Lawrence Kiyoshi "Larry" Shinoda was an automotive designer who worked for General Motors Styling from 1956 to 1968. He was noted for his working on various Corvette projects include the final design for the 1963 split-window Sting Ray.
Shinoda was born March 25, 1930 in Los Angeles, California. He grew up in Southern California where his artistic talents developed while he was still in grade school. Shinoda and his family were forced into an internment camp by the United States Government along with hundred of thousands of other Japanese-Americans during World War II. As a young man, he built hot rods and drag-raced them on the streets of Los Angeles. With his 1924 Ford roadster, he won the first National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals that were held in Great Bend, Kansas, in 1955.
Shinoda studied art for two years at Pasadena City College and then, after a tour with the army in Korea, attended the Art Centre School of Design in Los Angeles, but never graduated. He was kicked out because in his estimation, "I didn't fit in there; my ideas and desires weren't consistent with there expectations, so I was construed as a malcontent, which, in truth, I was."
After his stint in college, he went to work for Ford Motor Company in 1955, but only spent a year there before moving on to Studebaker/Packard. In September of 1956, Shinoda joined the General Motors Styling staff as a senior designer. He was plucked from his brief orientation and placed in the Chevrolet studio when a design he had created caught the eye of some of the leadership at Styling. This illustration inspired some of the styling flourishes on the 1959 Chevrolets.
Shinoda spent a brief time in the Pontiac studio working on a design that would develop into the 1960-1961 Tempests. Around 1958, soon-to-be Styling vice president Bill Mitchell tapped Shinoda to assist him on a special project: the XP-87 Stingray race car. He impressed Mitchell one day outside of the Tech Center when the two had an impromptu stoplight drag race that was won handily by Shinoda. Working in the infamous "Studio X" located beneath the lobby of the Styling building, Shinoda gave life to Mitchell’s conception of the Stingray which was built on an extra chassis left over from Zora Arkus-Duntov’s Corvette SS program.
After working on the Stingray, Shinoda led the team that restyled the Corvette for the 1963 model year. Inspired by the lines of the Stingray race car, Shinoda’s design for the 1963 Sting Ray Corvette was completed in 1961 and would produce the first ever coupe in the Corvette line. For the first time, the looks of the Corvette hinted at the power provided by Arkus-Duntov’s engineering.
Larry Shinoda worked on a number of other special projects for Bill Mitchell during this period. These cars included:
- 1960 CERV I
- 1961 XP-755 Shark (later renamed the Mako Shark I)
- 1962 Corvair Monza GT
- 1964 XP-819 Corvette
- 1964 CERV II
- 1965 Mako Shark II
His execution of Bill Mitchell’s idea for the Mako Shark II gave the styling cues that lead directly to the next generation Corvette in 1968.
In 1968, former GM executive Bunkie Knudsen joined the Ford Motor Company as its new president. Knudsen recruited Shinoda to come to Ford in hopes of improving the styling and sales of Ford's lineup. During his second brief stint at Ford, Shinoda styled the Mustang that would appear on the streets from 1970 to 1973. When Knudsen was fired from Ford late in 1969, Shinoda left as well.
In his career post-GM and post-Ford, Shinoda opened an independent design firm and did work for GM, Ford, AMC and various aftermarket companies. Larry Shinoda died in 1997 at his home in Michigan of heart failure at age 67.