In the 60s, Mitchell promoted what he called the "sheer look, " a more aerodynamic, "shoulderless" drop off from a car's windows to its sides.
Mitchell gave GM designers the assignment of combining Rolls Royce and Ferrari styling cues to create Buick's classic 1963 Riviera. According to a popular story, Mitchell got the idea for the Riviera in Paris. He had originally envisaged the design for Cadillac Division, as a new La Salle, "a baby Cadillac". The Riviera also featured frameless glass in the front doors, giving hardtops an even sleeker look. An encounter with a shark, while skin diving in the Bahamas, inspired Mitchell's Corvette Shark show car, his SS racer and the production 1963 Corvette Stingray, largely designed by Larry Shinoda, under Mitchell's direction.1963 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe featured what is sometimes referred to as "Coke bottle" styling. For its first model year it included a split rear window (with a pillar in the middle), though the 1964-1967 coupes would feature a solid plane of curved glass instead.
Mitchell's fondness for split rear windows as featured on the 1957 Buick and on the 1963 Corvette Stingray coupe was not shared by his some of fellow stylists or the buying public and both cars dropped the feature after public resistance. The split rear window on the would be eliminated (and re-worked into one pane of curved glass) for the 1964 Corvette coupe. The 1963-1967 Stingray (in both coupe and roadster editions), with its slightly bulged front and rear quarter-panels, would be one of the first General Motors cars to feature what came to be known as "Coke bottle" styling, creating an aggressive and muscular look.
1970sThe 1977 Cadillac Sedan de Ville featured slightly downsized styling influenced by the 1975 Cadillac Seville
During the 1973-74 energy crisis, which brought on a greater demand for smaller cars in place of the larger cars that had been GM's bread and butter profit machine for decades, Mitchell oversaw the styling and design efforts of GM's downsized full-sized and intermediate-sized cars which were introduced in 1977 and 1978, respectively, some of the last designs that he would lead—and all based on themes first developed in his 1975 Cadillac Seville. However, when it came to compact and subcompact cars, Mitchell, who often struggled with alcoholism, reflected that "Small cars are like vodka. Sure people will try them out but they won't stay with them."
Mitchell stepped down as chief stylist in July 1977 following his 65th birthday.
Following his retirement from General Motors, Mitchell ran William L. Mitchell Design, a private design-consulting firm, from 1977 to 1984. He was a vocal critic of the new fourth-generation Corvette's styling, which he referred to as "bland."
Awards and recognition
Bill Mitchell was inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame by the National Corvette Museum in 1998.
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- Winding-Sørensen, Jon (2003-06-09). "75 years of General Motors Design: Bill Mitchell - The Car Guy". Car Design News. Car Design News, Inc. Archived from the original on 2010-11-13. He hated all the chrome, he hated the fat fins, he hated the excesses...
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- "Corvette Stingray Creator William L. Mitchell Dies". Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company. 1988-09-18. Archived from the original on 2010-11-13. A vice president of design at General Motors for 19 years, Mr. [William L. Mitchell] molded the appearance of hundreds of car models, including the 1963 Buick Riviera and the 1970 Camaro. His designs were transformed into more than 72.5 million automobiles, according to GM.
- "Mitchell, William L.". GM Heritage Center. General Motors. 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-11-13. Bill Mitchell developed a love for automobiles and a remarkable talent for sketching them at an early age.
- "Salute to William L. Mitchell - Vice President - General Motors Design". General Motors Design Impact (General Motors Corporation). July 1977. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-11-13.
- "William L. Mitchell Biography". Automobile in American Life and Society. Dearborn, Michigan: Automobile in American Life and Society. 2004. Archived from the original on 2010-11-13. After his retirement from General Motors, Mitchell operated a private design consulting firm, William L. Mitchell Design, from 1977 to 1984.
- "William L. Mitchell, Auto Executive, 76". New York Times. New York, New York: The New York Times Company. 1988-09-15. Archived from the original on 2010-11-13. William L. Mitchell, a former vice president for design at the General Motors Corporation, died of heart failure Monday at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.
- Crippen, David R. (1985). "The Reminiscences of William L. Mitchell". Automobile in American Life and Society. Dearborn, Michigan: Automobile in American Life and Society. Archived from the original on 2010-11-13.
- Cantey, Mark R. (January 2008). Driving Style: GM Design’s First Century (Hardcover ed.). United States of America: MRC Publishing, Inc. 978-0-932128-07-2.