Retired Corvette R&D engineer Bill Tower shares some of his insights into the background of the 1963 Grand Sport Program
Dateline: 8.12.17 / Photos: WikiCommons, Illustrations by K. Scott Teeters – When I was a wee lad and would see the term, “For Off Road Use Only” I used to think, “Well who drives these cars in the dirt and grass?” What I didn’t understand was that the term is code for “RACING”! Beginning in 1957, Chevrolet’s new general manager, Ed Cole, made the command decision that he would let “customers” carry the Corvette racing mantle by offering Chevrolet-engineered parts, specifically designed for racing, available through the Chevrolet Parts Department.
For decades, Zora Arkus-Duntov has been credited for the implementation of the Corvette “Racer Kits” through the RPO (Regular Production Option) system. Zora was the face of the unofficial Corvette racing effort, but while researching C1 Corvette chassis design, I came across some interesting information in Karl Ludvigsen’s 2014 book, “CORVETTE: America’s Star Spangled Sports Car”. While Duntov was definitely the front man, Ed Cole also charged three-time Indy 500 winner and engineer, Mauri Rose with the development of the Corvette’s RPO parts program. So, the Corvette “Off Road” RPO effort guided by Le Mans racer and class winner, Duntov, AND Mauri Rose, the second man to win the Indy 500 three times (1941, 1947, and 1948)! Pretty cool, huh?
The Racer Kits weren’t a “secret” but unless customers were tuned into racing, most weren’t aware of this special program. In truth, since improvements in suspension and brakes were for racing, customers rarely used them for their street Corvettes. And typically racers used the expensive dual quad or Fuel Injection performance engines. The Racer Kit RPO option program enabled Corvette racers to be seriously competitive in SCCA racing such that by the end of the 1950s, Corvettes were a force to be reckoned with.
Engineer Maurice Olley designed the chassis and suspension of the first Corvette in 1952 and was considered to be the best suspension and chassis engineer in Detroit. It is essential to remember that the Corvette was NOT designed to be a racecar. Continue reading
Corvette Timeline Tales: July 12, 1967 – The Last C2 Sting Ray Rolls Off the St. Louis Assembly Line – VIDEO
The restored “Last Sting Ray” 1967 427/390 Corvette Coupe sells for a whopping, $660,000!
Dateline: 7-12-17 – Obviously there’s a first-and-last of every Corvette ever built. Unfortunately, there was no pause for celebration on July 12, 1967 when the very last C2 Corvette Sting Ray rolled off the St. Louis Assembly line. Not even a moment for a snap shot! Too bad! But forty years and three months later there was PLENTY of celebrating at the October 2007 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction.
Up until the last C3 rolled off the St. Louis assembly line, no one paid attention to these cars. The VIN number indicates that this was the last C2 Sting Ray to ever be built, Terry Michaelis, owner of ProTeam Corvette, in Napoleon, Illinois bought the rough Corvette Continue reading
For such a slick shape, how come so many Corvette funny cars ended in disaster?
Dateline: 7-8-17 – No, this isn’t a whoo-whoo story that you might hear on Coast to Coast AM. A very interesting story popped up on HotRod.com, titled, “The Funny Car Corvette Curse“. Through the ’60s and ’70s funny car days, cars wearing a Corvette body shape, had unfortunate luck. There’s no metaphysical “curse”, it’s just aerodynamics. There are many variables.
But an honest look back clearly shows that the problem was with the front of the Corvette body. We were all looking at the curvaceous fender humps that looked a lot like Sophia Loren! How could it NOT be aerodynamic?
In the zeal to produce fiberglass Corvette funny car bodies, builders made the body as “stock” as possible, stretching the car from the A-pillar forward. Continue reading
Rollie Walriven, the single-owner of a Daytona Blue 1963 Split-Window Coupe
Dateline: 7.5.17 (This story was first published in the December 2015 issue of Vette Vues Magazine). We’ve all heard and perhaps have lived this story: Young man buys a Corvette, has a blast with the car, falls in love, marries, it’s time for a house, and the Vette is out’a here! “Life” often gets in the way of Corvettes. This is not one of those stories – no, just the opposite.
