You’ve seen the ads, marked your calendars, and set your DVRs. Sunday, August 4th, marks the return of the greatest pop culture phenomenon of all time.
That’s right: we’re talking about Discovery Channel’s 2013 Shark Week.
We can’t explain exactly why Shark Week is as popular as it is, but on the offhand chance you shark lovers can’t get enough Selachimorphae in your life, and don’t want to watch Sharknado on your TiVo for the umpteenth time, we’ve rounded up nine fine shark-themed cars in honor of the week’s festivities.
You could argue Graham-Page’s Spirit of Motion – commonly known as the shark nose – was inspired by the coffin-nosed Cord 810, but designer Amos Northrup, who died shortly after he began work on the car’s exterior, had previously penned a similar design for Willys, who launched it in 1937. In reality, Northrup’s design plans for Graham-Paige called for hidden headlamps and skirted front wheel wells, but by the time the car launched in 1938, it gained fixed, rectangular headlamps mounted flush in the front fenders, which also did without wheel skirts. Graham’s sharknose was phased out in 1940, when it (ironically) introduced a restyled version of the Cord 810, but the shark nose cue lived on, notably on the 1941 Nash and a number of stylized rail locomotives.
(Photos courtesy of RM Auctions)
The second-generation Corvette, or Sting Ray, wouldn’t launch until 1963, but by 1961, designers essentially had its styling – inspired by design chief Bill Mitchell’s ’57 Stingray racer – locked in. Even so, GM wanted something for the auto show circuit to tease the new car’s look ahead of schedule. Thus, the Mako Shark was born. The show car essentially took a C2 Corvette convertible but fitted it with all sorts of unique touches, including a supercharged V-8, side-exit exhausts, split bumpers, a periscope roof mirror, and “gills” placed in the front fenders. The Mako Shark name came from a fish Mitchell had caught on vacation and had mounted in his office; legend has it he repeatedly demanded that employees paint the car to perfectly match the fish until, after several attempts, his employees finally painted the fish to match the car.
The Mako Shark still exists today as part of the GM Heritage Center collection, but now boasts an aluminum-block ZL1 427 cubic-inch V-8 in lieu of the original engine.
(Photos courtesy of General Motors)
Much like the original Mako Shark previewed the second-generation Corvette, its 1965 sequel – the Mako Shark II – helped tease the upcoming ’68 Corvette. The car wore a similar paint job to the Mako Shark, but that’s where the resemblance ended. The II was 9” longer and 3” lower than a C2 Corvette, and its low, flat hood was nestled between crisp, mountainous fenders. Quartz-iodine headlamps were hidden beneath retractable covers, while cornering lamps were hidden behind rotating panels that, when open, looked like gills. A power flip-top roof aided access to the cabin, while the roofline itself tapered to a sharp point just above the rear fascia. The louvers over the rear window could be electrically opened and shut, while a pair of ducktail spoilers electrically extended from the rear fascia.
In typical GM fashion, the Mako Shark II was modified over time, but its biggest transformation came in 1969. After receiving a new nose, an elongated tail, a new paint scheme, and a ZL1 V-8, the car was rechristened as the Manta Ray, and it remains in this configuration today.
(Photos courtesy of General Motors)
Okay, okay, so a manta is technically a ray – but if you’re into splitting hairs, the ray is also a cartilaginous fish, much like a shark. Frankly, we see far more shark than ray in this Bizzarrini -based concept, which was Giorgetto Giugiaro’s first design after leaving Ghia and starting up ItalDesign. Described as a “one box gran turismo,” the Manta’s front windscreen is raked at a steep 15 degrees, allowing it flow seamlessly into both the front clip and the rakish roofline. The car’s extreme width also allowed for a three-abreast seating configuration, which placed the driver front and center – much like the McLaren F1 that would come years later. Like the Bizzarrini P538 it was based on, the Manta retained a tube-frame chassis and a mid-mounted Chevrolet 327 cubic-inch V-8, which was good for roughly 355-400 hp. The Manta disappeared from public view for some time after its original showing, but resurfaced in the 1980s, and was restored to its original green hue in 2005.
