1963 Corvette Art Prints
We have an EXCELLENT line of die-cast Corvette engines HERE.
Today, new designs are market researched, but in the ‘50s, it was a seat-of-the-pants approach, driven by men with strong personalities. “Father” of the Corvette, Harley Earl, was the director of GM’s “Art and Color Section.” from 1927 to 1958. His successor, William L. Mitchell picked up the mantle and drove the Corvette where Earl never imagined. The Sting Ray design began in ‘57 as the Q-Corvette concept and morphed into Mitchell’s weekend warrior Stingray Racer. Mitchell wanted to go racing, and do some informal market research. By ‘59, the Corvette was due for a change and Mitchell had the design already worked out. Late in ‘59, Mitchell assigned stylist Larry Shinoda to make a full-size, clay coupe version the Stingray Racer. By April ‘60 a second full-size clay model was shown to a stunned upper management and approved as a 1963 model. This left engineers and designers just 2-1/2 years to build a real car.
The Sting Ray story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Mitchell’s split-window coupe design. Duntov hated it, as did some owners that cut the bar out and replaced the glass with plexi! Duntov and Mitchell got into a tiff one day when Zora expressed his disapproval because the split obstructed the driver’s rear view. Mitchell, incensed that a lowly engineer on a low-volume car would tell HIM how to design, called Duntov “Zorro” and Duntov called Mitchell a “red-faced baboon!” According to Larry Shinoda, Zora was persona non grata in Mitchell’s territory for a while.
Another development happened during this time. Jaguar showed their new XK-E with four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes at the ‘61 New York International Show, raising the technology bar between the two competitors. Duntov had been lusting for IRS and disc brakes since ‘57, so he needed no convincing,. By December ‘61, the design for the all-new body, chassis, suspension, and interior was completed and approved by management. They now had nine months to work out the details.
While the production C1’s X-frame was sufficiently strong, the new ladder-type frame allowed for a lower floor pan, lower seats, and more interior space. While some have criticized the C2 and C3’s simple frame, the design served the Corvette well for 20 years. The new frame was built from pressed steel U-sections that were welded together, painted black, but not zinc plated to prevent rusting.
The front suspension was a carryover from the existing car, using production car parts with a front stabilizer bar, and improved geometry. Steering was the recirculating ball-type with an adjustment for quicker steering. Power steering was also designed into the system. But the magic was in the new rear suspension. The new system used a differential connected to two axle shafts with u-joints on both ends. The outer ends of the shafts were held in position with trailing arms connected to the frame. A transverse leaf spring held the back end up, inboard-mounted shocks controlled jounce and rebound, and an sway-bar keep everything located and aligned. Disc brakes were in development but not yet ready, so drum breaks were used No changes were made for the engine and transmission. The interior was created by a designer that was not allowed to see the rest of the car. Mitchell wanted a completely unique design and whom ever created the Corvette’s classic double eyebrow nailed it. While the trim and execution is dated, the design is still perfect. Everything is perfectly positioned.
Production of the ‘62 Corvette ended in August and on August 21, 1962 at the GM proving grounds, Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen officially showed the new ‘63 Corvette Sting Ray to GM’s management. A few weeks later, production of the new car began. To appreciate the Sting Ray, you have to look at cars offered by Ford, Chrysler, Studebaker, and the other GM divisions. There was NOTHING like the Sting Ray, even from across the pond. The XK-E, 356 Porsche, Ferrari and others are classic beauties, but nothing else had the razor-edged aggressive look of the Sting Ray. Were it not for Bill Mitchell’s Mako Shark-II, the Sting Ray might have evolved into unimagined directions. The Sting Ray was arguably Bill Mitchell’s greatest design and fifty years later, it can still raise temperatures.
Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen was one of the lesser known Corvette angels working inside GM and was a true friend to the Corvette. Semon was the son of former GM president, “Big Bill” Knudsen, but that didn’t put his career on the fast track. A a teenager, Semon asked for a car, so his Dad gave him a brand new car... in pieces for him to put together. While attending M.I.T. Semon worked summers on GM assembly lines and upon graduation, got a job in a Detroit machine shop as a gofer. It wasn’t until ‘39 that Semon got hired at Pontiac and from there, it only took 17 years to become general manager of Pontiac, which in ‘56 was the weakest of GM’s lines.
