A short history of the 6 coolest Corvettes rebodied by coachbuilders

Most people just can’t get enough of the sleek lines of America’s sports car—but others see room for improvement

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When Chevrolet finally unveiled its eighth-generation Corvette in 2019, the analogy bandied about in article after article was that its styling – along with its first-for-the-brand midship engine placement – ​​made it feel a lot like an American Ferrari.

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The sharp creases of the fenders, the taut surfaces along its flanks, and the aesthetic details its designers worked in won the C8 many fans. But others (your author included) weren’t quite so taken, and saw room for improvement.

Southern-Ontario-based Caravaggio Corvettes, for example, one of the premier names globally in bespoke Corvette customization, thought it could touch up Chevrolet’s latest crossed-flags supercar with a couple of tweaks that’d give it a more refined sense of style. What Caravaggio came up with was the Unica Series 1 pictured above, unveiled in mid-February 2022.

The car takes a new Stingray or Z06 and completely reskins it with a redesigned carbon-fiber body meant to blend “the best of American sports car culture with the cultured lines of a European exotic.” (It adds a litany of performance upgrades, too, but we won’t get into those). Caravaggio will build just 30, at a cost of US$110,000 each (donor Corvette not included).

The company is far from the first or only to try its hand at enhancing the styling of America’s sports car. Here’s a quick rundown of some other handsomely reskinned ‘Vettes.

C1: 1959 Scaglietti Corvettes

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In 1959, Gary Laughlin was a Texas oil tycoon who had a penchant for racing Ferraris but lacked patience for their temperamental nature. Laughlin paired with two other Texans, Jim Hall and Carroll Shelby, on having Chevrolet’s much-more-reliable Corvette dressed up in some new duds, explains John Lamm in Automedia Necklace. Shelby sourced a trio of new ‘Vette chassis direct from the automaker, and had them shipped to Italy to be fitted with coachwork by Carrozzeria Scaglietti, which was also making bodies for Ferraris at the time.

It took a year or two, but eventually the Italian coachbuilder delivered three Chevy-powered fastbacks that indeed looked very Ferrari-like—albeit with sparse interiors and, in one case, a toothy chrome Corvette grille. Chevrolet soured on the idea of ​​letting Shelby build his own cars to compete against their flagship roadster, so the trio are all that remain today of this fascinating venture.

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C2: 1963 Pininfarina Corvette Rondine

The 1963 Pininfarina Rondine
The 1963 Pininfarina Rondine Photo by Pininfarina

While the Scaglietti ordeal turned Chevrolet off of letting a contractor monkey with its pride and joy, apparently it was a little more open when the company itself had fuller control. In the ’60s, the automaker itself approached renowned Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina with a new C2 ‘Vette chassis and asked it to work its magic and give it a new, European look. Tom Tjaarda did the deed, penning a coupe that wears echoes of Corvette styling while still standing apart as something completely unique.

Whereas the ’63 Corvette wore crisp, sharp lines and looked way more aggressive than its predecessor, Pininfarina took a different tact, aiming for simplicity, lightness, and elegance. The car bowed at the 1963 Paris Auto Show, but ended up going nowhere after that, remaining a one-off concept in the Pininfarina museum until 2008, when the coachbuilder sold it through Barrett-Jackson for US$1.6 million.

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C4: 1984 Bertone Ramarro

The 1984 Bertone Romarro
The 1984 Bertone Romarro Photo by Bertone

After Chevrolet pulled the covers off its brand-new Corvette C4 at the Geneva auto show in March 1983, it was faced with a choice: pay to ship the show car back across the Atlantic, likely to be crushed; or leave it in Europe and let someone else worry about it. It chose the latter route, gifting the car to styling house Bertone to do with as it saw fit. The head of the bodywork, Nuccio Bertone, at first just drove the pre-production car around Turin a few days—it turned heads enough as it was.

But eventually an idea emerged to completely revise the then-cutting-edge bodywork with an even more futuristic-looking, European aesthetic. This involved hacking 10 inches of length off the back of the car, three inches off the nose, and widening the thing by five inches. The front was lowered for aerodynamics, though the cowl, as a hardpoint, stayed the same height; and forward-sliding doors were added for better ingress and egress. The changes continued inside, with seats mounted off of the center console; and a rotary dial for the automatic trans’ gear selector.

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The car saw a warm welcome from industry and press when revealed at the 1984 Los Angeles Auto Expo, and a short production run was considered but never materialized.

C5: 1998 Callaway Corvette C12

A Callaway C12 Corvette
A Callaway C12 Corvette Photo by Mecum Auctions

This article started off with a Canadian effort to rebody the Corvette, and we thought we’d throw in another Canadian connection half-way through. Connecticut-based tuner Callaway Cars was focused strictly on mechanical improvements to the Corvette until founder Reeves Callaway met Montreal-based designer Paul Deutschman in the late ’80s. (Check out our interview with Deutschman for more on that story.)

The company has pretty consistently re-bodied Corvettes since then, though Deutschman told us the C7-generation Corvette was too pretty to give a going-over – he instead added an Aerowagon shooting brake roof – and its brand-new C8 offering sees, stylistically speaking, only subtle tweaks.

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When he does turn his pen on a Chevy sports car, though, Deutschman doesn’t just pretty up the thing (although his Corvettes are undeniably prettier than the stock car), he also improves its aerodynamics. Take for example his wide-bodied Corvette C12, which was designed with the goal of winning the GT2 class at Le Mans—the upgraded aero let the C12.R take the pole position in that race in 2001. Only 25 examples of the road car were produced, and they’re still sought after today.

C6: 2009 Bertone Mantide

The 2009 Bertone Mantide
The 2009 Bertone Mantide Photo by Bertone

Noticing a trend yet? It’s mostly Italian design houses who’ve been granted the opportunity to restyle Corvettes. Following up the success of the Ramarro, Bertone would take a swing at dressing up Chevrolet’s C6-generation ‘Vette, though this time around, the lines came from the pen of American-born Jason Castriota, who ran Bertone’s design department at the time.

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The bodywork he wrapped around the 638-hp chassis of a ZR1 looks very far removed from its origins, and its lightness and better aerodynamics apparently improved the car’s performance, with a tested top speed of 350 km/h (218 mph). Again, a limited production run was discussed and abandoned, with just two or three prototypes being built. (Countless digital copies lived on via its inclusion in video game Forza Motorsports 4however.)

C7: 2020 Zagato IsoRivolta GTZ

The 2020 Zagato IsoRivolta GTZ
The 2020 Zagato IsoRivolta GTZ Photo by Zagato

Storied coachbuilder Zagato just two years ago began its resurrection of ’60s boutique automaker Iso Rivolta, with its new IsoRivolta (now one word) GTZ based on the 650-hp Corvette C7 Z06. The bodywork is a throwback to a specific car, the Iso Grifo A3/C, a Giorgetto-Giugiaro-designed that won its class at Le Mans in ’64 and ’65. (Coincidentally, that car, too, was powered by a Chevrolet V8.)

The firm is constructing just 19 examples of the GTZ, with the conversion from stock Chevrolet sports car taking roughly 2,500 hours to complete, on account of the carbon-fibre body panels, glass, and lighting all being bespoke-made pieces. Prices run into seven figures, but isn’t it worth it for a coupe that offers all the power of a Corvette, but styling unlike anything else on the road? Based on the list of cars above, we know a few people who’d say “yes.”

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