Anatole Lapine (left, above), whose long career included stints as chief designer for Porsche and designer for General Motors, died April 30 in Germany. He was 81 years old.
Born in 1930 in Latvia, Lapine joined Daimler-Benz as an engineering apprentice after World War II, before joining GM in the U.S. in 1952. There he worked with famed GM designer Bill Mitchell in the so-called “Studio X” on a variety of top-secret concept and experimental car designs — including the 1957 Corvette SS concept that influenced the C2 Chevrolet Corvette. Lapine also helped design the 1959 Chevrolet XP-87 Stingray race car, which packed a 315-hp V-8 beneath a fiberglass body, and later co-drove the car in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Through the 1960s, Lapine was paired with GM designer Larry Shinoda and worked on such important vehicles as the 1960 CERV I, an open-wheel single-seat race car; and the 1962 CERV II, a race car with 500-550-hp designed to take on the Ford GT40. Lapine also had a hand in developing the 1962 Chevrolet Monza GT and subsequent 1963 Chevrolet Monza SS roadster concepts; loosely based on the Corvair chassis, the sports cars had fiberglass bodies and innovations like a rear-mounted transmission, magnesium wheels, and four-wheel disc brakes. He also was studio engineer for Shinoda on the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray.
Lapine was then transferred to GM’s European division Opel in Germany, where he was most famous for developing a sleeper race car dubbed the Black Widow. The model was based on a normal Opel Rekford luxury sedan, but with upgrades like a unique 150-hp engine, aluminum body parts, and a roll cage. The car outran Porsches and even a unique Chevrolet Camaro tuned by Penske.
In 1969, Lapine was hired away to become chief designer of Porsche, and immediately was tasked with styling the 911. Lapine was later responsible for three front-engine Porsche models: the 924 and 944 sports cars, as well as the 928. Lapine and his team also provided lots of work for outside clients under the Porsche Engineering division. He retired from Porsche in 1988.
Sources: Porsche, General Motors