This image was on a yearly Corvette desk calendar. It is identified as a Corvette XP-856, but I’ve never seen it before. Does anybody know what this is?

  1. Ken Root

    During my very brief stint at GM Design Staff-I managed to get a look in the photo achives. Over the years there were many Pontiac versions of the Vette done. Could this be one?


    Not a Corvette or Pontiac, it was another Toronado.
    This car was done in Advanced Design 3 Studio. The studio head was Lee Knight and I was from Chevrolet Studio and promoted to be his assistant.

    When I arrived the model was already underway in the beginning stages. Bill Mitchell wanted to make the roof work, an idea that had come out of Designs own Advanced Engineering Department.

    The concept was a center roof spine that had enough room to house, on each side, a rolled up panel made of metal strips held together with a synthetic membrane. It acted like a metal roll-up garage door, with both sides nesting in the center spine. When extended the outboard edges aligned and engaged with the top of the door side glass.

    We worked on the clay model for about six months and carried the roof concept to completion. We had a partial seating buck that demonstrated the functional operation of the roof. We worked over a Toronado FWD package with seating that was a little tighter. It had an almost vertical backlight that could retract into the trunk ending up behind the rear seat back. It was one of the new concepts presented to the BOD by Bill Mitchell. I was asked to make a detailed sketch showing the roof open from the rear.

    The concept was not easy to achieve as the critical alignment with the roof panel and the windshield did not want to work. The metal strips also had to be straight in side view which gave us visual problems.

    The car was pretty dramatic, a little out of the main stream of design at the time and the big chrome front bumper that Bill wanted was overpowering for the rest of the car. We sent the model to be cast and the studio was disbanded, I was sent to Overseas Studio to work with Ned Nickels.
    Crazy days.


  3. Dick Ruzzin

    Here is an image of a sketch made during the program.


    Shortly after while in Overseas Studio working on another Toronado design project I made a very nice full size tendering that was rejected due to the fact that by then Oldsmobile wanted a very “Cadillac Eldorado” type of design. The original 1966 Toronado design did not sell as well as they wanted.

    That led to the squared off fender shapes, a theme by Don Shumer, that went into production. Bill had several studios working on a new Toronado.

    This was before the FFF. I think the FFF had an influence on Cadillac.

    I just remembered that Lee Knight left about half way through the program and Ron Hill came in as Chief Designer. He had a much more production oriented approach to the development of the car. I had fun working for Ron as he was very inventive.

  4. Brett

    I’m the one who originally posted the XP-856 picture in a few Corvette forums back in 2007. The picture popped up on in my digital picture frame today. This made me wonder if anyone ever figured out what is really was, so I did some searching and found this post.

    Thank you so much Mr. Ruzzin for solving that mystery and sharing an interesting story!


    Just reviewing this topic again, you can see that the front is too wide and proportionally too large. Originally it was narrower and thinner, body color with chrome details. I had a wonderful sketch from the front with the car underway at speed. It is gone now.

    I was told that Mitchell started the project, we always saw it as a four passenger Indy car. When I entered the scene it was well underway and the front and rear fell together pretty easily.
    He insisted in that little wind split in the middle of the front end. The front end shortly appeared on the Toronado, it did not quite work with the rest of the car.

    I was asked to make a sketch for the Board of Directors show that highlighted the upper. What is shown is a brownline print, not the original.

    This car says something to me that is loud and clear, and that is that the cars of today, not the SUVs, are aesthetically the most boring in automotive history. It is as though that as cars die there is the movement to be generic.

    Imagine if this car pulled up along side of you at a light. What a shocker!
    Dick Ruzzin

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