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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

Say What? A Four-Seat Corvette? Most Have Never Heard of It.

Earlier this year, there was an Instagram post from General Motors Design that shows a four-seat 1962 Corvette that GM designed in response to the success of the popular Ford Thunderbird.  Many readers had to take a second look at what they just read. A four-seat corvette? Most had never heard of such a thing. That’s because it never went into production.

As the story is told by General Motors, the general Manager of Chevrolet at the time, Ed Cole, wanted to know if Corvette fitted with four places to sit could compete with Ford’s wildly successful four-seat Thunderbird. Given the chance to pursue his curiosity, the project was assigned to the C2 Corvette Designer, Larry Shinoda.

In August 1962, Larry set off to design a Corvette that would indeed have seating for four. He had already designed the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray coupe and used that design for the new prototype. The new model was stretched out the wheelbase by six inches to accommodate more seating. This extension of the wheelbase to 104 inches also required the doors to be lengthened, and slightly raised the roof height which increased the size of the car’s iconic split-window rear glass.

General Motors even purchased a four-seat Ferrari for inspiration for this unique project. The objective was to make the Corvette more spacious for Americans and to gain an advantage over Ford. Defeating Ford when it came to design of this car was almost like comparing apples to oranges. The notable difference was that the T-Bird was intended to be a personal luxury car and had four seats for those who wanted a family cruiser. The Corvette on the other hand was always intended to be a sports car and is likely the reason that the four-seat concept never saw production.

The finished prototype was not only possible to build but was also a surprisingly good-looking design. It was rumored however that others on the design staff thoroughly disliked it. Despite the pushback from other designers, this was still not the reason it was never put into production.

Another speculated tale of why the project was curtailed was that General Motors Chairman Jack Gordon became stuck after climbing into the backseat of the prototype. It is told that the front seat locked in place and would not release, so Mr. Gordon could not get out of the vehicle until engineers unbolted the front seat to free him. This seemed to be the final straw for the four-seater Corvette and the prototype was destroyed.

The car may never have made it to production, but that didn’t mean there was never a backseat in a Corvette. There was an aftermarket backseat option for the C2 Corvettes. Yenko advertised this as “Three Kids in Your Sting Ray? Custom Styled Jump Seat for the 1964 Sting Ray Coupe. $59.00 Complete Plus Postage.”

There was a reason that this was advertised to fit children. There is no way that a full-sized adult could fit in this seat if they could even sit in it at all. You would likely have become lodged in the backseat like Jack Gordon.

We are glad the Corvette remained a two-seat sports car. It kept a design more for the speed hungry motorist rather than the family friendly Sunday cruising types. Plus. If the vehicle had morphed into a four seater, we very well may have never seen the new mid-engine Corvette design.

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