I have read many, many books about Corvette and those who have shaped Corvette since it was first designed and built under the direction of Harley Earl in 1952. My wife thinks it's an unhealthy obsession. Might be. The point of this is to say that I have never read a single reference to the Experimental Project - 719 until earlier this year.
Renner on left and Shinoda on the right
To my surprise, the XP-179 was the First Mid-engine Corvette Concept designed in 1959 and completed in 1960. There is VERY little known about it. The pics were found in the Petersen Museum archives with some notes written on the back containing all that is known at this time. Because all of the principle players are gone, because GM had a policy of destroying concepts at the time, AND because no one has ever mentioned seeing it in the GM archives, the XP-719 was probably destroyed.
We know that Zora had built and begun testing the CERV I with an Indycar type body and a rear mid-engine placement early in 1959. Some speculate that the 719 is a body designed to fit over the CERV I. If Zora had done more research and obtained his Indy 500 driver's license and IF GM had allowed him to enter the CERV I in the 500, AND if it had finished well, perhaps public demand would have demanded a production model. Lots of "ifs."
GM's records show this: XP-719; a V-8 rear-engine Corvette; the “Program Instigated” date of 6-4-59; the car’s location, Advanced #4; and names of the engineers responsible for the car, Renner-Hill.
Carl Renner was one of the most important designers in the General Motors studios of the 1950s. While Harley Earl is given credit for the spectacular designs of this decade, it was men like Renner who really created the design details. Carl is most often associated today with the Corvette. However, he worked in many GM design studios in the 1950s and influenced a number of cars of that decade.
It appears the design could have included a retractable hardtop. Click below to see concept roof in action:
There is an obviously close relationship between the XP-719 and the Stingray racer design about the same time for the C1 chassis. Chicken or the egg? Did Shinoda borrow some of the XP-719 for the Stingray Racer, or did Renner borrow?
Things have changed so much at GM. The top-secret C5 development had an author actually spending time INSIDE GM with the engineers documenting the development of that Corvette generation (read "All Corvettes Are Red"). Yes, you and I are still kept in the dark (mostly) until a public release of a new generation. But the world is smaller and we have learned so much more about the process and development of a new Corvette than the vette fans of the past.