Video: 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray
The year that saw ZIP codes first used in the U.S. was also one that saw the Corvette cement a spectacular turnaround that had started with the 1962 model. A total redesign of both the exterior and chassis defined the direction for all future Corvettes and the buying public responded with enthusiasm.
For the first time, a coupe body style was introduced. Consistent with the new and dramatic styling, the coupe used a center split through the rear glass that would be eliminated the following year. That single model year would result in what became the highly collectible ‘split window’ coupe.
Despite carrying prices double that of the average car, the new Corvette justified its value with an all-new independent rear suspension and the new 327 cid V8 engine, in 300 hp, 340 hp and 360 hp fuel injected variants. The large emblem on the rear deck had been hinged and was now used for fuel filling duties. Hideaway headlights added to the sparkle, but there was just as much beauty to be found under the fiberglass skin.
Handling had improved significantly over prior versions, due to weight reduction, improved weight distribution, reduced unsprung weight, a shorter wheelbase and an improved steering gear. With lower weight also came improved performance and the availability of the 4-speed manual transmission completed the sporty image. Almost eight of every nine cars that year were ordered with the manual transmission.
Over twenty-one thousand Corvettes were sold for that model year, doubling the number from just two years prior. It took a decade from the stumbling beginnings of Harley Earl’s concept sports car, but Ed Cole, Bill Mitchel and Larry Shinoda brought the second generation Corvette to a public that has remained faithful ever since.