Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Manta's Shadow: Part I The Chevrolet Manta Ray

I have been out of the water for almost a month due to a busy schedule, holidays, travel, some minor health issues and now, big surf.
During this period I've been spending time on the internet and I've discovered that the topic "Manta Ray" triggers search engine responses to all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the actual Manta birostris. Indeed, Kona's foremost fish has been the inspiration for numerous technological, architectural, cultural and media manifestations. So today I am going to start a "blog within a blog" I'm calling The Manta's Shadow to highlight some of the interesting creations out there that have some basis, however tenuous, in some aspect of manta ray characteristics.

 We'll start things with a look at the 1969 Chevrolet Manta Ray concept car.  In the early sixties, Chevrolet decided to radically redesign the popular Corvette sports car, changing it from a very compact roadster into a testosterone-oozing muscle car of ludicrous horsepower.

The resulting stable of Corvette variants were named after cartilaginous fishes. First came the Stingray, which was extremely popular, being one of the first "fastback" cars and boasting such features as hidden headlights and spoilers. Next came an elongated version called the Mako Shark. This was ultimately followed by the Manta Ray pictured here.

As far as I can tell, the Manta Ray was a one-of-a-kind prototype and certainly was not mass-produced. Otherwise, the parking lots of Kona dive shops would be jammed with vintage Chevys. The 60's were a time of animal-centric muscle car names like Mustang, Cougar, Firebird, Barracuda(!) and Thunderbird. Except for their logos, perhaps, these cars had no design features that actually alluded to their namesake creatures. Not so the Manta Ray. The flattened hood gives it a dorso-ventrally compressed appearance and just ahead of the front wheel wells are five little gill slits (which I take to be non-functional "air scoops"). If you are familiar with other Corvettes you'll see that the tail  (rear deck) of the Manta Ray is significantly longer than any variant before or since. Topping it all off is an awesome two-tone paint scheme that sure looks like the countershaded camouflage of the Great Winged Ones.

At the very least, a very cool car seemingly inspired by a very cool marine creature. Just by way of "full disclosure" I'm not an enthusiast of any one make of car and the only Chevy I've ever owned was a Vega which was one of the worst models ever.

One more pic of the Chevrolet Manta Ray before I close this post.

Awesome logo on the steering wheel, huh? Ah, what could have been!

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