From ‘56 to ‘61 Knudsen introduced models including Bonneville, Wide Track, Super Duty, Tri-Power, the OHC engine, the Grand Prix, Tempest, and went NASCAR racing to spice up Pontiac’s image. The turnaround was so dramatic, he was given GM’s flagship division to manage - Chevrolet. Without missing a beat, Knudsen started offering the Z11 Impala, the Super Sport, the Mark IV big-block, and approved the Grand Sport, the ‘63 Z06 and ‘65 factory side exhausts. Yes, Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen was a Corvette angel.
A hard working, car guy executive has to get a few toys, right? And Bunkie got some NICE custom Corvettes! Chevrolet Styling often designed and produced “special cars” for executives. When the ‘63 Sting Ray came out, a special medium blue roadster with a white stripe was built for the father of the Corvette, Harley Earl and was festooned with every possible feature. Plus, what may well be the most exotic street car header side pipes ever made. Knudsen was so taken with the car, he had one made for himself.
Semon’s car was painted Rose Pearl with a white stripe, unique front fender openings for the chrome header side pipes and custom side rocker panels. The stock L76 340-horsepower had extra chrome trim, air conditioning, and a manual 4-speed. To clear the headers, the engine bay was modified and the battery moved to the back of the car. Wheels were the then new, finned aluminum knock-offs. The interior that was especially sweet with seats were shaped like the ‘64 seats and covered in white leather with a maroon stripe. The door panels were white naugahyde with a stainless steel and red trim, and Corvette cross flags emblems. The dash was was red with ‘64 white-on-black gauges and the steering wheel was a custom 2-spoke design with a teak rim. The console insert was red, the carpeting was cranberry red with stainless steel floor grates. This was a very rich-looking car, with plenty of grunt, and a nice bark from the side pipes.
The following year, Knudsen got a custom Corvette coupe. The Cadillac Fire Frost Blue ‘64 Sting Ray Coupe is now part of Mike Yeager’s MY Garage collection. Powered by a 327/365-horsepower L76 engine with air conditioning, and a 4-speed transmission, the Sting Ray barks loud and clear thanks to another set of unique side pipes that are closer to the production ‘65 - ‘67 units, but with a unique cover design. Up front the car was wearing a ‘65 egg crate-style grille, custom bumpers, and a custom hood. Production knockoffs have 2-point spinners, body-colored paint between the ribs, and are mounted on special blue striped Goodyear tires. The interior is trimmed in blue and white with white leather covered high-back seats, white door panels with stainless steel trim, and a white leather covered console. The blue carpeting is Cadillac deep pile with stainless steel floor grates. A teak wood steering wheel and power windows and wing vents round out the interior.
Mrs Knudsen must have asked, “Bunkie, where’s my Corvette?” Florence Knudsen’s ‘64 Corvette was painted Pearl PINK! But this was no Mary Kay car, as this Vette was powered by a preproduction 396 big-block engine with a 2-speed Powerglide. Custom body parts included ‘65 front fender vents, a ‘65-’66 big-block hood, and the six tail light treatment. The interior featured pink leather covered seats, pink door panels with stainless steel trim, and cranberry red carpeting on the lower edge that matched the deep pile floor carpet. The center console, dash and steering wheel rim were painted cranberry red and the gauge surround and glove box door were painted Pearl Pink. Also included was air conditioning, power windows and manual wing vents. Cranberry red seat belts with engraved “FMK” initials on the belt buckles finished off the interior. Mrs Knudsen’s custom Corvette is arguably one of the most unique of all of the factory customized Corvettes.
Although Knudsen did a first class job running Chevrolet, in ‘67 he was passed over for president of GM, with the position going to Ed Cole. Semon left GM in ‘68 to become president of Ford, but 19 months later, Henry Ford II replaced Knudsen with Lee Iacocca. Knudsen went on to become chairman of White Motor Corporation, but his high-performance days were behind him. At least while at the helm of Chevrolet, he got to enjoy some amazing Corvettes. - KST
If you’re ever in the mood for some cheap fun, go to an automotive auction. The auctioneer’s sing-song delivery is designed to get the audience excited, and it works. At these events, it’s not the cars that get revved up; it’s the crowd. In January 2009, attendees of the Mecum Muscle Cars & More Auction got to witness the historic ‘63 “Gulf One” racing Z06 Corvette sell for $1.113 million. While that’s not the highest price ever paid for a Corvette at auction, it was more than enough to drive the audience wild. After all, any time a 46-year-old car that cost approximately $5,975 new sells for over a million dollars, it’s an exciting thing. (You can watch an 8-minute video of the auction on YouTube). In addition to the sale, there were three surprises that came out of the auction itself.
