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 our eyes glaze over regarding such marketing fluff, but in the case of the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette, they may have actually been downplaying it.
And the colors, man! 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 1973 Thunderbird or a ’75 Camaro. Can I get a resounding “YES!” for the excellence of this color combination? In contrast, red with black interior is such a letdown. Bor-ring. Like sitting in a cave. Give me the vivacious interior color choice, or at least a light color for those hot summer days before the A/C can catch up.
This car had it all. Beauty, independent suspension, classic V8 power, available fuel injection, and the option of going topless. But as much as I am a fan of topless things–and not just cars, ya know-bwahahah!-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 back when they were new, 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.
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 2021 blobby, willfully ugly cars) so it was a one-year wonder. In fact, many 1963 coupes were modified with ’64-’67 rear glazing-Barrett Jackson auction wonks are cringing as I type this. So, a small, approximately one foot tall line of fiberglass can equal a healthy premium over an equivalent 1964 coupe. Crazy? Perhaps. But it’s so damn sexy!
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, 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 uncool dood!” OK then, I feel better. Moving on…
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 cool vertically-oriented radio. Could GM have been trying to give a Corvette touch to the 1980 X-body Citation when it included a vertical radio? Wasn’t that the only other GM car to have it? Uh, yeah, probably not, bwahaha.
And under the hood? Classic small-block Chevy V8. Before all the marques decided between, say, 2005 and now to kill most V8s, then kill most V6s, then shove turbo 4s down our throats, then decide the turbo 4s were too good for us and shove electric shlock down our throats. Anyhoo… The big blocks would come just a couple of model years later, but the SBC C2 Corvettes did just fine for themselves. And I prefer my C2 Corvette without the Hot Wheels-style side exhaust and big honkin’ hood scoop. Cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing.
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. For comparison’s sake a ’63 Cadillac Coupe de Ville was $5,386; a ’63 Impala two door hardtop, $2,774 with the V8.
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. Most buyers were probably more interested in going fast, ha ha.
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 redline tires. Whitewalls look good on a ’63 Corvette but would be a little bizarre looking on a ’73 model.
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. And such nit-pickers, like those on a certain other site that thinks ripping off Road & Track articles from 1978 is journalism, are generally disagreeable and off-putting.
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?
At the Culver’s in West Davenport, there used to be an informal car cruise every Thursday between April and October. As of 2021 it has moved to the parking lot by the baseball stadium on the riverfront, but I digress. Everyone is welcome, whether they’re running a Broughamtastic Brougham, SVT Mustang, or ’71 Maverick. This vision in red appeared at one of them back in July 2013. Upon sighting it, I completely forgot about all the other cars there. It was only there once, so it’s a good thing I took so many pictures. Turns out it was owned by friends of a friend, Tom Lanum, and they’d been enjoying the car for many years. Sure, I see plenty of 1963-67 Corvettes at shows, but this one was really striking. A real sweetheart.
Thanks Tom, I can’t think of a more all-American car to show on the 4th of July – Happy Birthday America!!!
There’s an interesting sidenote to the advertising copy.
You find the ad copy actually understating the car, and that may well be true. But if it is, it’s a first for the probable author of the ad copy, who would have been David E. Davis, Jr.
He was with Campbell-Ewald, the advertising firm that handled Chevrolet copy; and the Corvette was his personal account. Eighteen or so years later, with Davis as editor-in-chief of Car & Driver and Zora Arkus-Duntov (retired) suing him for a review in which Davis slammed the patented rear suspension of the Corvette…this from an earlier article doing historical perspective on the C3…
…Davis, in his own inimitable way, proceeded to drop a dime on a secret the two shared. Seems prior to the 1963 release of the Sting Ray, Duntov took Davis, who was a friend of Chevrolet officials as well as being the copy writer…took Davis on a track to demonstrate how the Powerglide transmission transformed the hopped-up new Corvette.
Where Duntov, at the wheel, lost control. The prototype spun out, after nearly rolling over, and the two sat there in the mud of the inner field, shaken. Duntov proposed to Davis that no one need know of that little demonstration, and it would be seen as a personal favor if it were never mentioned.
Davis pithily wrote, that day, that this was the first mention; that Duntov was long retired; and that the two of them had many shared miles and a courtroom was not the best venue that they spar.
The threat must have worked, because Duntov v. Davis and Car & Driver never made it into open court.
But, I find it all interesting, taken against the perhaps-a-bit subdued ad copy by a man who was about as restrained as a punch in the mouth.
Davis always had nice patches on the elbows of his houndstooth sport coat. Oh and the hat, pork pie, right?
But, let him tell you about English shotguns.
Look up “Petite bourgeoisie” and his image will come up. Not that the bourgeoisie are any better.
If you said you drank Poland Spring water, he’d one up you saying he had Vittel Hépar imported from France weekly.
An odious facsimile of a human.
Whatever his faults, car magazines were far more pleasant to read when he was in the business.
Oof at that MSRP. Oh, my aching currency.
Lovely car; timeless design.
By contrast today’s “visually attacking” design leaves a lot to be desired.
Keep in mind that in those days a young fellow with a decent professional job – a 26 year old engineer, accountant, etc. – could buy one of these. Nowadays Chevrolet have decided to turn the Corvette into an unaffordable supercar. I don’t think it’s an improvement.
The 20 something engineer or accountant who bought a new C2 Corvette in the 60s may very likely be the same retired engineer or accountant who buys a new C8 in 2021 – does anyone under 70 buy a new Corvette today? On the other hand, a 20 something engineer or accountant in the 1960s could have also bought a new 356 or 911 Porsche, and their new equivalents have gone even more upmarket than the Corvette.
Well 3 twenty something were just killed in one last night….so I guess they still are bringing in some younger customers.
I truly believe when the world and classic car market is finally rid of the plague of boomers, prices of most plebeian cars like even the hottest of Novas and Darts will come crashing back down to earth. Unlike Doozies, Bugattis or most Ferraris, not many have the intrinsic beauty or interiors to justify their cost absent the pull of boomer nostalgia and their staggering generational wealth chasing fewer and fewer objects. I believe the 1963 Corvette is one that will survive the coming correction. It is just too good.