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1963 Corvette

1963 Corvette Design Features

While Duntov was developing an innovative new chassis for the 1963 Corvette, designers were adapting and refining the basic look of the racing Stingray for the production model. A fully functional space buck (a wooden mock-up created to work out interior dimensions) was completed by early 1960, production coupe styling was locked up for the most part by April, and the interior -- instrument panel included -- was in place by November. Only in the fall of 1960 did the designers turn their creative attention to a new version of the traditional Corvette convertible and, still later, its detachable hardtop.

For 1963, Corvette offered the first-ever Corvette coupe.
For 1963, Corvette offered the first-ever Corvette coupe.

For one the first time in the Corvette's history, wind tunnel testing helped refine the final shape, as did practical matters like interior space, windshield curvatures, and tooling limitations. Both body styles were extensively evaluated as production-ready 3/8-scale models at the Cal Tech wind tunnel.

The vehicle's inner structure received as much attention as its exterior aerodynamics. Fiberglass outer panels were retained, but the Sting Ray emerged with nearly twice as much steel support in its central structure as the 1958-62 Corvette. The resulting extra weight was balanced by a reduction in fiberglass thickness, so the finished product actually weighed a bit less than the old roadster. Passenger room was as good as before despite the tighter wheelbase, and the reinforcing steel girder made the cockpit both stronger and safer.

Symbolic of the car's transformation was the first-ever production Corvette coupe -- a futuristic fastback that sported one of the most unique styling elements in automotive history -- a divided rear window. This feature had once been considered for an all-new 1958 Corvette, and Mitchell thought enough of the backlight backbone to resurrect it for the 1963 redesign. The rear window's basic shape, which was a compound-curve "saddleback," had been originally conceived by Bob McLean for the Q-model.

The rest of the Sting Ray design was equally stunning. Quad headlamps were retained but newly hidden -- the first American car so equipped since the 1942 DeSoto. The lamps were mounted in rotating sections that matched the pointy front end with the "eyes" closed. An attractive beltline dip was added at the door's trailing upper edge, a result of cinching up the racing Stingray at the midriff. Coupe doors were cut into the roof, which made entry/exit easier in such a low-slung closed car. Faux vents were located in the hood and on the coupe's rear pillars; functional ones had been intended but were nixed by cost considerations.

The redesigned 1963 Corvette Sting Ray featured a more user-friendly dash configuration.
The redesigned 1963 Corvette Sting Ray featured a
more user-friendly dash configuration.

The Sting Ray's interior carried a new interpretation of the twin-cowl Corvette dash motif used since 1958, with the scooped-out semicircles now standing upright instead of lying down. It was also more practical, now incorporating a roomy glovebox, an improved heater, and the cowl-ventilation system. Also on hand was a full set of easy-to-read round gauges that included a huge speedometer and tachometer. The control tower center console returned, somewhat slimmer but now containing the clock and a vertically situated radio with a dial oriented to suit.

Luggage space was improved as well, though due to a lack of an external trunklid, cargo had to be stuffed behind the seats. If you wanted to carry anything other than passengers in the convertible, you also had to disconnect the folded top from its flip-up tonneau panel. The spare tire was located at the rear in a drop-down fiberglass housing beneath the gas tank (which now held 20 gallons instead of 16). The big, round deck emblem was newly hinged to double as a fuel-filler flap, replacing the previous left-flank door.

Though not as obvious as the car's radical styling, the new chassis was just as important to the Sting Ray's success. Maneuverability was improved thanks to the faster "Ball-Race" steering and shorter wheelbase. The latter might ordinarily imply a choppier ride, but the altered weight distribution partly compensated for it. Less weight on the front wheels also meant easier steering, and with some 80 additional pounds on the rear wheels, the Sting Ray offered improved traction.

Stopping power improved, too. Four-wheel cast-iron 11-inch drum brakes remained standard but were now wider, for an increase in effective braking area. Sintered-metallic linings, segmented for cooling, were again optional. So were finned aluminum ("Al-Fin") drums, which not only provided faster heat dissipation (and thus better fade resistance) but less unsprung weight. Power assist was available with both brake packages. Evolutionary engineering changes included positive crankcase ventilation, a smaller flywheel, and an aluminum clutch housing. A more efficient alternator replaced the old-fashioned generator.

Drivetrains were carried over from the previous model, comprising four 327 V-8s, a trio of transmissions, and six axle ratios. Carbureted engines came in 250-, 300-, and 340-horsepower versions. As before, the base and step-up units employed hydraulic lifters, a mild cam, forged-steel crankshaft, 10.5:1 compression, single-point distributor, and dual exhausts. The 300-bhp engine produced its extra power via a larger four-barrel carburetor (Carter AFB instead of the 250's Carter WCFB), plus larger intake valves and exhaust manifold. Again topping the performance chart was a 360-bhp fuel-injected powerhouse, available for an extra $430.40.

The car's standard transmission remained the familiar three-speed manual, though the preferred gearbox continued to be the $188.30 Borg-Warner manual four-speed, delivered with wide-ratio gears when teamed with the base and 300-bhp engines, and close-ratio gearing with the top two powerplants. Standard axle ratio for the three-speed manual or Powerglide was 3.36:1. The four-speed gearbox came with a 3.70:1 final drive, but 3.08:1, 3.55:1, 4.11:1, and 4.56:1 gearsets were available. The last was quite rare in production, however.

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

1963 Corvette
1964 Corvette
1965 Corvette
1966 Corvette
1967 Corvette

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