Mike Yager and Kevin Mackay about XP-819.
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