When Rollie Walriven took delivery of his brand new, Daytona Blue 1963 Corvette Coupe in November 1962, he was already a serious car guy. He had owned a daily driver 1959 4-speed Corvette with a mildly worked engine. He also had a basket case ’57 Corvette that he eventually built into a B/Production racecar that he started racing in 1964.Rollie was a typical post WW II car crazy kid. Of course his uncle’s dirt track racing in the Ohio region helped stoke Rollie’s interest in cars and racing. Rollie got his first car in high school, a 1939 Ford. Then he got a Model A Coupe that had been made into a hot rod. Continue reading
The King of Kustoms’ George Barris’ Most Famous Corvette
Dateline: 6.28.17 (This story was first published in the April 2016 issue of Vette Vues Magazine) – Senior Vice President of GM Design, Bill Mitchell knew how to stoke a crowd. After the basic design of the new Sting Ray Corvette was approved for production, Mitchell kept Vette fans on the edge of their bucket seats with two Corvette dream cars. After the 1959 Stingray Racer won the SCCA C/Modified Championship in 1961 and was retired from racing, the car was refurbished into a show car. But that wasn’t enough. Mitchell had Larry Shinoda design a teaser Corvette to tip his hand, just a little, as to what the next Corvette would look like. The 1961 Mako Shark (the car wasn’t called “Mako Shark I” until after 1965 when the Mako Shark II was created) was based on a 1961 Corvette with styling hints of wild things to come. Actually, the car was a unique blend of a 1961 Corvette and the Stingray Racer.The ploy worked such that when the 1963 Sting Ray came out in autumn 1962, Bob Nordskog bought a new ’63 Split-Window Coupe and after only driving the car for 10 miles, took the new Corvette to Barris Custom Shop to be made into a drag/show car.
What’s not known is if the finished Asteroid was what Nordskog had in mind, or if he handed the new Corvette over to Barris and said, “Customize my Vette.” Custom cars tend to polarize opinions – people love them, or hate them. But from the perspective of 1963, the Asteroid was a hit. Continue reading
Performance Bookends of the Shortest Generation Corvette, the C2 Mid-Year
Dateline: 6.23.17 – The difference between a 1962 and 1963 Corvette is staggering. In 1963, the new Sting Ray looks like the sports car from another planet! The only carryover components used for the new Corvette were the base and optional engines. Everything else (body, interior, suspension, and frame) was all-new. The C1’s basic structure was created in 1952, and over the years was given slight tweaks, such that by the late 1950s, the Corvette was holding on against the European cars. But the new Sting Ray was a game-changer.
We’re going to look back at the first and last “performance” Corvettes – the 1963 Fuelie and the 1967 L71 427/435. The Sting Ray had an all-new parameter frame that would ultimately serve as the foundation of the Corvette up to 1982! The new C2 frame allowed the passenger seats to be located “down and inside” the frame rails, unlike the C1’s frame that located the seats “on top” of the frame, thus allowing the overall design to be lower and more slender. Although the shape looked “aerodynamic, it suffered from severe “lift” at high speeds. The lift issue was a combination of the body shape, and the rear suspension “squat” upon hard acceleration – and was never really solved, just dealt with.The independent rear suspension and updated front suspension made the 1963 Corvette the only American car with four-wheel, independent suspension. This was a very BIG deal then. The new interior was just beautiful. The dash had double-arches with a perfectly laid out array of the proper sports car gauges. From 1953 to 1962, the Corvette was a convertible with an optional bolt-on hardtop. The new Sting Ray was a production of Bill Mitchell’s 1959 Stingray Racer – a beautiful car with big aerodynamic problems. Instead of a convertible-only version, there was a coupe version with the now classic “stinger” design. The hidden headlights were show-car-like, and rotated horizontally along the front leading edge when the lights were turned on.
The rear glass had a split down the middle so that the crease that started at the front edge of the roof could run uninterrupted back to the end of the car. This was the infamous “split-window” that was a love-it, or hate-it detail and was Bill Mitchell’s pet design element. The split-window was gone after 1963 – making the 1963 coupes a rarity. 1963 convertibles outsold coupes, 10,919 to 10,594. Some coupe owners replaced their split-window with a 1964-1967-style rear glass! Continue reading
A Corvette That’s Never Not Been a Racer!
Dateline: 6-15-17 – Ken Hazelton’s 1963 Split-Window Coupe Corvette Sting Ray is a unique car. Ken’s Corvette has never been a streetcar. Although born to be a street sports car, this Sting Ray has never been anything but a racecar. Zora Arkus-Duntov was the driving force behind making sure that production Corvettes could be easily turned into competitive racecars. He was famous for saying, “I want my customers to enjoy their Corvette.” Even though he was in the engineering department and not sales and marketing, he thought like a salesman. Duntov’s insistence that Corvette customers had access to Chevrolet engineered parts for racing, created the Corvette’s halo of racing.
