Bruce Gregory’s 1963 Chevrolet Stingray Coupe

Click Here to Begin Slideshow The 1963 Corvette Stingray was a harbinger of the ways things were going to be.   The C2 Corvettes shared a basic body shape: a sharp horizontal edge ringing the body about midway with peaks and dips like NASDAQ daily ratings. The coupes added a gradually descending roofline that met the flat rear deck in a boattail-like point. But only the ’63 coupe possessed the re-defining coup de grace: the raised knife’s edge that runs from just behind the windshield header over the centre of the roof and down the isthmus of bodywork that bisects the rear glass. This Stingray is, as Daniel Pund for Road & Track put it in 2021: “Like the best of mid-century designs, at once soothingly familiar and bracingly radical.” Aside from its dramatic restyling from its predecessors, the ’63 Corvette will always be remembered, and sought by serious collectors, for its decision to have a highly contentious split back window as penned by the press. Aesthetically pleasing in its streamline addition, but pragmatically questionable, hampering the driver’s rearview visibility. “It’s a very special car, only made for one year,” says car owner, Bruce Gregory emphatically. “One of the most beautiful cars ever made, and a fantastic enthusiast community with so much information available on the car and the history. The ’63 split window design was always an icon for me, even when I was a kid. My brother had a Tonka car transporter that came with a couple of model split windows, even then, I was enthralled with the radical shape of the car.” Prior to the debut of the ’63 model, Corvette was in dire shape, financially submerging due to the penetrating competition from Ford’s Thunderbird causing General Motors to consider an early retirement of its sports car. If it weren’t for the inspiration and determination of three men: Bill Mitchell (GM’s Chief of Styling), Zora Arkus-Duntov (GM’s Director of High Performance Vehicles), and Larry Shinoda (GM’s Special Styling Projects’ designer for Studio X), the ’63 Corvette would never have developed further than a blueprint, if that. Arkus-Duntov, known as the “father of the Corvette,” stepped in at the last moment to save the Corvette and to recast it as Chevrolet’s saving grace. He incorporated novel design ideas, evolving the Corvette from a gutless two-seater into a world-class sports car. He introduced stiffer frames, independent rear suspension and disc brakes. Power and performance climbed thanks to fuel injection, multiple carburetors, large V8s, and tougher four-speed transmissions. The second-generation Corvettes he masterminded not only sold well, they earned GM profits that has        remained consistent for 60 years. Years later, Ed Cole, head the GM Car and Truck Group noted, “Zora managed to bootleg more things through Chevrolet than any other engineer I’ve ever known.”  The famous “split” window for the new Corvette almost never came to be. Bill Mitchell’s design department created the unique window for the 1963 model year. It was immediately despised by Arkus-Duntov because of its impaired rear visibility and prodigious aerodynamic lift. Mitchell argued that removing the split-window spine would destroy the purity of the whole design. Arkus-Duntov prevailed and got rid of the glass partition after only one model year but never fully resolved the midyear (1963–67) Stingray’s poor aero performance. Arguably, the split window was never adapted again. Nevertheless, Shinoda’s futuristic design was, in one word, stunning. Everything from its muscular bulges to its doors that curved into the roof was endorsed by the press, who drooled over the design at its launch at the Detroit Auto Show. Just the name alone, Stingray, an axiom deliberately given to Corvette’s conceptual race car because of its resemblance to the actual marine sting ray, stuck and further defined the Corvette. It caused a sensation. Sales catapulted through the roof. Even Chevrolet’s St. Louis factory had to add a second shift to keep up with the public demand. It was hailed unanimously for its superior handling, road adhesion, and unrelenting horsepower. Car Life magazine presented its annual Award for Engineering Excellence to Corvette that year. Not only was the new C2 viewed as prodigiously better than its predecessor, but it was considered Mt. Everest in comparison to many of Europe’s best sports cars. “For the last five years, we’ve been bombarded with rumours of an ‘all-new’ Corvette that was supposed to be just around the corner,” wrote Roger Huntington in Motor Trend’s January 1963 issue. “It was going to feature just about everything that was new and exciting in modern sports car design. We waited anxiously.” From an automotive journalist’s perspective, the waiting ended when Chevrolet unveiled its startling Stingray coupe for the press at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds. Rave reviews quickly followed. “This is the one we’ve been waiting for,” gushed Huntington. “And it’s all the rumours promised - and more. This is a modern sports car. In most ways it’s as advanced as the latest dual-purpose sports/luxury cars from Europe - and this includes the new Jaguar XK-E, Ferrari GT, Mercedes 300-SL, and all the rest. The new Corvette doesn’t have to take a back seat to any of them, in looks, performance, handling, ride and comfort.” Although considerable ink would flow in praise of the 1963 Stingray, perhaps its arrival was best summed up by Zora Duntov himself after the car’s introduction to the press. Duntov beamed like a new father. “For the first time, I now have a Corvette I can be proud to drive in Europe.” I ask Bruce what he feels when he sits  behind the wheel. “My first thought is…” He ponders before continuing, “How bizarrely proportioned were people