After a decade of production of the classic “solid-axle” Corvette, Chevrolet pulled out all the stops to present a brand new Corvette for 1963. Although the various engine and transmission choices were carried over, every aspect was otherwise redesigned, and a beautiful new fiberglass body was offered for the first time in either coupe or convertible form.
Its Sting Ray show car-inspired looks were certainly fresh and exciting, embraced by a new, much stiffer chassis with independent rear suspension—by now a virtual prerequisite for any automobile with sporting pretensions.
As with many of the cars in the Astor Collection, the Corvette offered here is reportedly a local California car. Benefiting from professional restoration work, it remains in excellent condition throughout and beautifully finished in attractive Silver Blue. The quality of the entire exterior, including paint and brightwork, is exceptional, without any immediately noticeable flaws.
The interior is simply outstanding and nearly as-new in appearance. The dark blue upholstery, carpeting, and dash are commensurate with the car’s overall condition and show few signs of age. Such professional attention is also visible under the hood and on the undercarriage, both of which seem period-correct, clean, and tidy, with relatively few signs of road use.
Powered by the desirable 340-hp, 327-ci V8, the Astor Collection’s 1963 Corvette is a fine example, indeed replete with all the driving pleasures, gorgeous style, and visceral excitement offered by America’s sports car.
|Vehicle:||1963 327/340 Convertible|
|Number Produced:||21,513: 10,594 coupes, 10,919 convertibles|
|Original List Price:||$4,359|
|Tune Up Cost:||$350|
|Chassis Number Location:||Plate attached to instrument panel support brace under glovebox|
|Engine Number Location:||Passenger side engine block on pad forward of head|
|Club Info:||National Corvette Restorers Society 6291 Day Rd. Cincinnati, OH, 45252-1334|
|Alternatives:||1967–67Jaguar XKE, 1963–65 Porsche 356C, 1963–67 Austin-Healey 3000|
This 1963 Corvette convertible sold for $66,000 at the RM Art Astor sale in Anaheim, California, on June 28, 2008. The estimate range was $60,000–$80,000. So was this car a bargain? Well, yes and no. But before we get to value, a little background.
The redesigned 1963 Corvette was a smash, doubling sales from the record-setting previous year and causing a lead time of up to two months on deliveries. Most orders were placed at full retail; dealers did not have to listen to offers, because demand out-stripped supply.
Demand for both the convertible and the new coupe was so strong that a second shift was needed at the St. Louis facility. Production totaled 21,513, with sales almost evenly split between the coupe and convertible.
Styling exercises for the all-new Corvette began in 1956 with various projects, and the car would eventually be based on Bill Mitchell’s 1959 Sting Ray racer. The C2’s humpback fenders and name were lifted from that car. Mitchell considered the Sting Ray his car, and he worked on the body while Zora Arkus-Duntov refined the chassis.
Second to none
The X-brace frame was gone, and in its place a ladder-type chassis was designed with five cross members. This improved the lateral stress rigidity that was required due to the stress the new independent suspension put on the frame. The wheelbase was shortened by four inches, which improved handling. Car & Driver enthusiastically stated that the Corvette was “now second to no other production sports car in road holding and is still the most powerful.”
Mitchell’s styling was equally stunning. The quad headlights were now hidden, a first since the 1942 DeSoto. Dummy vents in the hood were non-functional due to the accountants’ pencil, and they were often criticized, as was the difficulty in accessing the luggage storage. But the new Corvette looked fast even when parked, and depending on the options, it was capable of world-class performance. In fact, a Z06-equipped coupe won the Los Angeles Times Invitational Race at Riverside on October 13, 1962, besting Carroll Shelby’s new Ford-powered Cobra.
The convertible example offered as lot 333 from the Art Astor Collection was equipped with a 4-speed and the L76 327-ci, 340-hp engine, which was a $107.60 option. However, the auction catalog was noticeably silent about whether this was the original engine to the car. The original four-wheel drum brakes had been converted to discs, and either aftermarket or 1964 knockoffs had been installed.
This Corvette convertible sold at the low end of expectations. The modifications, both seen and unseen, were one reason. But the primary reason was that as iconic as the 1963 Split-Window coupe is, the 1963 convertible is far down the food chain of C2s. Collectors look for the higher-horsepower, disc-braked 1965–67s. Which, in the end, can make 1963s and 1964s good values today.
There was big money in the room for the right cars; a ’63 injected coupe, with a number of body issues but otherwise correct, sold at this auction for $110,000.
With over 10,000 convertibles built in 1963, there will always be plenty of them for sale. Few Corvettes have survived the past 45 years without being changed in one way or another, and the market has shown over and over again that nearly every change from stock diminishes value. For those who are inclined to “improve” their ’Vettes, take note of the potential cost of your handiwork.
Given the overall very nice condition of the car, but also considering the modifications from stock, I’d have to call this priced just right.