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As a kid, Tony Jennes liked to play with clay. He loved molding and shaping it into exotic, futuristic things like spaceships, skyscrapers and sports cars. As he grew, sculpting vehicles became his passion and then a profession where his fun, futuristic models now take shape into real-world designs that inspire imagination and excitement.
That’s how his latest project—the Corvette Manta Ray—came to land on the floor of last year’s SEMA show in Las Vegas. With his artful design eye and clay-modeling skills, Tony was able to resurrect the late 1950s show car—a predecessor to the extraordinarily popular Corvette Sting Ray—by adding a flair for the dramatic and a color that pleases the eye of all who admire it.
As one of his first major projects undertaken by his company, RideSkinz Custom Automotive Design, Tony was able to transform the already awesome design of the Corvette C7 into a stylized replica of the classic Manta Ray.
“I remembered that Chevrolet built the Manta Ray, Mako Shark and Sting Ray concept cars in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s and that seemed like the direction to go,” said Jennes, whose background includes doing design projects for major automotive companies such as Toyota, Suzuki and others. “I took the new C7 and added some updated design cues and inspiration from both the older concept cars as well as the new Stingray concept introduced at the Detroit Auto Show and in the Transformers movie, and wanted to update it with a more modern look.”
By adding a larger, lower grille opening and two “nostril” intake ports to the front bumper, Jennes was able to combine the new Stingray concept front bumper openings with the 1950’s Corvette concave door scallops. Side splitters were an addition that made the car look even more aggressive with a lower stance, and canards and winglets on the back side of the splitters provide a more aerodynamic flow and add to the car “cool” factor.
“The idea behind the rear bumper was to make it look similar to the Manta Ray animal tail section and stinger,” said Jennes, who comes from a family of designers. “The upper stinger-like spoiler was pulled up and back as far as it could go without being too obnoxious for interfering with the driver’s rear view. I think I pulled the bumper back from the original a good 2-3 inches. The Manta Ray logo was added in the same location where the old Corvette logo originally was placed.”
He says that he got the idea for the rear stripe from the 1969 Baldwin Motion Phase III GT Corvette and for the color, Jennes confides that it came from a very basic source: the 3M painter’s tape that he striped the car with to start.
“I wanted an ocean theme,” he said, “and the azure blue of the painter’s tape was an exact match.
“There are many other details that were added to the car, like custom grille inserts on the good, front fenders, rear fenders and tail light surrounds,” Jennes added. “It’s definitely a car that you need to see in person to appreciate all of the details.”
The public finally got a chance to see the finished Manta Ray at the 2014 SEMA show, just days after Jennes put on the final touches.
“I started this build in July 2014 and finished a couple days before the SEMA show started in early November,” he said. “During this whole process I was looking for sponsors, especially for wheels. I had many replies from several companies, but we finally arrived at the Rennen/Donz Yakuza wheels since they were pretty lightweight, made in the U.S.A. and they looked really cool. The guys at Rennen were extremely helpful with getting the wheels powder-coated with tires installed on the car and even offered us placement in their booth at the SEMA show.”
The RedSkinz Corvette Manta Ray is currently gliding its way to a select few of auto design shows, drawing attention and awe from enthusiasts wherever it lands.