Picture an open road ahead of you while you are sitting behind the wheel of a Corvette. There’s nothing but miles ahead on a sunny day and you’re driving a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray coupe with the split-rear-window design.
Okay, now you’re feeling it because your foot seems to be getting heavier. That’s right, listen to that glorious V8 purr rip into a nasty roar as you reach wide-open-throttle. There’s not another car in sight, you’re gonna see what this baby can do.
That’s what makes the Corvette so special. This is America’s Sports Car, the very embodiment of freedom. A spirit untamed, made for your pleasure. You might as well indulge.
Some people see Corvettes as the sports car everyone has but the ‘63 split-window is the vintage Vette everyone wants. The 1963 Vette represents the first year of the second generation of production for Chevy’s halo vehicle.
Chevrolet produced the second-gen Vette from 1963 to 1967 but the ‘63 is the only year to feature that sexy split-window rear end. Generally speaking, Corvette generations are marked with the letter “C” followed by the generation. That makes the second-generation Corvette the C2, for classification purposes.
Of course, the more popular name for the C2 is the original Sting Ray. Interestingly enough, 1963 marks the first year the Corvette was available as a coupe. It features a sporty fastback body slipping an eyeful of seduction from nearly every angle.
You’ll notice the raised windsplit running the length of the entire roofline and then down the back, splitting the iconic windows until it tails off the rear lid. Then there are the signature quad Corvette tail lights, a style that would remain a tradition on the Vette until 2014.
Building The Legacy By Breaking The Mold
There were quite a few voices, hands, and ideas from various people who eventually made the second-gen Corvette what it ultimately became. You can see notable automotive styling influence from both European and American cars of yesteryear in the C2 design. What matters most is appreciating this design as a masterpiece because that’s exactly what it is.
Throughout automotive history, certain designs stand the test of time to truly reach iconic status for that specific brand. Porsche has the 911 Carrera from 1973. Mercedes-Benz has the 1954 300 SL Gullwing. Chevrolet has the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray.
Every person responsible for making these cars see the light of day deserves a place in the Motorsports Hall of Fame. Some of the honorable mentions for the 1963 Corvette include Bill Mitchell, Zora Arkus-Duntov, and Bob McLean. The design also draws inspiration from some of Harley Earl’s work such as the Oldsmobile Golden Rocket.
It’s impossible not to mention Scaglione as one of the most influential designers of all time. His work on vehicles in the 1950s sent rippling waves throughout the entire automotive industry. Without his inspiration as an automotive designer in the ‘50s, timeless designs such as the 1963 Corvette may not have had so much sex appeal.
Scaglione may have inspired Harley Earl to use the split-rear window design through his Alfa Romeo coupe design on display at the 1954 Turin Auto Show. Earl would later use the split-rear window brilliance on the Olds Golden Rocket concept car. Bill Mitchell took that torch and said thank you very much while lighting the hot rod world on fire with the ‘63 Vette split-window design.
While developing the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, advanced engineering enabled the team to add more steel support to the vehicle’s central structure. They did not want the second generation Vette to be too heavy though, so they reduced the thickness of the fiberglass body panels to make up for it. In the end, the second generation Corvette actually weighs less than the first-gen.
Second Generation Corvette Dimensions
- Wheelbase – 98 inches or 2,489 mm
- Length – 175.3 inches or 4,453 mm
- Width – 69.6 inches or 1,768 mm
- Soft Top Height – 49.8 inches or 1,265 mm
- Hardtop Height – 49.3 inches or 1,252 mm
- Convertible Curb Weight – 3,037 pounds
- Hardtop Curb Weight – 3,043 pounds
- Sport Coupe Curb Weight – 3,015 pounds
Another milestone for the legendary Corvette occurred while developing the C2. The 1963 version is the first Vette to feature an aerodynamic body design shaped by wind tunnel testing. Gliding through the wind like a Sting Ray at sea, this is a true vintage American sports car experience.
The ‘63 Corvette was available as a soft-top convertible, hardtop, or sport coupe. They are all two-door, two-passenger cars just as the Corvette has always been since.
Even More Than Meets The Eye
Call them hidden headlamps, flip-up headlights, pop-ups, rotating lights, or whatever you’d like. The C2 was the first Corvette to feature hidden headlights, a tradition that would continue until the sixth-generation in 2005. It was also the first American car to have such a feature since the 1942 DeSoto.
