We tend to mark the beginning of each Corvette generation from the moment we first see the car. But the final designs are approved more than a year before the official debut. It takes time to work out details, develop parts, and tweak each piece for production. Even earlier in the process, hundreds of sketches and renderings are created to work out the basic design. Countless ideas are considered and rejected before the first 3D models are built. Only the top designs move on to the next step.
Although the C6 made its magazine debut in the winter of 2004, designer Tom Peters actually started sketching the car in the fall of 1999. As the new Vette began to take shape, it eventually came time to try out some of these fresh ideas on the existing model.
Concept cars generally take on two forms. One is the over-the-top styling exercise that has no real chance at production. Think of the ’65 Mako Shark II and the ’10 Corvette Stingray Concept. The second approach takes the current production car and pushes its styling to the extreme. The C5 Tiger Shark is one such vehicle. Chevrolet debuted the Tiger Shark (and Tiger Shark accessory kit) at the 2001 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Painted PPG Tiger Yellow, the car was very well received, even showing up on the cover of the Dec. ’01 issue of VETTE.
The Tiger Shark offered a preview of design elements that would take some time to make it into production. The wide front grille and vertical bars eventually showed up on the C6 Z06, ZR1, and Grand Sport. The C3 L88-style hood dome, meanwhile, was necessary to clear the supercharged, 427ci LS1 stroker; a version of its leading-edge air extractor would eventually appear on the C7.
Other Tiger Shark design elements never went anywhere. The first was the side-cove treatment, which featured a grated opening with a single chrome spear. Out back, the tall rear spoiler was pure musclecar-era design. The license plate was also relocated between the taillamps, the inboard lamps included the backup lights, the third brake light was wider and thinner, and the horizontal bars in the lower vents were removed.
The Tiger Shark could have made for a nice midyear refresh, but Chevy quickly quashed any rumors that the car might go into production. Only the body panels would be offered as a kit.
But the Tiger Shark concept was far more than a stock ’97 coupe with a body package. The stump-puller LS1 featured a Vortech T-Trim supercharger, 8.7:1 compression, modified heads, a custom cam, stainless-steel headers, and a 3-inch Corsa exhaust system with 3.5-inch exhaust tips. The much-modified mill generated an incredible 742 hp and 690 lb-ft of torque. The suspension was treated to Hotchkis Performance stabilizer bars and coilover shocks, while the brakes were upgraded to Brembos measuring 14x1.25 inches on the front and 12.32x1.25 inches in the rear. The 18-inch Kinesis Motorsport K58 forged wheels were shod with Goodyear F1 Fiorano tires.
The interior of the Tiger Shark was equally impressive. The custom-contoured seats were wrapped in black leather with gray bolsters and Seaton diamond-perforated inserts. Accessory gauges were mounted on the lower portion of the dashboard, and the dash gauges featured yellow trim. Custom aluminum pedals were added for a race-car touch. Detroit prototype shop Wheel-To-Wheel handled the complete Tiger Shark conversion.
Tiger Shark kits are still available in the aftermarket, albeit minus the hood extractor and enlarged front-fender vents. As slick as the Tiger Shark package was, it seemed that the majority of C5 owners liked the looks of their cars just fine. Consequently, you’ll see very few of these predators out prowling the streets.