WHEN ELVIS PRESLEY TOOK A BACKSEAT TO CLAMBAKE’S RED HOT ’59 STINGRAY RACER

“For Corvette enthusiasts, the real star of ‘Clambake’ is the 1959 Stingray Racer concept— the car that is said to be the opening design salvo in what became the 1963 Corvette Stingray. While Corvette innovation was experience an exciting acceleration, the days of big money movie deals for Elvis were downshifting. Riffing on the similarity of every Elvis movie to every other Elvis movie, a studio executive once quipped: ‘Why do we bother to give his movies titles – couldn’t they just be numbered?'”

“The ’59 Stingray Racer has its own unique history. Designed by Peter Brock and Larry Shinoda, the chassis was provided from one of Duntov’s 1956 Corvette SS tubular frame racers. GM’s styling chief Bill Mitchell purchased the chassis and then directed and funded the design of the car in Chevrolet’s secretive Studio X. Once completed, Mitchell took the car racing as a privateer. The Stingray Racer was raced in 1960 SCCA competition by The Flying Dentist, Dr. Dick Thompson, who would bring home the C-Modified class championship in the car.

Bill Mitchell with 1959 Corvette Stingray (L) and 1961 Corvette Mako Shark.

Although enthusiasts remember the car mostly in its silver exterior, at one point it was painted red and was provided a new scooped hood which is how it is shown in the movie. One of musical scenes from ‘Clambake’ is called ‘Who Needs Money’ and it features the car with Will Hitchens behind the wheel with Elvis following along on a motorcycle.

GM would reacquire the Stingray Racer from Mitchell and it was restored back to its original configuration with a period-correct 283 V8. Today the car resides at the GM Heritage Center in Michigan, and had been on loan to the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA.” via CorvetteBlogger

Bill Mitchell with 1959 Corvette Stingray

According to unsubstantiated claims, Elvis Presley said that ‘Clambake’ was his least liked movie that he acted in, and his all-time favorite was ‘King Creole’ (1958). 1967 was definitely a tipping point for Elvis, that would see his stardom challenged by a shift in music and cultural tastes.


Elvis Presley had so much debt in early 1967, due to his purchase of a Memphis ranch with up-to-date equipment, that his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, had to sign the contract for this movie in a hurry so that Elvis could get his one million dollar fee. This was the last time Elvis would get the magic million dollars.

While shooting ‘Clambake’ Elvis suffered a serious fall in his bathroom at home, tripping over an electrical cord and striking his head on the porcelain edge of a bathtub. The resultant injury was serious enough that Presley lay unconscious for an unknown length of time, and was briefly hospitalized. The pain-killers he was prescribed to relieve the massive headaches and other effects of his injuries began the drug dependency that was partially blamed for his death a decade later.