in the early 60s? This car doesn’t fit anybody! Of course, then I start it and it is visceral. This is a car you feel and listen to and pay real attention to while driving it. I kicked in the secondaries in third gear getting on Highway 417, and at about 100 km/h the rear tires leaped to the occasion. Just pure raw fun. It grips corners like an Olympic luge.” This car needs no introduction to the tarmac whether it is a straightaway, a meandering country road or a race circuit where its DNA originated. Most distressing for Bruce was that his Stingray was advertised as a numbers-matching car. “The car was an older restoration when I bought it in 2001,” states Bruce. “It turned out to be a complete joke once I got the car and learned a ton about C2 Corvettes. I have to admit, with it clocked over 100,000 miles, I didn’t pay top flight prices for the car, but still, I was shocked that a reputable dealer would pull this off, and worse, blow me off after the purchase when I asked about it. All I know about the car was that it was built in St. Louis. In hindsight, I really cut my restoration/modification teeth on it. I made mistakes, fortunately none of them permanent, but I learned a ton.” Bruce has restored a stable of cars that looks like a Rolodex of classics, including a ’69 Pontiac Firebird, a ’69 Jaguar E-Type, a ’69 Dodge Dart, a ’70 Plymouth Roadrunner, a ’76 Porsche 935 500 hp Twin Turbo, a ’90 Mustang LX 5.0, a ’90 Nissan 240 SX, a ’95 Ferrari F355 Berlinetta, a ’96 Camaro SS, a ’02 Porsche 911 Twin Turbo and a ’02 factory built racing Porsche 911 GT3, as well as a ’02 BMW M3 track built model. The scariest car he drove was his ’03 Superformance 500 hp Cobra with 515 lb/ft of torque. His ’04 Porsche 911 GT3 paled in comparison. With the ’63 Corvette, Bruce left the body on the frame while the entire car was taken apart. Every addition was a recipe for speed. Bruce added new suspension aimed to keep the integrity of the original design but with more adjustability. “With the new rear suspension it’s super solid, and it has seemingly endless power, but is very progressive and easy to drive. It’s perhaps a little stiff, and definitely too loud, but anyone can drive this car as long as they don’t stomp the accelerator too hard. Before I changed the rear suspension out, well, it was not fun – the rear end had incredible bump steer as there were crazy directional changes over every bump. I put hours into aligning the rear suspension, but in the end I swapped it out from something more modern.” He converted to ’67 four wheel disc brakes, aluminum rad accompanied by an electric fan, and to put Tabasco sauce in its zip, a GM ZZ4 350 crate motor. Bruce bought the car with a 327 V8 with a 4-speed Muncie. The 350 is married to a Tremec 5-speed transmission for a more controllable ride. And if you’re going to move like a racing car, Sparco racing seats are mandatory. Hooker side pipes and American Racing 200S wheels were added to make sure everyone is aware that this car is at home on and off a race circuit. But that wasn’t enough. Bruce later upgraded to Wilwood four-wheel disc brakes and a dual master cylinder. He added Ridetech coil over the rear suspension, changed the 200S wheels to American Racing Torque Thrust II wheels, replaced the Sparco seats to Kirkey to complement his long lanky frame, and a GPS speedometer. “My only concern was that Fibreglass is hard to work with. It can crack so easily. I haven’t touched the body - it’s a little worn now, but when you have a real diamond, why replace it with custom jewellery? The car is still spectacular. I rewired most of the car and that was a big job,” confesses Bruce who did all the work himself and it’s still an ongoing process. “I didn’t repaint the car since I love the Daytona Blue that the previous owner did. Originally it was tan which is about as pretty as dung on hot pavement, so I’m happy it was repainted.” I ask Bruce if there is a difference between Corvette owners and other car owners. “Ooh, that’s a can of worms. There are always three classes of classic car owners,” Bruce muses. “People like me who love them but want to improve them; people who love them and want to keep them completely original; and fanatics who demand that everyone keep them original and no one has the right to modify even a hose clamp. I don’t really enjoy the company of that last group, and yes, I’m being a little facetious about them, but some folks can get pretty riled up. There is a strong sense of community across all generations of Vette owners – we all wave at each other, love to get together and just talk cars. I’m not sure Vette owners are different as much as classic/muscle/hot rod car owners are different from cars as transportation owners.” Speaking of owners, the late author, P.J. O’Rourke wrote in Driving Like Crazy, “Americans are big people from a big country. We like our elbow room so well that we carry it around with us. We can’t stand to be squished together as if we were sitting in the backseat of a Nissan Micra or living in England. And in our big country, we’re in a big hurry. When we drive an immense Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon XL, Ford Expedition EL, or a Dodge Durango - all having names that imply leviathans and are the size of the U.S. deficit, we get to where we’re going sooner, or at least the front part of our car does, though it may be a long walk to the bumper.” But I would prefer to drive a classic Corvette over a SUV any day. I mean why has Corvette been so successful over the past 60 years? It didn’t become a sedan or a SUV or a minivan. It stayed true to the original concept. It didn’t give in to social pressures and became a 4-door sedan. This is why Corvette is a success story, a flagship for Chevrolet, and an American icon. Click Here to Begin Slideshow

