The one and only 1963 Chevrolet Corvette “Rondine” coupe was built for the Paris Auto Show by renowned design house Pininfarina for Chevrolet. The car features a 327-ci, 360-hp fuel-injected V8 with 4-speed and power brakes. This historically significant prototype has been stored and preserved at the Pininfarina Museum since new and is being offered for the first time.

Using the new 1963 Corvette chassis, Pininfarina realized this special coupe. The body style is based on the idea of simplicity and functionality and features a remarkable outline owing to the lightness of its sections. The limited use of chrome stresses the sober elegance and harmony of the whole.

The front was designed for maximum aerodynamic efficiency with a smooth curve projecting from the front fenders. The central grille features thin chrome strips, while eyebrows partly cover the headlights when they are turned off. The two-piece front bumper is also unique to the car and ends at each side of the grille.

The side panels take a sharp line from the nose back into the door, where it curves over the tail in a “Coke-bottle” effect, which makes the car seem slender. The rear end features a unique “swallow tail” design, with the rear fenders projecting further than the trunk. The broken line across the rear contributes to the light effect of the design and the taillights are flush in the rear fenders. The gas filler cap is quick-release.

The roof follows the line of the large curving windshield and is quite thin and flat with a wraparound rear window. The luggage compartment is located inside and below the rear window. The interior remains unchanged and is made of leather with ventilation panels in the rear of the seats.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1963 Corvette “Rondine” Concept
Years Produced:1963
Number Produced:2
Original List Price:n/a
SCM Valuation:$1,760,000 on this date
Tune Up Cost:$180
Distributor Caps:$14.99
Chassis Number Location:Pad at right front of engine block
Engine Number Location:Pad at right front of engine block
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society
Alternatives:1954 Pontiac Bonneville, 1954 Oldsmobile F-88, 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt
Investment Grade:A

This car sold for $1,760,000, including commission, at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction on January 19, 2008.

The Rondine has been called “an American car in an Italian suit.” This Paris Auto Show car is certainly one of a kind, but as a close-fitting suit, the nose is too long, the car must weigh considerably more than the fiberglass version, and the headlights do not rotate. And the single most recognizable feature of the 1963 Corvette—the split rear window—was not used on the Rondine.

The Rondine Corvette started life as a styling exercise from the Pininfarina Group in Italy in 1962. Ironically, it was a Detroit-born architect—Tom Tjaarda—who designed the car. He would go on to design the Fiat 124 Spyder, which has several similarities to this car.

Tjaarda was hired by Carrozzeria Ghia in 1958 and moved to Turin, Italy. In 1961, he was hired by Pininfarina and began work on this project. When completed, the Rondine was prominently displayed at the 1963 Paris Auto Show, then remained in the Pininfarina Museum for 45 years.

Complete ’63 chassis sent to Italy

General Motors sent a complete working chassis for the new 1963 Corvette to Italy. The car was equipped with a 327-ci, 360-hp, Rochester fuel-injected V8, power brakes, AM/FM radio, 4-speed synchromesh transmission, and heater/defroster. The stock chassis, running gear, and instrumentation of the Rondine are identical to that of a 1963 Corvette Split-Window coupe.

Two versions of the Rondine were actually built, each with different rooflines (the other featuring an inward-slanting rear window with the roof cut off at the B-pillar). Pictures show headrest seats on the cut-off window version, an option that was not available on Corvettes until 1966.

Rondine is Italian for “swallow,” and you can readily see classic lines mimicking that bird on the back side of this Corvette. Swooping tailfins below the sight line, 90-degree bumpers, and horizontal brake and back-up lenses clearly differentiate this Corvette from its GM counterparts. As mentioned above, the hand-fabricated rear glass does not carry the iconic split window from 1963. A quick-fill gas lid is used in place of the standard 1963 roller door and cap.

The hood is much longer than standard; a center-mounted horizontal grille shell provides greater airflow to the radiator, and the turn signals protrude from the body above the front bumpers. Original T-3 bulbs are still installed in the body-blended, fixed headlights; rotating buckets were not used on the Rondine.

Wheel covers must be the only four in existence

The custom wheel covers with attached three-bar knockoff spinners are certainly the only four in existence. They are similar to the stock ’63 hubcap but have a series of raised concentric circles with radial fins protruding out from the center of each cap.

The interior is significantly different from original, with the exception of the dash cluster, radio, and heater. The white, full-leather seats and door panels are custom, as is a teak steering wheel. This Corvette option, from the Howard Miller Clock Company in Michigan, was not available from GM until 1965. Several early pictures of the Rondine show a standard black steering wheel; however, this teak wheel could well have been a prototype, like the seat design, which was closer to the one used by GM from 1965 to 1967. Of note is that the Rondine has neither a VIN tag nor trim tag, since it was not fully manufactured by GM.

The Rondine is now part of the collection of Michael Schudroff and on the showroom floor of Carriage House Motor Cars in Greenwich, Connecticut. It’s difficult to say whether the Rondine was well bought or well sold. The counter bidder was from the Blackhawk Collection in Northern California. If this Corvette had not been a feature car and on Speed TV Saturday afternoon, I don’t believe it would have brought anywhere near the selling price.

In terms of rare Corvettes, the limited-production ’62 Gulf Oil, fuel-injected, Le Mans-winner, the 1966 Penske L88/M22 race car (“They never made one!”), and the original Grand Sports are each worth millions of dollars. The market for all of them is strong and their race history and provenance are proven.

Are these cars a better investment? I believe so, but time will tell, and in fairness, the Rondine is a completely different kind of investment. Styling cars have become their own market in great part because of televised auctions. In many ways, this is a good thing, as the wide reach of television has made auctions—and higher collector car values—a part of our collector car culture

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