1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split-Window Coupe
Nothing in American sports car history is more exciting than the story of the legendary Chevrolet Corvette. The 1963 Sting Ray Sport Coupe adds a whole new chapter to that excitement!
The year 1963 brought the first complete revision since the Corvette’s introduction in 1953. In addition to the convertible, the ‘Vette was also offered in a sporty new coupe. With the exception of four wheels and two seats, the only other features that carried over from the 1962 models were the four 327 V-8 engine options, front suspension, and fiberglass body.
The most striking design element of the new Sting Ray Coupe was the split-window backlight. The vertical divider down the back window was a Bill Mitchell design that survived despite chief Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Dunlov’s concern that it would hinder the view. Mitchell was adamant about the split window and was quoted as saying, “If you take that off, you might as well forget the whole thing.” Arkus-Dunlov eventually got his way for the 1964 model; the split-window would be gone in favor of a single window backlight. (Burton). In fact, 1963 was the only year for the split-window, which makes those models highly sought after in the collector car market.
Other new features for 1963 included the omission of the deep side coves that had been part of the design since 1955. Taking their place behind the raised and flared front fenders, the sporty new doors dipped slightly at the beltline before rising again over the rounded peaked rear fenders. The front of the car was also completely restyled with a long sleek nose that housed hidden headlamps concealed in flush-mounted pivotal pods, which flipped up when the lamps activated. Just below the new perimeter character line, thin chromed front and rear bumpers added to the sleekness and gave the impression that the car was moving even when standing still. The interior was not about to be outdone by the new exterior and sported an all new cockpit theme for both the driver and passenger. The driver’s side featured large round gauges for the speedometer and tachometer that sat behind the three-spoke steering wheel. The passenger side featured a large center glove box. In the middle of the dual cockpit and just above the center console was a vertically mounted radio with added AM/FM availability; a large round clock was positioned above the radio.
The engines were unchanged from 1962, but the generator was replaced by an alternator. A positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) valve, now required nationwide to meet 1963 emissions standards, took the place of the road-draft tube. Underneath the car was a lighter ladder-type frame that replaced the heavier X frame of earlier models. At 175.3 inches with a 98-inch wheelbase, the overall length of the car was about four inches shorter. Despite more steel used in the construction and less fiberglass in the body of the ’63 Corvette, the car became lighter than the previous year’s model. New circulating Ball-Race steering made for quicker and tighter handling. Front suspension was managed through upper and lower A-arms; coil springs; hydraulic shock absorbers; and an anti-roll bar. Rear suspension was managed by a fixed differential, U-jointed half shafts, lateral struts, radial rods, traverse leaf springs, and hydraulic shock absorbers. With those combined features, the 1963 Corvette provided much better handling than previous years’ models did. Braking for the 1963 was through 11-inch drum brakes on both the front and rear wheels. Base price for the 1963 Sting Ray Coupe was reasonable for a sports car at $4,252—about $35,000 today.
The Car in our Collection
The Corvette Sting Ray Split-Window Coupe in The Midwest Dream Car Collection is one of 10,594 that rolled off the assembly line for the 1963 model year. Finished in extra-cost Sebring Silver, this low mileage, matching-numbers car has only clocked 22,700 miles on the odometer since leaving the factory. The powerplant for this car is the fuel-injected 327 CID V-8 that is mated to the optional M20 four-speed manual transmission. Rated at 340 horsepower, this ‘Vette will take you down the road from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. The car is equipped with power windows, and the tires are mounted on cast aluminum wheels with genuine knock-off (KO) hubs. The undercarriage has been lightly detailed and still has its natural-finish fiberglass floors. This very nicely preserved ’63 Corvette still has the original owner’s manual and dealer pouch in the glove box. The car is a stunning example of the Corvette Sting Ray Sport Coupe.
The new Sting Ray was an instant success; 21,513 units were produced for 1963. That was an increase of 50% from the previous year’s record of 14,531 units. Reflected by increased sales each year, its increased popularity proved that the ‘Vette was here to stay!
Gunnell, John A. (1982). Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87341-027-0.
Burton, Jerry. “The Struggle over the Sting Ray.” Car and Driver, Car and Driver, 19 Dec. 2018, www.caranddriver.com/features/a15137496/the-struggle-over- the-sting-ray-feature/.