Bruce Gregory's 1963 Chevrolet Stingray Coupe

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

The 1963 Corvette Stingray was a harbinger of the ways things were going to be.  

The C2 Corvettes shared a basic body shape: a sharp horizontal edge ringing the body about midway with peaks and dips like NASDAQ daily ratings. The coupes added a gradually descending roofline that met the flat rear deck in a boattail-like point. But only the ’63 coupe possessed the re-defining coup de grace: the raised knife’s edge that runs from just behind the windshield header over the centre of the roof and down the isthmus of bodywork that bisects the rear glass. This Stingray is, as Daniel Pund for Road & Track put it in 2021: “Like the best of mid-century designs, at once soothingly familiar and bracingly radical.” Aside from its dramatic restyling from its predecessors, the ’63 Corvette will always be remembered, and sought by serious collectors, for its decision to have a highly contentious split back window as penned by the press. Aesthetically pleasing in its streamline addition, but pragmatically questionable, hampering the driver’s rearview visibility. “It’s a very special car, only made for one year,” says car owner, Bruce Gregory emphatically. “One of the most beautiful cars ever made, and a fantastic enthusiast community with so much information available on the car and the history. The ’63 split window design was always an icon for me, even when I was a kid. My brother had a Tonka car transporter that came with a couple of model split windows, even then, I was enthralled with the radical shape of the car.”

Prior to the debut of the ’63 model, Corvette was in dire shape, financially submerging due to the penetrating competition from Ford’s Thunderbird causing General Motors to consider an early retirement of its sports car. If it weren’t for the inspiration and determination of three men: Bill Mitchell (GM’s Chief of Styling), Zora Arkus-Duntov (GM’s Director of High Performance Vehicles), and Larry Shinoda (GM’s Special Styling Projects’ designer for Studio X), the ’63 Corvette would never have developed further than a blueprint, if that. Arkus-Duntov, known as the “father of the Corvette,” stepped in at the last moment to save the Corvette and to recast it as Chevrolet’s saving grace. He incorporated novel design ideas, evolving the Corvette from a gutless two-seater into a world-class sports car. He introduced stiffer frames, independent rear suspension and disc brakes. Power and performance climbed thanks to fuel injection, multiple carburetors, large V8s, and tougher four-speed transmissions. The second-generation Corvettes he masterminded not only sold well, they earned GM profits that has        remained consistent for 60 years. Years later, Ed Cole, head the GM Car and Truck Group noted, “Zora managed to bootleg more things through Chevrolet than any other engineer I’ve ever known.” 

The famous “split” window for the new Corvette almost never came to be. Bill Mitchell’s design department created the unique window for the 1963 model year. It was immediately despised by Arkus-Duntov because of its impaired rear visibility and prodigious aerodynamic lift. Mitchell argued that removing the split-window spine would destroy the purity of the whole design. Arkus-Duntov prevailed and got rid of the glass partition after only one model year but never fully resolved the midyear (1963–67) Stingray’s poor aero performance. Arguably, the split window was never adapted again. Nevertheless, Shinoda’s futuristic design was, in one word, stunning. Everything from its muscular bulges to its doors that curved into the roof was endorsed by the press, who drooled over the design at its launch at the Detroit Auto Show. Just the name alone, Stingray, an axiom deliberately given to Corvette’s conceptual race car because of its resemblance to the actual marine sting ray, stuck and further defined the Corvette. It caused a sensation. Sales catapulted through the roof. Even Chevrolet’s St. Louis factory had to add a second shift to keep up with the public demand. It was hailed unanimously for its superior handling, road adhesion, and unrelenting horsepower. Car Life magazine presented its annual Award for Engineering Excellence to Corvette that year. Not only was the new C2 viewed as prodigiously better than its predecessor, but it was considered Mt. Everest in comparison to many of Europe’s best sports cars. “For the last five years, we’ve been bombarded with rumours of an ‘all-new’ Corvette that was supposed to be just around the corner,” wrote Roger Huntington in Motor Trend’s January 1963 issue. “It was going to feature just about everything that was new and exciting in modern sports car design. We waited anxiously.” From an automotive journalist’s perspective, the waiting ended when Chevrolet unveiled its startling Stingray coupe for the press at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds. Rave reviews quickly followed. “This is the one we’ve been waiting for,” gushed Huntington. “And it’s all the rumours promised - and more. This is a modern sports car. In most ways it’s as advanced as the latest dual-purpose sports/luxury cars from Europe - and this includes the new Jaguar XK-E, Ferrari GT, Mercedes 300-SL, and all the rest. The new Corvette doesn’t have to take a back seat to any of them, in looks, performance, handling, ride and comfort.” Although considerable ink would flow in praise of the 1963 Stingray, perhaps its arrival was best summed up by Zora Duntov himself after the car’s introduction to the press. Duntov beamed like a new father. “For the first time, I now have a Corvette I can be proud to drive in Europe.” I ask Bruce what he feels when he sits  behind the wheel. “My first thought is…” He ponders before continuing, “How bizarrely proportioned were people in the early 60s? This car doesn’t fit anybody! Of course, then I start it and it is visceral. This is a car you feel and listen to and pay real attention to while driving it. I kicked in the secondaries in third gear getting on Highway 417, and at about 100 km/h the rear tires leaped to the occasion. Just pure raw fun. It grips corners like an Olympic luge.” This car needs no introduction to the tarmac whether it is a straightaway, a meandering country road or a race circuit where its DNA originated.

