Pasadena City College, Home of the PCC Lancers

Larry Shinoda


by Oscar Koveleski

Design was his lifelong game,
Larry Shinoda was his name.
And he did so well
This story we'll tell.
His name will live in fame.

From Corvettes, Camaros
Mustangs and SUVs
Shinoda's designs were aimed to please.
For discriminating buyers everywhere
Shinoda designs were always there.

Driven to perfection he'd often say,
Accept it as it is, or "go away."
With photo book, sketches he'd make a stand
At car shows and seminars he'd get a "big hand."

His knife edge designs were not like a "bubble,"
And some aerodynamicists would give him some trouble.
Larry made a big difference in the world of design,
Inspiring many to rise and shine.

Larry's left us now and gone on his way.
We'll miss you, Buddy, but your memory and designs
Are here to stay.

Your friends,

March 25, 1930 - November 13, 1997

If anyone were to judge an auto designer by the merit of his accomplishments, then Lawrence Shinoda would be at the top of the list: the '63 Corvette Sting Ray Split WIndow Coupe, the Mako Shark prototype and the C3 (1968) series Corvette, was also a key figure in the design of the Corvair Monza, the Z-28 Camaro and the Boss 302 Mustang. His more recent accomplishments included the Rick Mears Special Edition Corvette and the Shinoda Boss for the current-generation Mustang. He had also done his interpretations of the new C5 Corvette, giving it an updated split-window treatment for a truly awesome look and had also designed a special limited edition of the Ford Contour and a signature edition line of Cragar wheels.

Lawrence Kiyoshi Shinoda was born in 1930 in Los Angeles and grew up in Southern California where he started developing his artistic talents in grade school. During World War II, Larry Shinoda was held in an internment camp for Japanese Americans. As a young man, he built hot rods and drag-raced them on the streets of Los Angeles. In the early part of his career, which lead to his becoming a key member of the Bill Mitchell design team at Chevrolet, Larry made his mark in racing in a 1924 Ford roadster, the car in which he won the first National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals at Great Bend, Kansas, in 1955. The previous year, he had scored his first major auto industry job with Ford, and moved from his native California to Detroit. In January of 1956, he joined Studebaker/Packard (just prior to its demise) and by September, he was hired by General Motors' head of design, Harley Earl, and began design work on the 1959 Chevrolet. Later, he went on to work on the 1960 and '61 wide track Pontiacs. Then Larry "got lucky," as he put it in an interview with Shark Quarterly, and in 1958, was reassigned to "special styling projects" by Bill Mitchell.

"I think it mostly came about as a result of a drag race on the way home from work," he recalled, and went on to describe how he had "basically smoked" Mitchell in a stop light tournament. Shinoda was driving a '55 Ford, and Mitchell, a red Pontiac. A couple of weeks later, Mitchell went to visit him in the studio and asked if his Ford was supercharged. Shinoda told him it only had two 4-barrels, and Mitchell asked him to bring it in to the garage, so he could have a look at it. Thus began a relationship that would spawn many of Chevrolet's most exotic cars, including the original String Ray racer, the inspiration for the 1963 production Corvette. Because GM had banned racing, the Sting Ray did not say Corvette anywhere on the vehicle. Larry was mechanic, pit crew, designer and what ever else was required on the car. Dr. Dick Thompson drove the Sting Ray racer. The Sting Ray Racer was the foundation for the 1963 Shinoda designed Corvette Sting Ray.

Clay Model Of RacerThe Sting Ray was designed as a roadster. Later, when development began on the 1963 Corvette the Split Window was designed into the coupe. Bill Mitchell had adopted the Corvette as his own, and the ' 63 Sting Ray was his special project. Zora-Arkus Duntov had by that time established a free hand with Corvette mechanical design and power. With the combination of Mitchell, Duntov, and Shinoda, the Corvette Sting Ray 1963 to 1967 is thought by many to be the best of the Corvettes and the most desirable. Larry's involvement was to take the Sting Ray racing car, and turn it into a production car... not an easy task. Larry was for the most part the only designer in the studio. The famous "Studio X". (Studio X was located underneath the front lobby, it was a small area but with big doors to move cars and clay models in and out. A highly secret area.)

The first model Sting Ray production car was completed in fiberglass for the board of directors meeting it had the "Split Window" the split was a little narrower than on the actual production car, but there was a hatch and the whole back end opened up. The scoops that finally ended up in the front fender, were in front of the rear fenders.

The 1963 Corvette had a style that no other car had, excitement, edges, and shaped. It was a distinctly American Car in contrast to the great European cars of the time. In 1963, for the first time in it's history, Chevrolet would build over66 Corvette 20,000 Corvettes growing to over 27,000 in 1966. Corvette way toying with the idea of making a Corvette 10 inches longer with a back seat. Jack Gordon who was president got into the backseat of a prototype, the seat would not release when he went to get out.. they had to remove the front seat to get him out and that ended the idea of a back seat in the mid-year Corvette.

In poor health, Larry Shinoda remained active to the end. Larry passed away at his home in Michigan of heart failure on November 13, 1997, while working at his design desk with a phone in his hand. Larry had just passed the final tissue-match test for his kidney transplant the day before he died. Though Larry is gone, his legacy lives on.

Larry was to be surprised by being awarded this year's recognition by the Industrial Designers Society of America. Instead, a posthumous award will be presented on December 29, 1997 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in conjunction with the opening of the 1998 Auto Show.

Some months ago a group of Larry's friends and fans planned a gala tribute to him in late May of 1998. The group, "The Friends of Larry Shinoda," has now focused upon a lasting memorial and has received the support of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles as its fiscal agent. Plans are being made to have an educational exhibit about Larry's life and his impact upon the transportation world.

  • The Original 1963 design

  • 1963 convertible Corvette

  • The 1968 Astro concept car

  • The 1968 Corvette C3

  • The Astrowall

  • 1963 convertible Corvette

The Legacies of Roy Richter and Larry Shinoda will live on with the introduction of the newly designed Cragar S/S. The updated version of our 1964 Super Sport is design by Larry. the new S/S reflect the subtle design characteristics of Roy Richter's original creation.