Car Show Classic: 1963 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe – Ne Plus Ultra

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(first posted 5/19/2014)     It seems of late that there have been a lot of more, shall we say, prosaic cars on CC? That’s all fine and good, and if you look at the top of the masthead, every car does indeed have a story. But damn it, some cars are just sexier, and there’s nothing like a little zest in your daily fare, no? So, here we go! Time to dive deep into the beauty of the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray, in what may be my absolute ne plus ultra version of the sporting Chevys–a ’63 Coupe in red/red.

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As the showroom brochure proclaimed, “Corvette steps out smartly with an exhilarating new look for ’63. A fresh look that promises to lift the spirits of any buff who takes the wheel.” Most of us have become inured to such marketing fluff, but in the case of the beautiful 1963 Corvette, they may have actually been downplaying it.

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So, which 1963 GM automobile best exemplifies the classic Bill Mitchell look? The sporty ’63 Vette, or the luxurious but still sporty Buick Riviera? It’s a close match, but despite my deep, deep love of the original Riv (CC here), I think the split-window Corvette just barely nudges past the American Rolls-Royce. I mean, just look at it!

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And, oh man, the colors on this one. Riverside Red, with fire engine red interior, in classic pleated vinyl. I love red/red cars, whether it is one of these, a 1980 Coupe de Ville, a 1970 ‘cuda or a ’68 AMX. Can I get a resounding “YES!” for the excellence of this color combination?

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This car had it all. Beauty–such beauty!–independent suspension, capable power teams, available fuel injection, and the option of going topless. But as much as I am a fan of topless things–and not just cars–I have to tell you, if I had the means and the opportunity to sign on the dotted line for a ’63 example of America’s sports car, the car you see above is exactly what I would have gotten. A convertible is great, but this is one of those rare cases where the coupe looks better than the convertible. And the convertible is no slouch, mind!

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The split window of the 1963 coupe was a clear example of Bill Mitchell’s form over function mentality. It is beautiful, but owners complained of limited rear visibility (oh, if those 1963 drivers could have gotten a gander of some 2014 models!) and so it was a one-year wonder. Indeed, many 1963 coupes were modified with ’64-’67 rear glazing–the horror! So, a small, approximately 1′ line of fiberglass can equal a healthy premium over an equivalent 1964 coupe. Crazy? Perhaps. But it’s so damn sexy.

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And now, a slight digression, if you don’t mind. So many times, on so many websites, people mock and complain about red interiors on cars, especially if said car is, oh, I don’t know, a Brougham with opera windows and crushed velour. To wit: “Oh, I really don’t like the whorehouse red interiors, me not like, Mongo not like!” Well, red is a primary color, and it’s a pretty damn common color! Let’s see, fire engines, apples, fire chief’s cars, the Detroit Red Wings–they’re all red. But you never hear someone say, “Oh Bob, wearing that whorehouse red Red Wings shirt again?! Like, so unkewl!” Arrrgh! Okay, you get my point. Back to the car…

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There are some cars that have classic lines, but let you down aesthetically when you slip behind the wheel. Not so in the 1963 Corvette. First off, a slim, classic three-spoke wheel with aluminum spokes and a color-keyed wheel. Ahead of it, a full complement of attractive gauges in a matte-black housing. Clock off to the right, and below it, a tres cool vertical radio. Could GM have been trying to give a Corvette touch to the 1980 X-body Citation when it included a vertical radio. If they did, it was a spectacular failure. The 1980 Citation is on a whole different constellation than this Corvette.

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And under the hood? Classic small-block V8 goodness. The big blocks would come just a couple of model years later, but the SBC C2 Corvettes did just fine, thank you. And I prefer my C2 Corvette without the Hot Wheels-style side exhaust and big honkin’ hood scoop.

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The current owners of this beauty helpfully had some spec sheets detailing the, well, details of this car. Options included Wonderbar radio, Positraction and whitewall tires. What price beauty? $4,599 in 1963.

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I love it when fact sheets like this accompany the car. It is interesting to note that while a healthy dollop of 1963 Corvettes had the four-speed manual (a three-speed was standard), only 629 units had tinted glass. Well, who gives a flip about tinted glass when you’re ordering a new Corvette, for crying out loud!

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And those wheels! I think this design has to be in the top five of all time best wheel designs. And I think it looks great paired with whitewall tires–yes, such things were done in America on a sports car in the early Sixties. A bit later they would be largely replaced with Goodyear Blue Streaks or the ever cool redlines.

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Pretty much every car has compromises. Even a car like this Corvette may have a couple, but I can’t really think of any at the moment (drum brakes?-PN). But as far as I’m concerned, in aesthetic terms, there is not one–not one!–bad line on this car. From nose to tail, to interior, to wheel design and dimensions, the 1963 Corvette exudes excellence and beauty. Who wouldn’t love one?

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At the Culver’s in West Davenport, there is an informal car cruise every Thursday between April and October. Everyone is welcome, whether they’re running a Broughamtastic Brougham, SVT Mustang, or a 1970 Dart. This vision in red appeared at one of them last July, and upon sighting it, I completely forgot about all the other cars there. It was only there once, but it was for the ages. Riverside Red Corvette, I salute you, and your most fortunate owners!

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Related reading:  PN’s Take On The 1963 Corvette Sting Ray