Probably even more important to the legacy of the Corvette was improving its driving performance over the previous generation C1. This began with an all-new chassis design for Chevy’s flagship sports car.
To enhance the Corvette’s agility, General Motors gave it a shorter wheelbase than the previous generation. Then they improved the steering system by upgrading to a recirculating ball or Ball-Race design. Finally, they gave the second-generation Vette a much needed independent rear suspension setup, a massive improvement over the first generation’s solid axle design.
The engineering overhaul did not stop there for the Corvette. Additional improvements include incorporating positive crankshaft ventilation to keep the engine cooler.
Chevy also used a smaller flywheel and an aluminum clutch housing for the second-generation Vette. These improvements help keep the C2 lightweight for its era. However, the real magic is under the hood.
Pop The Hood and Fire It Up
For the 1963 model year, the Corvette had several engine options available. All of them feature Chevy’s rock solid 327 cubic-inch V8 engine design. Through slight variations in the factory setup, each engine came with a different horsepower rating.
There were a total of four different horsepower ratings to choose from with a 1963 Chevy Corvette. You could get a 250 hp, 300 hp, or a 340 hp version of the 327 cubic-inch magic. However, if you wanted to blow the doors off of anything else in town, you definitely wanted to go with the almighty 360 hp version.
A 3-speed manual transmission came standard in all ‘63 models but other options were available. You could get an optional 4-speed manual transmission with any engine. If you wanted the 3-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, you had to pony up for the 250 hp or 300 hp engine options.
This should be a no-brainer to most car enthusiasts but premium gasoline is recommended with these engines. Hearing this legendary V8 exhaust note along with the intoxicating fumes of premium is a nostalgic experience like none other for anybody who has driven or gone for a ride in a C2. If you could capture the essence of this experience and market it to enthusiasts and collectors, it would be bigger than NFTs.
Become Fully Vetted
Luckily, Chevy made about 21,513 Corvettes in 1963. About half of them are coupes and the other half are convertibles. Even better, plenty of people take care of their Vettes over the years.
Therefore, finding a 1963 Corvette for sale is not very challenging. Yes, you can even find plenty of split-window coupes on the market. However, make no mistake about it, the split-window Vette is a six-figure car.
You will find a wide variety of options available from all-original examples to restomod zombies sporting a modern Corvette chassis with a ‘63 split-window body. Fun cars to drive, that’s for sure. Pricing for anything decent with a split-window starts just above $100,000 in the current classic car market.
If you just want a drop-top Vette convertible from ‘63, you can find them hovering around the $60,000 range in some areas. Most people want the split-window if they are after the ‘63 specifically, but to each their own. No matter which C2 you own, it’s definitely a special and historical car.
One of the nice things about the C2 is how there is a transmission option for nearly every skill level of drivers out there. The front-engine-mount, rear-wheel-drive layout of the second-gen Vette provides an authentic American muscle car driving experience in an agile package. This old school ride can do more than just straight line speed.
Keep in mind, the muscle car era did not begin until a few years later before hitting it’s full stride in the late ‘60s. This Vette definitely played a part in adding fuel to that flame.
Even when considering the modern age of automotive engineering, the 1963 Corvette still holds its own. No matter how extreme modern performance is becoming, 360 horses in a pony weighing close to 3,000 pounds is a blast every time you drive it.
When it comes to owning your dream car, resisting the urge to drive it is impossible. This is the kind of madness that turns you into a collector to begin with. You buy another car you enjoy so you can preserve this one. It becomes an endless cycle until you find yourself with a collection like Jay Leno.
Yet, it all begins with that glimmer in your eye. The sparkle that grabs your attention, that shiny chrome or those loud cars down the street when you were growing up. That mojo takes you back every time you see another machine that impresses the hell out of you.
For many people, that dream began with a split-window 1963 Corvette Sting Ray. It is that passion that continues to drive interest in these cars at record-breaking levels every time an extraordinary example becomes available for sale.
As history will continue to show well into the future, the ‘63 Vette is a cherished piece of American motorsports. If you already own a ‘63 split-window, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. All that hard work paid off. You’re living the American dream, no matter where you are on this beautiful rock.