The first came in the form of the man who probably spent more time behind the wheel of the car than any other driver, 88-year-old Dr. Dick “The Flying Dentist” Thompson. Thompson is a man of few words, and when asked about his time with Gulf One, he simply said, “I enjoyed driving this car very much. It sure looks a lot better now than when I was racing. A little work’s been done on it. I had hoped to drive this car at Le Mans, but it didn’t work out that way. It would have done real well, I think. It was a great car to drive.”
Pardon us, Dr. Thompson, but did you say, “Le Mans”? That was the second big surprise. Z06 authority Eric Gill presented a newly discovered internal Chevrolet document indicating that the Gulf One Z06 was slated to be raced at the French event in 1963. In the end GM decided to enforce its ban on racing, killing the trip.
The last surprise was the car’s selling price. While the reserve was met, the owners were hoping for much more. After all, in August 2008 the Gulf One No. 2 ’62 racer sold at auction for a whopping $1.485 million. Still, the ‘63 Gulf One car was the first ’63 Z06 to sell for over $1 million. And considering that the seller bought the car in August ‘04 for $467,000, I’d say he made out okay.
Let’s have a look at what made this car so special. The ‘63 Z06 option was a “racer kit” and was never intended to be used on the street. But like the L88 kits from 1967 to 1969, I’m sure a few of these cars were used mainly as street drivers. Of the 199 Z06s built in 1963, only 124 had the radio/defroster delete option, and only 63 had the oversized 36-gallon fuel tank. Then there was the issue of price. The base price of a ‘63 coupe was $4,257. The Z06 option added $1,818, bringing the total to $6, 075. By comparison a ’63 SS Impala could be purchased for around $3,200. Later in 1963, it was discovered that the Z06’s new cast-aluminum knockoff wheels were having problems holding tire pressure. They were removed from the package, lowering the option’s price to $1,293.
Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov designed the Z06 package to take advantage of the Sting Ray’s new chassis and four-wheel independent suspension. The option provided a platform upon which a racer could, with good preparation, have a competitive Corvette race car. It included the 360hp L84 “Fuelie” 327 engine, an M-20 four-speed transmission, higher-rate front and rear springs, heavy-duty shocks and stabilizer bars, a 36-gallon fuel tank, and finned aluminum knock-off wheels. Most elaborate was the braking system, which included finned aluminum drums, internal cooling fans, vented back plates, cerametallic linings, and a dual-circuit master cylinder.
The new Corvette Sting Ray with its racer kit was supposed to keep the Corvette in the winner’s circle the way it had been for the three previous years. But there was a problem in the form of the Shelby Cobras. In retrospect, the two cars should never have been in the same class, given the Cobra’s 1,000-pound weight advantage.