(Photos courtesy of Gooding & Company)
Monteverdi’s approach to building luxury sports cars was simple: take a massive Chrysler V-8, place it on a custom-built Swiss chassis, and wrap all that in luscious Italian bodywork. When the automaker pursued a rear-engine sports car design in the late 1960s, it abided by its own rules. A 426-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 was placed almost in the middle of the car, while Italian coachbuilder Fissore whipped up slender, curvaceous sheetmetal with rakish sides and muscular flares. The aggressive snout helped inspire the Hai – or “shark” in German – moniker. The prototype Hai 450 SS’ VIN started with TNT; fitting, considering its performance was nothing short of explosive. The car was clocked running from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, and allegedly had a top speed of over 176 mph.
The Hai 450 SS debuted at the 1970 Geneva show, and Monteverdi hoped to sell 49 copies, but didn’t. An updated Hai, known as the 450 GTS, was shown a few years later, but production was still a flight of fancy. The SS was eventually sold into private hands, and two additional copies of the SS and GTS were built decades later from leftover spare parts.
(Photos courtesy of Gooding & Company)
The odd-looking cartilaginous fish frequently known as the ghost shark is technically known as the Chimaera, a name derived from a Greek mythological creature. We’re not sure if the name selection was in deference to the fish or the fictional lion-goat-snake creation, but either way, TVR built and sold a two-seat convertible as the Chimaera from 1992-2003. The car’s frame and softly curved exterior forms were shared with the TVR Griffith, but the Chimaera was positioned as a softer, more comfortable sports touring model. The car debuted with a 4.0-liter V-8 underhood, but later cars were offered with a 4.3-liter, 4.5-liter, and 5.0-liter V-8. Roughly 6000 Chimaeras were built over eleven years.
It could have been called Scoupe, but when Hyundai launched a new compact sports coupe in our market back in 1998, it christened the car Tiburon, Spanish for “shark.” Equipped with a 140-hp four-cylinder, it didn’t exactly have much teeth or a bite remotely close to that of a Great White, but its curvy, flowing exterior design may have had a shark-like feel to it. The car was awkwardly restyled in 2000 with quad headlamps, and disappeared after the 2001 model year. An all-new model debuted for the 2003 model year, and finally boasted the option of six-cylinder power. The second-generation Tiburon was facelifted in 2007, and dropped from Hyundai’s lineup in 2008, making way for the new rear-wheel drive Genesis Coupe.
What does a semi-topless version of a two-door 1999 Chevrolet Blazer ZR2 have to do with a shark? We sure don’t know, but when Chevy decided to transform the two-door S/T Blazer into a convertible for the 1999 SEMA show in Las Vegas, it decided to name the oddball creation the Shark. Perhaps it referenced jumping one: after 2004, two-door sport utilities were entirely eliminated from GM’s product portfolio.
No, it’s not named after a shark, nor is it designed to look like a shark – but the Shark Cage Beetle was certainly designed and built to swim with sharks. As part of VW’s sponsorship of Discovery Channel’s 2012 Shark Week, it commissioned a custom underwater dive cage shaped like the restyled 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. Thanks to an electric propulsion system, the cage could even scoot about underwater.
The ploy must have been successful, as VW created another Beetle shark cage – this time shaped like the 2013 Beetle Convertible – for this year’s Shark Week festivities. Because, of course, it’s best to have less protective structure between you and hungry, carnivorous sharks while diving underwater….
Honorable Mention: 2002-2004 BMW Z4
We always thought the first-generation Z4 looked a bit like a shark. Apparently, so too did BMW’s marketing team, as they whipped up this cheeky ad that paid homage to the legendary Saturday Night Live “Land Shark” sketch.