The History of Shark-Inspired Cars

The Discovery channel promotes its Shark Week every year for the last 30 years. People look forward to mid-summer to get their fix on shark shows. Automakers have designed some strange things over the years and other dream cars. Some were a little embarrassing, and others became icons. 

Many people don’t know that automotive designers use sharks and fish to inspire some of their creations. From shark inspired clothing to fish-themed cars, products are using animals in nature to sell their items. CNN Business author explains why there’s so much fascination with using sharks as inspiration for their designs. 

Why did designers use sharks as inspiration?

There’s a concept known as biomimicry, which means mimicking nature. Product designers turn to animals and fish when coming up with ideas for cars or other items. Then they do their research to find out how they get their speed or behavior. 

Often, automakers turn to the ocean to get inspired by fish or sharks more commonly. What makes them fast, or what gives them their powerful looks? They use the data they gather to come up with a way to mimic that in their product. 

To get an edge on their competitors, auto designers will use innovative ways to increase their cars’ speed. They get their inspiration from animals and fish and what they do in nature without technology. 

Shark-like vehicles produced from 1938 to 1974

MotorTrend lists out some vehicles from the past, and sharks inspired that. One of the first shark-inspired vehicles that popped up came in 1938. The Graham-Paige Shark Nose, fashioned after a shark’s snout, had fixed headlamps that recessed into the front fender and skirted wheel wells. Production stopped just a few years later, but some of its stylings lived on in other cars, like the 1941 Nash. 

Chevy had plans to release the second-generation Corvette Stingray in 1963, but they wanted to give consumers a tease of its styling before that. So, in 1961, they released the “Mako Shark,” which was a C2 Corvette Convertible that they outfitted with some shark-inspired touches. There were side-exit exhausts on both the front sides of the vehicle and lines in the front fender. Both of which looked like shark’s gills.

From 1964 to 1974, Plymouth produced the Barracuda. This serpentine inspired vehicle was a muscle car adorned with a “toothy grin” on the car’s grille. Powering it up was a powerful V8 engine, which gave it plenty of speed. The real Barracuda was a fish that had ferocious behavior, was fast, and would challenge any enemy even if they were twice its size. 

Shark inspired cars built from 1992 to the present

In 1992, a new car came out called the TVR Chimaera, which was named after a fish related to the shark family. Also known as the “Ghost Shark,” this fish got its name from a Greek mythological creature. The car was a two-seat convertible that borrowed some styling design from its popular Griffith model. But they built it to be a sportier model with a smoother ride. The production ended on the Chimaera in 2003.

In 1998, Hyundai released its Tiburon car. The Tiburon, Spanish for “Shark,” was a 140 hp four-cylinder compact sports coupe. There wasn’t too much to its styling that screamed shark-like. But there were enough curves and rounded design that it at least hinted to fishlike elements. 

Smithsonian magazine article talks about the McLaren P1 hypercar. The design of this vehicle came from a chance encounter with a mounted sailfish on a hotel wall. After finding out that sailfish could travel as fast as 68 mph, he went to work designing a vehicle that would travel faster with an air boost, much like what the fish did naturally. 

Shark Week on the Discovery Channel always flames the curiosity of these powerful and aggressive creatures. While real sharks bite and draw blood, these shark-themed cars will only draw your attention. 

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