Penned by GM stylist Larry Shinoda under Bill Mitchell, the all-new 1963 Corvette Sting Ray introduced the aerodynamic styling and superb engineering that created an instant classic. Underneath that gorgeous new bodywork was a serious sports car, riding on a 4-inch shorter wheelbase than before and equipped with a simple yet effective independent rear suspension courtesy of Zora Arkus-Duntov.
Of the four 327-ci engine options, the L84 360-horsepower variant propelled the Corvette from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds. Contemporary magazines unanimously praised the new Sting Ray’s handling and performance, with Motor Trend testers remarking, “We thought the old model cornered darn well, but there’s no comparing it to this new one.” Perhaps the most telling endorsement came from Zora Arkus-Duntov, who said, “For the first time, I now have a Corvette I can be proud to drive in Europe.”
Both the 1963 Sting Ray and the fuel-injected models, in particular, remain design and engineering benchmarks. This example is particularly remarkable as Sting Ray number 15, being a real “pilot line,” or pre-production car, for 1963 and believed to be one of approximately four such cars known to exist today. According to a recent inspection, the Corvette shows just 15 miles since it received a body-off-frame restoration. Today, the paint, door fit and interior are good, the brightwork is driver quality, the engine bay is clean and proper but not over-restored, and the undercarriage remains show-quality in presentation.
The Corvette includes a four-speed manual transmission, an AM radio, knockoff turbine-style wheels and power windows. With its desirable color combination, high-performance powertrain, sheer rarity and historical significance, the offering of this fuel-injected 1963 Sting Ray is truly a rare opportunity that cannot be missed.
|Vehicle:||1963 327/360 “Pilot Line” Sting Ray Roadster|
|Number Produced:||21,513 (coupe and convertible)|
|Original List Price:||$4,375.95|
|SCM Valuation:||$40,400-$70,000 (340-hp), $66,000-$114,000 (360-hp)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$150|
|Chassis Number Location:||VIN plate on top of instrument panel at base of windshield|
|Engine Number Location:||Pad on front of block below right cylinder head|
|Club Info:||The C2 Corvette Registry|
|Alternatives:||1962 Jaguar XKE convertible, 1963-65 Shelby Cobra 289, 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454/450 convertible|
This Corvette, Lot 248, sold for $104,500, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Auctions Sports & Classics of Monterey Auction, Monterey, CA, on August 13, 2010.
The venerable St. Louis Assembly Plant was abuzz in mid-September 1962. Instead of the relentless pace and mind-numbing monotony of the assembly process, the line was moving at a crawl. A stunning automobile was being built; all-new, save for the engine and transmission. Workers used to building essentially the same vehicle for the past decade were learning new assembly processes and familiarizing themselves with new workstations and new components.
There had to be a feeling in the plant that history was in the making.
It’s been called “the Original American Idol.” There is no question that the 1963 Corvette was a defining moment in American automotive history, not only for its striking style, but also for its engineering innovations.
Car Life magazine gave the Sting Ray its 1963 Annual Award for Technical Excellence, while Road & Track gushed, “As a purely sporting car, the new Corvette will know few peers on road or track.” And this one was just the 15th car off the St. Louis line, built on or around September 18, 1962—possibly the same day as the very first car.
Part of O’Quinn’s collection
Sting Ray 15 went unsold at Mecum’s Bloomington Gold auction in 2004, but RM sold it in 2005 for $128,400. Later, it was part of the collection of John O’Quinn, the Houston mega-attorney turned mega-collector. Fortune magazine once called O’Quinn “the lawyer from hell” for his success in earning over $20 billion for his firm through high-profile lawsuits against drug and chemical companies, stockbrokers, and the tobacco industry.
With over 670 cars in his growing collection, O’Quinn was noted for buying anything that caught his eye. This car’s Riverside Red paint and red vinyl interior, factory alloy knockoffs and 360-hp Fuelie power plant make it easy to see why it attracted O’Quinn’s attention.
O’Quinn amassed a personal fortune believed to be around $4 billion before his untimely death in a single-car crash on a wet Houston road in October 2009.
In the era before government-mandated crash tests, often just one or two “pilot” cars were destroyed after thorough testing. The rest of the handful of pilot run vehicles were often used as auto show displays or press cars—and later sold to the public. Yet the Corvette C2 Registry lists only one known ‘63 older than this one, 30867S100003. Where the other 13 are is a mystery, and a constant source of inspiration for barn-find wannabees.
The C2 registry (www.c2registry.org) does not give us a definitive answer as to the original color scheme of this car. Sting Ray 15 is not listed in the printed version of the registry, but shows up in the online version describing this car as being built in Ermine White with a Saddle interior. No source is given for this information.
Of course, an examination of the trim tag would tell us what we want to know. But given that this car was in the highly-regarded O’Quinn collection, I would say that the chances are that #15 was born red, and not white.
The registry also lists Positraction as its only other option, so it’s doubtful this car was built with the alloy knockoff wheels (only 140 ‘63s were factory-equipped with this option, and it did not become available until later in the model year).
In any event, as with any Corvette, when no documentation is provided by the seller, it’s up to the seller to perform his own due diligence. We assume the buyer did his homework here and was satisfied with what he discovered.
There’s no argument that this is one of the oldest Sting Rays in existence, and for me there’s a great mystique to any early production or pilot car, especially a landmark like the Sting Ray. With Z06 cars fetching as much as $360k, you would think the historic value of Sting Ray 15 would partially offset any questions about its documentation.
That pesky convertible status—and the lack of documentation and correct restoration—relegated Sting Ray 15 to just mid-book price for a 360-hp Corvette. We hope the new owner will do some digging, ascertain the correct original configuration and restore the car to that status—so that this extremely early Sting Ray can be properly preserved for posterity. Well bought