Pininfarina Designed 1963 Corvette Rondine
“For the First Time, I Now Have a Corvette I Can Be Proud to Drive in Europe,” — Zora Arkus-Duntov, on the Rondine
Chevrolet’s Corvette has always had a striking design, but has it ever been truly elegant or beautiful?
For decades Corvette has been the definitive American sports car. As such, it has always carried a distinctly American design language. In 1963, Corvette had just launched its revamped C2 design, which was certainly an aesthetic improvement over the original. Larry Shinoda’s C2 design is widely regarded as one of the best, but GM’s design chief, Bill Mitchell, was also looking to provide Corvette fans with a more understated and luxuriously sporty design, courtesy of a European.
Being a forward-thinking individual, Mitchell shipped a few bare C2 chassis over to Pininfarina in Italy to see what they could do with them. Going against Corvette convention, Pininfarina used a steel body to clothe this car, the end result: the Corvette “Rondine.” The chassis was kept largely unchanged, and the engine was 100% original. The interior of the car remains mostly Corvettte, too, with a few minor changes. It’s that body, however, that makes all the difference. This is possibly the heaviest Corvette ever built, but certainly one of the most gorgeous.
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While the Stingray is in-your-face aggressive, with sharp points and hard edges everywhere, the Rondine has a more elegant flow to its bodylines. The car’s greenhouse is much smaller, featuring a more dramatic drop aft of the passenger compartment. A full wraparound-glass rear window makes rearward visibility much better than the 1963 split window. There is also a longer, separate trunk area with a “swallow-tail” pinch at the rear, elongating the car both physically and visually. Up front the grille is more prominent, with a traditional upright frontal area, and the headlights are given retractable half-covers instead of the flip-around lights that the C2 made famous. The upswept line from the top of the fender across to the rear of the door makes this car look much larger than it is.
Unfortunately, this design never came to fruition, outside of a few prototypes. Pininfarina’s Tom Tjaarda penned this design, and while he was disappointed that Chevrolet binned the project, he did go on to design the Fiat 124, Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, and De Tomaso Pantera, all of which crib slightly from the Rondine’s original design.