Despite creditable performances in SCCA A/Production racing by the Grady Davis–campaigned Gulf One Corvette and others, the Cobras stole the Sting Rays’ thunder. But Duntov knew how to take care of his best racers. Of the 14 Z06 cars assigned by Duntov to be loaned to select teams, Davis received two. The Gulf One car illustrated here saw more track action than any of the other “assigned” Z06s. The car’s first outing was at the 1963 Puerto Rico Grand Prix, where Thompson drove it to its first class win. In January 1963 it won at the Refrigerator Bowl in Marlboro, Maryland. The car was then prepared for FIA rules, to race at the Daytona Continental and Sebring. Thompson drove it to Third overall and First in GT3 at Daytona, but the transmission broke at the Sebring race in March. Thompson went on to score wins at the SCCA’s President’s Cup race in Marlboro; in the A/Production class at Danville, Virginia; and at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Like most race cars, the Gulf One ’63 was bought and sold many times. Interest in the ‘63 Z06s was pretty much gone until the moniker came back in 2001. Today, the Gulf One ‘63 takes its place in the survivors’ club of Corvette-racing history. - KST
There’s nothing quite like a surprise at a birthday party. On April 24, 2009, at the National Corvette Museum’s C5/C6 Registry Birthday Bash, GM officials floored the audience with the unveiling of the 2010 Grand Sport Corvette. The last time we saw a Grand Sport was more than 13 years ago, in 1996. Times were very different then, as the C4 was making its last appearance. Spy photos of the C5 were all over the car magazines, so Chevrolet’s challenge was maintaining customer interest in a car that was in its final year of production. The solution came in two parts: the Collector Edition—a special paint-and-trim option—and the stunning Grand Sport model. The Admiral Blue Grand Sport—with its white center stripes, red hash marks, black wheels, and other assorted details—was an instant classic. Production was limited to just 1,000 units, and the $3,250 price made it the most expensive option for the ‘96 Corvette. But after six years of the $31,000-plus ZR-1 package, the Grand Sport seemed like a bargain. Since then, the C4 Grand Sport “look” has been applied to all sorts of Corvettes, with many delightful results.
But the Grand Sport story goes back much further than 1996. In fact, it stretches back 34 years, to late 1962 and a test session at Riverside Raceway. It was there that a disheartened Zora Arkus-Duntov saw his latest effort come up short against a formidable new challenge: the Shelby Cobra. Duntov and his team were “field testing” a new ’63 Sting Ray equipped with their latest racer kit, the Z06 option. Since 1957 Duntov had made sure that Corvette racers had an excellent foundation for competition. The 283 fuelie engine provided plenty of grunt, while RPO 684 provided suspension and braking improvements. The package was very successful and was the foundation for Corvette dominance in several SCCA racing classes. Duntov was very happy with the performance of the Z06-equipped ’63, thanks to a new frame that allowed the engine and driveline to sit lower, improving the car’s center of gravity. The four-wheel independent suspension was far superior to the earlier layout, which was described by many racers as, “stab ‘n’ steer.” While most drivers were able to adjust their driving style to fit the Corvette’s unique handling characteristics, it was still a crude way of getting around the track. Many a track official had his wits scared out of him by a Corvette coming around a curve sideways, seemingly out of control. But the presence of the Cobra stopped the new Corvette in its tracks. Duntov and his crew had expected to be several steps ahead of the competition with their new car. Instead, they found themselves seriously outclassed. But Duntov always had another plan.
What happened then could never have taken place in the modern era. Fortunately, Duntov had very powerful friends at the top of GM’s food chain—namely, Ed Cole and Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen. It was Cole who hired Duntov in 1953 with instructions to do something with the fledgling Corvette. And although Knudsen was the son of William “Big Bill” Knudsen, the man responsible for GM’s quick turnaround during the war effort in 1940, he was no privileged rich kid. Knudsen learned the car business from the bottom up, working on the assembly line during his summer breaks from college. He also liked fast cars and was solidly behind Duntov’s racing efforts, so he understood the Corvette chief engineer’s dilemma with the new Sting Ray and the quicker Cobra. The obvious solution to level the playing field was to build a lightweight Corvette. Knudsen agreed and approved Duntov’s ambitious plans for the Grand Sport model. While the move might not seem like a big deal today, in 1962 GM was on board with the infamous AMA ban on factory-supported racing. The Grand Sport proposal was in direct violation of the ban and ran counter to GM’s official position. Duntov knew it, and Cole and Knudsen looked the other way.
Knudsen approved the construction of six lightweight Corvettes of Duntov’s design. After the six initial cars, 125 more Grand Sports were to be built to qualify for FIA homologation. Another 1,000 units would be produced for public consumption.
Duntov started with what was then a state-of-the-art ladder-type frame made from large-diameter steel tubing. The front suspension was similar to, but much lighter than, the stock Corvette setup. The rear suspension used the new Sting Ray independent design, but with an aluminum differential and drilled-out trailing arms. Girling disc brakes were used with Halibrand lightweight magnesium wheels and contemporary racing tires. The body was very close to the production Sting Ray, but used much thinner fiberglass. The final weight of the new Grand Sport was around 2,000 pounds. Duntov had several exotic small-block engines in development, including one with hemi-style heads, another with double overhead cams, and even an all-aluminum fuelie. But none of Duntov’s exotic engines were anywhere close to being ready for competition, so a slightly modified 360hp fuelie was installed for initial shakedown runs. The first versions of the car looked almost stock, but by the time the Grand Sports arrived for the Nassau Speed Week races, they had a full complement of flares, scoops, and fat tires. The cars looked tough and pounded the Cobras. Then GM’s top brass found out and killed the program—officially, anyway.
