1992 Stingray III

In 1989, design honcho Chuck Jordan staged an internal competition between three studios to style the C5 Corvette. His favorite was that penned by the newly established Advanced Concept Center in Southern California. This roadster explored a radical rethink of the Corvette's proportions, stretching the wheelbase 6.7 inches and the width 3.3 inches, bobbing the tail by some four inches, and pulling the steeply raked windshield way forward. The seats were fixed in place, and the steering wheel and pedals moved. A unique safety idea was a rollover bar that popped up when needed (Mercedes and BMW have offered the same feature in recent years).

The original running prototype proposed fitting a high-output V-6 engine (which may have influenced the odd three-spoke, three-lug wheels), but by its 1992 Detroit show debut it was packing 300 horses' worth of LT-1 V-8 muscle.

The active suspension's optical sensors shine four beams of white light down from the undercarriage and the car also has four-wheel steering. The seating position, rakish windshield, and accelerative force would all feel familiar to a Lamborghini or mid-engine Ferrari owner.

Climbing into the fixed seats is made easier by low side sills and an instrument-panel pod that articulates up when the door opens for improved knee clearance. The seatbacks are raked to a nearly recumbent position, and the hybrid analog/digital gauges are visible over the top of the small, fat steering wheel. Organic dash forms and featureless door panels surround occupants without crowding them.

The car was considered for production, but the $300,000-plus price tag was deemed prohibitive for a Chevy--even a 225-mph one. Elements of the three different Corvette proposals were blended into the final design of the C5. If he were here, Bill Mitchell would probably counsel his successors that this amalgamated committee approach was responsible for the lukewarm reception the 1997 Corvette's styling received. And he'd probably coach current design chief Ed Welburn to take just one more stab at a mid-engine, fixed-seat Corvette dream car.