The cars we loved.
1963 was a big year for the Corvette. Now at 10 years old, it had established itself as America’s premier sports car. The first generation (C1) car had a look inspired by European roadsters with distinctive Detroit cues like fins and air portlets. The new for 1963 car took a drastically different path that instantly modernized the formerly live axle car with a fully independent suspension and further refinement of the fuel injection system from the late 50’s cars.
Designed by Larry Shinoda under the supervision of Bill Mitchell, the C2’s look was influenced by a string of one-off show and race cars with styling themes derived from various sea-going creatures. Names like Mako Shark and Sting
The suggestion of power was backed up by four engine options offering anywhere from 250 to 360 hp from a 327 with fuel injection and overhead valves. Lesser powered engines used four barrel carburetors.Other performance features were more or less for show like the non functional hood scope and vents on the front fender that looked like brake cooling ducts. Like many Detroit cars of the era, the options list was considerable. There were three transmissions, seven exterior and seven interior color options. For performance minded buyers, options like power brakes,a positronic axel and four-speed manual transmissions made certain that the power to the rear wheels was well controlled. The fully independent suspension was rare for an American car (at any price) and put the Corvette’s road holding performance in the league with more expensive cars from Europe. Even at a starting price of $4725, the coupe was a bargain compared to most of the competition.
While the outside was overhauled, there were also refinements inside. The twin pod dash style from the previous car
was carried over with a sportier driver oriented control layout. 1963 also marked the first year that the radio in the Corvette was positioned vertically in the narrowed console, a feature that would last until 1967.
The most enduring quality of the 1963 Corvette might be it’s split rear window. Today the cars are referred to as the split window coupes and are some of the most sought after examples of any Corvette. A conflict within the design studio over the view obstructing window almost killed the concept. Bill Mitchell insisted on the split and the rest was history. The studio eventually won as the Split window design lasted one year. When new, it was not too popular and many owners would later modify their 63 cars to the newer single window design to improve rearward visibility.
Beyond 1963, the only visual cues that a C2 Corvette was not a 1963 model was the single window and the absence of the fake brake cooling vents on the front fenders. The C2 Vette would go on to be the most beloved Vette of all time, marking the some of last all out performance Corvettes before safety and fuel economy regulations would catch the Corvette with its pants down by the early 1970’s.