It’s amazing that Duntov wasn’t fired on the spot, but as I mentioned earlier, he had friends in high places at GM. Even more amazing was that the cars were not sent to the crusher. Grand Sports 003, 004, and 005 boasted 377ci aluminum small-blocks that breathed through four 58mm Weber carbs each and made 485 hp. Cars 001 and 002, meanwhile, had been converted to roadsters. When GM discontinued the program, the cars began passing from racer to racer, as various privateers tried to make the Grand Sport into a serious competitor. But the mid-’60s were a time of tremendous advancement in race-car technology, and in just four years, the Grand Sports were seriously outdated. They had numerous problems that were never fully sorted out, including a terrible front-end lift that would occasionally pull the tires off the ground at high speed. Many famous drivers spent time behind the wheel of a Grand Sport, including A.J. Foyt, Augie Pabst, Jim Hall, Dick Thompson, and George Winterstein. In 1967 Alan Sevadjian bought one of the cars for just $7,500. By the 1970s the Grand Sports were all but forgotten and their whereabouts mostly unknown. The cars began to surface in the late-‘70s, and today all five are accounted for. In January 2009, at RM’s Automobiles of Arizona, Grand Sport 002, one of the two roadsters, was a no-sale at $4.9 million.
Fast-forward to 1996, and the revival of the Grand Sport option. Obviously the C4 edition couldn’t be a lightweight, tube-chassis racer. But it was an extremely well-executed collection of off-the-shelf parts. Under the hood was the new LT4 engine, an enhanced version of the base LT1 that made an additional 30 hp (up to 330 total) with basic hot-rod hardware. These included a higher (10.8:1) compression ratio, new aluminum heads with bigger ports and valves, a revised camshaft, Crane roller rocker arms, and higher-flow fuel injectors. The new engine redlined at 6,300 rpm and had an 8,000-rpm tach. All 1,000 Grand Sports were painted with Admiral Blue paint and had a wide white stripe that ran from the nose to the tail. The ZR-1–style 17-inch wheels were painted black, and flares originally developed for the Japanese export market were installed on the rear fenders. As a salute to the Grand Sport racers, red hash marks were applied to the left front fender. The Z51 suspension option was available to stiffen up the car’s handling. Of the 1,000 cars built, 810 were coupes and 190 were convertibles. (The latter didn’t have the wider tires and the rear fender flares.) Priced at $3,250 for the coupe and $2,880 for the droptop, option Z16 became an instant classic. These days, show organizers like to put all the C4 Grand Sports together in rows, where they make for a dazzling presentation.
The C6 Grand Sport is a completely different animal. The base LS3 engine produces 430 hp—100 more than the old LT4. The new option fits neatly between the base Corvette and the Z06 and is available on both coupe and convertible models, in all color combinations. Oddly enough, the signature fender hash marks are optional. Perhaps most notable are the Z06 body panels, which include front and rear flared fenders, a front air-splitter, and a rear spoiler. The rear brake-cooling scoops are functional, but the front nose scoop is not. Visually separating the Grand Sport from the Z06 are a set of revised front-fender vents, with their ’67-inspired vertical slats. Model-specific five-spoke wheels are available in silver, Competition Gray, or chrome. The fronts measure 9.5 x 18 inches and are shod with Goodyear F1 run-flat tires sized 275/35ZR18. The 12 x 19-inch rears, meanwhile, get massive 325/30ZR19s. The front brakes have been enhanced with cross-drilled 14-inch front rotors and six-piston calipers, while the rears boast 13.5-inch rotors with four-piston binders. All four calipers are painted silver and wear red “Corvette” lettering.