Unlike any other American automobile, the Corvette was born to be a racer. In 1951 when Harley Earl went to his first sportscar race at Watkins Glen, he saw the raw enthusiasm for the new breed of small cars from Europe – sports cars. Earl was an automotive genius and pioneer, who often saw possibilities where most did not. For the most part, Americans preferred big cars. But Earl reasoned, “Why should the Europeans have all the fun and racing glory? There should be an America sportscar.” The rest, of course, is history.
Because “racing” was built into the Corvette’s DNA, the car attracted others that saw potential for greatness. Without men such as Ed Cole, Zora Arkus-Duntov, Mauri Rose, Bill Mitchell, and many others, Continue reading
by Jerry Heasley as republished from SuperChevy.com, Photos Vette Magazine Staff
Rare Finds: Mid-Year Driveway Discovery
Dateline 2.7.16: Do people park vintage Corvettes in their home driveways for decades without moving them? Apparently so, according to this story. An original owner actually parked his Corvette, a ’66 convertible with removable hardtop, in his driveway in 1990. Years later, he added a car cover, which cut down on the buy inquiries. Continue reading
by John Gilbert as republished from Super Chevy
The Green Weenie: How Much Will this Barn Find 1965 Corvette Bring on eBay?
Dateline 12.18.15: On eBay recently, the question is who molested this 1965 Corvette Sting Ray? Was it Dr. Timothy Leary, the LSD guru, or an unknown customizer? As a rule, when a car is described as a survivor most folks would perceive it to be an unmolested example of a factory original car. All of the things that usually get lost or modified are still intact and with the car. Continue reading
Terry Muniz of Pittsburg, poses with the 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray belonging
to her husband Guillermo Muniz in Pittsburg, Calif. (Photo by David Krumboltz)
By David Krumboltz as republished from ContraCostaTimes.com
Beloved Corvette StingRay has several lives
Dateline 11.18.15: The Chevrolet Corvette has an interesting history. It started as a concept car for the 1953 GM Motorama Auto Show in New York. GM management thought Chevrolet needed a model that would put some pizzazz in the line. The original idea was to produce a sporty car using off-the-shelf parts to keep the cost around $2,000 (about $17,600 in today’s dollars). Continue reading
by David Kennedy as republished from HotRod.com
Anytime you try to look for the origin of an automotive legend, things get murky
Dateline November 2015: Time and memories (not to mention secret plans) shroud the path every vehicle and engine takes from concept to conqueror. Typically, something’s history only begins to be recorded when the success is imminent, which means a lot of early motorsport history never got recorded well. Continue reading
by Scott Parker as republished for SuperChevy
Built vs. Bought: Pitting Brian Hobaugh’s Pro Touring ’65 against a stock 2015 Z06
Dateline October 2015: Hot rodding is as American as apple pie. It embodies some of the most fundamental American concepts such as the ability to accomplish anything. An OEM can spend millions of dollars developing a car like the 2015 Corvette Z06, but we believe we can make it better. More over, we believe we can make a much older car even better than a brand-new car. Is it arrogant and even foolish? Probably, yeah… But this is the land of opportunity. And out on track, it doesn’t matter whether each part was meticulously designed by a separate engineer with FEA and CAD software, or grabbed from a rusty parts bin on a shop floor. Whoever crosses the finish line first wins. Continue reading
by John Gilbert as republished from SuperChevy.com
1963 Sting Ray a Split-Decision
Dateline October 2015: The expression hindsight is 20-20 takes on a completely different meaning when the subject is being able to obtain a totally un-obscured rearview from a 1963 split-window Corvette. This is going to sound strange to younger readers or older ones that weren’t into Corvettes back when the 1963 Sting Ray coupe was introduced, but one of the biggest complaints was the obstructed rear view caused by the split rear windows, and consequently kept the ’63 split-window Corvette as the least desirable model of the ’63-67 run. Continue reading
by Scott Teeters as written for Vette Vues
62-Thankfully, Chevrolet cancels the 4-seater Corvette “Thunderbird Fighter
In the 1950s and 1960s, unlike some of the small, low-volume European carmakers, Detroit was all about “how many cars did we sell.” From 1955 to 1957 the Corvette and Thunderbird were obvious competitors with the T-Bird vastly outselling the Corvette in 1957, 21,380 units to the Corvette’s 6,339 units – over three-to-one! Then Ford shocked everyone by walking away from the 2-seater sports car platform to a 4-seater, almost mid-size coupe and convertible. Sales shot up to 37,892 in 1958 and by 1961, Ford sold 73,053 Thunderbirds, compared to Chevy’s 10,939 Corvettes. Cole wanted Chevrolet to have a piece of the action, so he suggested (ordered) that a 4-seater ’63 Sting Ray Coupe be built as an R&D project. Continue reading