The 1963 Corvette was a dramatic, exciting breakthrough in American automobile design, engineering and specifications. Its four-wheel independent suspension was as good as any European exotic, and it should have ruled the road courses of the time—and would have, except for Carroll Shelby’s Cobra.
But the Cobra was gone in five years, while the Corvette that GM styling chief Bill Mitchell and engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov unleashed was still around mechanically in 1983.
The ’63 Corvette evolved from a racing car called the Mitchell Sting Ray. Bill Mitchell had replaced Harley Earl as head of GM styling in 1958. Like Duntov, he thought it important to race the ’Vette, so he persuaded Chevy’s general manager Ed Cole to sell him the chassis of the ’57 Corvette SS “mule” for $1. Mitchell then had designer Larry Shinoda create a body for the Sting Ray race car inspired by the sea-creature itself.
Mitchell loved the 1963 “Split-Window” coupe, but Duntov hated the vision-blocking rear and the style was offered only one year.
Somewhat overshadowed was a companion convertible, which featured a new folding top that was so much easier to operate now that the power assist was discontinued.
Convertible buyers had several top and color combinations from which to choose. A black fabric top was standard, and 3,448 cars were so equipped. For the same price, a customer could select a color-matched fiberglass hard top instead, and for $237, the buyer could add the body-colored fiberglass hard top in addition to the soft top. Folding tops also came in beige and white at no extra charge.
In 1963, the Corvette trunk was eliminated to allow room for a repositioned gas tank, which in turn made room for the new independent rear suspension.
All ’63 ’Vettes had front fenders with two long non-functional louvers—the “barbecue grilles.” The rear deck still had a ’62-style look, but the rest of the car was new. Hide-away headlights enhanced the car’s aerodynamics. Inside were circular gauges with black faces. There was storage space under the seats of early ’63 models.
Firsts for ’63 ’Vettes included optional knockoff wheels, air-conditioning and leather seats. As in 1962, Chevrolet offered four engines, all based on the small-block 327. The cars came with 250-, 300-, 340-, and 360-hp ratings. The 360-hp job carried Rochester fuel injection.
The beautiful example offered here is the best that Corvette could offer in 1963. It is equipped with the top-of-the-line 327-ci, 360-hp, fuel-injected small-block V8 engine, backed up by a close-ratio 4-speed transmission. The power windows may surprise some collectors, but there was dispute at the time as to whether they were lighter than wind-up mechanisms.
This car is represented as a matching-numbers example, evidenced by the block deck stamping and the block date casting support. It is one of only 1,110 360-hp fuel-injected Corvette convertibles built in 1963.
An NCRS-judged 96.4-point Top Flight score in August 1991 supports the quality of this early 1990s restoration by Master Works in Madison Heights, Michigan. It has been carefully maintained since and is still in excellent condition. The consignor reports that everything works, even the radio and the clock.
Finished in Saddle Tan with Saddle leather interior, this is a rare and highly collectible example of Corvette’s graduation from the straight-axle years to the fully indpendent Sting Ray. Any 1963 fuel-injected Corvette is a trophy, a welcome addition to any collection, and an exciting car to drive.