Since the Grand Sport replaces the Z51 Performance Option, all of the Z51 goodies—heavy-duty springs, shocks, and stabilizer bars, along with coolers for the engine oil, transmission fluid, and steering fluid—are included. Additionally, all six-speed manual cars come with the Z52 option, which adds a dry-sump oil system, a rear-mounted battery, and a differential cooler. Manual cars also receive a new launch-control system. This system allows the driver to simply floor the gas, at which point the computer automatically selects the optimum launch rpm. All that’s left for the driver to do is drop the clutch and start shifting. All of the standard Corvette options are available on the Grand Sport, including four trim packages and the Dual Mode Exhaust System. Priced at $55,720 for the coupe and $59,530 for the convertible, the new Grand Sport is still around $15,000 less than a Z06. Zero-to-60 times clock in at 4 seconds flat, with quarter-miles in the low 13s or better. The car generates 1.0g on the skidpad and has an EPA rating of 26 mpg on the highway. Top speed is between 185 and 190 mph, making the latest Grand Sport faster than even the old racing versions.
For at least the first 20 years of its existence, the Corvette was always a hair’s breadth away from being canceled. Thanks to dedicated engineers like Duntov, McClellan, Hill, Juechter, and many others, the C6 Grand Sport can take its place among the greats of Corvette history. - KST
Corvette racers never had a better friend than Zora Arkus-Duntov. For the most part, Zora was good at sidestepping GM’s “we don’t race” edict. For those who knew what to look for, there were always plenty of “heavy-duty” and “off-road” options for Corvettes. As the new Sting Ray was being prepared for the ’63 launch, Duntov assembled the most advanced Corvette box racer to that date - the Z06.
By the late ‘50s, the solid-axle Corvettes had established themselves as competitive race cars. Underneath the all-new Sting Ray body was the real breakthrough: a four-wheel, independent suspension. The fuel-injected small-block engine had been opened up to 327-cid in ’62 and now packed 360-horsepower. The all-new suspension of the Sting Ray was essential to better use the extra power on the race track.
Racing packages have never been cheap. The Z06 package was the most expensive Corvette offered to that date. Costing $1,818, the Z06 option was very pricey. But there were other options that were mandatory for the Z06. Those options included the L84 Fuel-Injected 327, the close-ratio 4-speed transmission, and the positraction rear axle. These goodies added an extra $661, for a complete price of $2,479, on top of the $4,252 base price of the car. Then, with a few other extras, tax, tags, registration, etc,. buyers were looking at a $7,000 Corvette in 1963! You could buy a loaded ‘63 SS Impala for just over $3,000.
The hardware included in the Z06 package was amazing advanced for its time. With plenty of power on tap, most of the Z06 extras were designed to enhance the suspension and brakes - critical elements for racing. The front suspension had stiffer shocks, beefier springs, and a thicker, .94-inch stabilized bar. The rear suspension had a 7-leaf transverse spring - two more than the stock setup. To fit the larger 7.75 x 15 racing tires, the rear inner wheelwells were wider. The knock-off alloy wheels were an on, and off, and on again part of the Z06 package. Not all Z06 cars had the knockoff wheels. To reduce the number of pit stops, a 36.5-gallon fiberglass gas tank was included. Interestingly, this part of the Z06 would remain an option through to ’67.
But the real advancement could be found in the car’s race-designed braking system. Many of the older Corvette race cars had less than inadequate brakes. The system was completely new, from its vacuum-assisted, dual-circuit master cylinder to its finned brake drums. Each brake had a cooling fan built onto the hub, and the front units were further cooled by external air scoops. To complete the new cooling system, each drum featured five vent holes. The cerametallix brake pads were not for street use and almost useless until heated up. While the ’63 Z06 was theoretically streetable, it was noisy, hard-riding car away from the race track.
For a mass-produced sports car, this was an impressive package that should have propelled the new Sting Ray into the winner’s circle with considerable frequency. Unfortunately, there was another race machine being built at the time by a Texas chicken farmer/racer named Carroll Shelby. Shelby’s little Cobra had as much power as the Corvette and weighed 1,000 pounds less. But because they were both considered “production cars,” the Vette and the Cobra competed in the same class. Mickey Thompson raced one of the first six Z06 cars and won the L.A. Times Three Hour International in October, 1963. It was a default win, however, as the leading Shelby Cobra broke.
