The first-generation Corvette was an excellent convertible, but it only offered cloth as the sole protection from the elements. A removable hardtop was available, and that had the fame of being a particularly annoying challenge to put on or take off.
Secondly, the headlights were no longer visible –not when they weren’t needed. The designers scraped the mainstream fashion of fiddling with the arrangement of the front lights across the fascia. Instead, General Motors reintroduced rotating housings, thus ending the twenty-year period of American carmaking during which cars had their headlamps in the open.
That decision turned the 1963 models into Holy Grails for collectors, particularly as the years passed. Chevrolet even offered single-piece rear window kits to customers who wanted to give their 1963 Corvette a cosmetic surgery. This only adds to the car’s value-over-time ascending curve, because there are now even fewer surviving original two-window Corvettes.
While the exterior changes were enticing, the interior was even more appealing, with contoured bucket seats, air conditioning, and a radio. The overall build quality also sharply increased, effectively putting the C2 alongside or above its European rivals.
One engine size was available, the 327 cubic-inch V8 (5.4 liters), but the small-block came in four different states of tune, ranging from a tamed 250-hp (253 PS) and 350 lb-ft (475 Nm) of torque to the fuel-injected 360-hp (365 PS) / 352 lb-ft (477 Nm) athlete. Two more choices were available – both with carburetion fuel systems – that delivered 300 and 340 hp (304 and 345 PS) and 360 and 344 lb-ft (488 and 466 Nm), respectively.
Also, fully independent suspension made its Corvette debut in 1963, with rear brakes mounted inboard to reduce unsprung weight. Three transmissions were available, the Muncie three-speed and four-speed manual (which came in either wide- or close-ratio setups) and the three-speed Powerglide automatic.
And one of those mean machines from 1963 was no stranger to dragstrips. After it attended the 1967 NHRA Nationals, its owner sold it to a high-school graduate in 1968 (that’s one helluva graduation present!). The new young owner continued the racing tradition, improving the car in several “minor” aspects.
For example (and drag racing), he swapped the 327 with a 427 big-block and shod the split-window with wrinkle-wall slicks. That’s right; the seven-liter ogre was the meteoric L88 build sheet option, the volcano that would get the front end off the ground when launched correctly. That’s what the owner claims – the same man that bought this Corvette 55 years ago.
Sadly, the L88 is no longer under the hood – but the bulging hood is still around, just as the flexible race slicks. The five-and-a-half-decade-long owner added his personal touch – a glass door knob now adorns the shifter, and a modern-day Bluetooth and USB sound system sits in the glove box.
Or should I say “occupies the glove box” because there is no more room for anything else? Regardless, the car runs and drives just as great as it looks. The black livery – also a changeover from the factory-original Tan – is probably the greatest choice for this model year. The original engine is not present – and we don’t know if it was replaced before the 1968 change of hands – but a date-correct 327 roars in the engine bay.
The seller says the ’63 Corvettes weren’t classics when he bought it fifty-five years ago, but the Sting Ray immediately impacted the market. When the then-new model came out, the first-generation Corvettes increased in value to such an extent that top-tier 1953-to-1962 models surpassed their original sale price.