Timeless vs Of Its Time, Part II

James Kraus

First generation Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray.

In the first chapter of Timeless vs Of Its Time, we examined two American luxury cars, the 1961 Cadillac and Continental. Now we look at two sporting cars from the 1960s, The Corvette Sting Ray and the Porsche 911. The Sting Ray went on sale in the autumn of 1962, while the new Porsche made its public debut at the Frankfurt International Motor Show just one year later.

The design approach of the two cars could not have been more disparate.

The Porsche was essentially an updating of the late-forties design of the outgoing 356 to the conventions of the 1960s. Length was increased, glass area enlarged, flanks slimmed down and wheels moved outward. The new body featured B-pillars that sloped sharply rearward at the top, and fully-integrated body-coloured bumpers that formed the complete lower portion of the front and rear, wrapping around to the wheel arches. At each corner, generously proportioned lamp clusters were fitted completely flush with the body, neither surface-mounted nor recessed.

1966 Porsche 911. Styling remained largely unchanged until larger bumpers were fitted to 1974 models in accordance with U.S. low-speed impact regulations. James Lipman photo.

The 911 was the essence of form following function. The only “lines” pressed onto the bodywork were twin creases in the front decklid leading into the recessed cowl-mounted cabin-air intake. The rest of the design was simply superbly-executed form, shape and proportion. So much so that after continuous upgrades and four complete redesigns, the 911 (with many of the original cues intact) remains a highly coveted icon in the 21st century.

The Corvette was a clean-sheet exercise with nothing in common with its predecessor other than the rear treatment, carried over fairly intact from 1961-1962 models. The new look evolved from the Stingray Racer and Q-Corvette concept cars, which in turn were heavily influenced by the Abarth 207 by Carrozzeria Boano.

1963 Sting Ray Sport Coupe with optional fuel injection and cast aluminium centre-lock wheels. Due to production problems, the wheels did not actually become available until 1964.

The striking design was largely defined and completely encircled by a sharply-creased character line (similar to the one Chevrolet introduced on the Corvair three years prior) topped with voluptuously shaped bulges above each wheel. For extra frontal drama, quad headlights electrically swivelled 180-degrees to face rearward into the body, leaving the main character line uninterrupted during daylight hours.

Its futuristic barely-restrained flamboyance managed to simultaneously embody a subtle grace and elegance lacking in both its predecessor and successors. Though the Coupe lost its lovely divided rear window only a year into production, in all other respects it became better looking over the years as extraneous trim was deleted, bringing the basic form and surface treatment into better focus until the epitome was reached in the final 1967 327 models with rear-outlet exhausts.

Here are two superb designs, one a simple but brilliant timeless opus that would persevere for fifty-seven years and counting; the other very much of its time, reflecting both the brash exuberance and grace of its era, looking particularly at home outside the Jet Propulsion Laboratory or Manned Spacecraft Center, the Sting Ray eloquently confirming that the Space Age was underway.

1 thought on “Timeless vs Of Its Time, Part II

  1. I still miss my 1967 5 gauge, 5 speed 912, it didn’t have the brute power of the 911 but was an amazing and fun to drive hard sports car ~ lighter and far more agile that the Corvette .

    I never did mange to get around to buying a ‘Vette, they’re fun too but in a totally different way, apples and oranges .

    -Nate

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