Meanwhile, back in his private skunkworks, Duntov was working on a Cobra-killer. It was called the “Grand Sport.” - K. Scott Teeters
The automotive world had never seen anything like it before. Zora Arkus-Duntov expressed it best when he said, “For the first time, I now can have a Corvette I can be proud to drive in Europe.”
The 1963 Corvette stunned everyone, and not just with its one-of-a-kind looks. Everything “worked” like a carefully planned symphony. The engine and transmission had received a healthy boost in ‘62, aside from that, everything else was completely new. To fully appreciate the ‘63 Corvette. You have to look at regular cars from ‘63. There was nothing else in the American market that had the mechanical or styling edge that the new Corvette had.
Styling direction had been defined with the ill-fated ‘57 Q-Corvette project. But Chief of Styling, Bill Mitchell, loved Corvettes and considered them his personal “pet” cars. Bill took the Q-Corvette styling direction and used it for his privately financed Stingray racer. Aside from being a successful race car in ‘58 and ‘59, the public loved its good looks. So in the Fall of ‘59, the XP-720 prototype was started in Studio X, with the help of young designer, Larry Shinoda.
Enthusiasts got everything they wanted. But unlike the ‘53 Corvette, this machine had the right hardware to backup its aggressive looks. The new ladder-style frame was lighter and more rigid than the old ‘50s design. The coupe version actually had a steel cage roll-bar built into the frame. The parameter frame allowed the interior to sit lower, helping to lower the car’s center of gravity. The fully independent suspension reduced unsprung weight and gave the car superior handling over the older solid-axle cars. Finned brake drums with metallic linings offered outstanding, fade-free braking.
With a coupe or a roadster to choose from, it was almost too good to be true. The split-window coupe caused quite a stir and only lasted one year. The Corvette had finally arrived and had nothing to apologize for. It had finally become a world-class sports car. - KST
The 1963 Grand Sport is undoubtedly the ultimate "could-have-been" Corvette. Had GM not pulled the plug, this 2,100 pound monster could have been a true snake-killer. But it wasn't to be.
Road racing in America went through a tremendous growth period during the mid-'60s. A competitive race car could be obsolete in only two years. Duntov and his crew secretly designed and built five Grand Sports early in 1962. The three Grand Sport Coupes got enough attention at their debut race in Nassau, that GM brass ordered the program halted.
The 1963 Sting Ray was one of the few Corvettes that was a smash hit right out of the box. American car magazines were falling all over the new Sting Ray and rightfully so. There was nothing like it anywhere.
The 1963 Grand Sport is arguably the ultimate "could-have-been" Corvette. Had GM not pulled the plug, this 2,100 pound monster could have been a true snake-killer. But it wasn't to be.
Grand Sport's problem wasn't a lack of hardware or technical assistance, it was political. The problem began with the 1957 Automobile Manufacturers Association ban on factory-supported racing. At first, Ford, GM and Chrysler complied, but by 1960 Ford and Pontiac were developing racing programs despite the AMA ban. In June of 1962, Ford and Chrysler announced that they would ignore the AMA ban and openly develop racing programs.
At Chevrolet, Duntov was watching. Zora figured that if Pontiac was developing the Super Duty program, and other groups in Chevrolet were developing the Mark II Mystery Motor, he should be working on a real racing version of the 1963 Stingray. This specially developed, all-out race car would be homologated in the FIA as a GT Class production car.
To be "legal" in the FIA, Chevrolet had to make at least 100 cars to qualify as "production cars." Unfortunately, only five coupes were built. Two years later, two were made into open roadsters. The target weight was 1,900 pounds with an all-aluminum 377 small-block making 550 horsepower! This was an all-out, strictly racing, not-meant-for- public highways, 180-mph Cobra eater!
The body was almost stock except for the nose and rear window. After its initial outing in '63 the G.S. grew all sorts of flairs, scoops and bulges. Under the thin fiberglass body was a twin tube chassis with a stock independent rear and hand made front suspension. The interior looked stock, except for the racing bucket seats, roll cage, and 200 mph speedometer! The car's best effort was the 1963 Nassau Speed Week where they stunned the Shelby team and won!
GM axed the car in January 1963. The Grand Sports were sold and raced independently, and are now fully restored. Kit versions are so right on, it's easy to mistake a replicar for the real thing. However, replicars can be made streetable. - K. Scott Teeters