Most distressing for Bruce was that his Stingray was advertised as a numbers-matching car. “The car was an older restoration when I bought it in 2001,” states Bruce. “It turned out to be a complete joke once I got the car and learned a ton about C2 Corvettes. I have to admit, with it clocked over 100,000 miles, I didn’t pay top flight prices for the car, but still, I was shocked that a reputable dealer would pull this off, and worse, blow me off after the purchase when I asked about it. All I know about the car was that it was built in St. Louis. In hindsight, I really cut my restoration/modification teeth on it. I made mistakes, fortunately none of them permanent, but I learned a ton.” Bruce has restored a stable of cars that looks like a Rolodex of classics, including a ’69 Pontiac Firebird, a ’69 Jaguar E-Type, a ’69 Dodge Dart, a ’70 Plymouth Roadrunner, a ’76 Porsche 935 500 hp Twin Turbo, a ’90 Mustang LX 5.0, a ’90 Nissan 240 SX, a ’95 Ferrari F355 Berlinetta, a ’96 Camaro SS, a ’02 Porsche 911 Twin Turbo and a ’02 factory built racing Porsche 911 GT3, as well as a ’02 BMW M3 track built model. The scariest car he drove was his ’03 Superformance 500 hp Cobra with 515 lb/ft of torque. His ’04 Porsche 911 GT3 paled in comparison. With the ’63 Corvette, Bruce left the body on the frame while the entire car was taken apart. Every addition was a recipe for speed. Bruce added new suspension aimed to keep the integrity of the original design but with more adjustability. “With the new rear suspension it’s super solid, and it has seemingly endless power, but is very progressive and easy to drive. It’s perhaps a little stiff, and definitely too loud, but anyone can drive this car as long as they don’t stomp the accelerator too hard. Before I changed the rear suspension out, well, it was not fun – the rear end had incredible bump steer as there were crazy directional changes over every bump. I put hours into aligning the rear suspension, but in the end I swapped it out from something more modern.” He converted to ’67 four wheel disc brakes, aluminum rad accompanied by an electric fan, and to put Tabasco sauce in its zip, a GM ZZ4 350 crate motor. Bruce bought the car with a 327 V8 with a 4-speed Muncie. The 350 is married to a Tremec 5-speed transmission for a more controllable ride. And if you’re going to move like a racing car, Sparco racing seats are mandatory. Hooker side pipes and American Racing 200S wheels were added to make sure everyone is aware that this car is at home on and off a race circuit. But that wasn’t enough. Bruce later upgraded to Wilwood four-wheel disc brakes and a dual master cylinder. He added Ridetech coil over the rear suspension, changed the 200S wheels to American Racing Torque Thrust II wheels, replaced the Sparco seats to Kirkey to complement his long lanky frame, and a GPS speedometer. “My only concern was that Fibreglass is hard to work with. It can crack so easily. I haven’t touched the body - it’s a little worn now, but when you have a real diamond, why replace it with custom jewellery? The car is still spectacular. I rewired most of the car and that was a big job,” confesses Bruce who did all the work himself and it’s still an ongoing process. “I didn’t repaint the car since I love the Daytona Blue that the previous owner did. Originally it was tan which is about as pretty as dung on hot pavement, so I’m happy it was repainted.”

I ask Bruce if there is a difference between Corvette owners and other car owners. “Ooh, that’s a can of worms. There are always three classes of classic car owners,” Bruce muses. “People like me who love them but want to improve them; people who love them and want to keep them completely original; and fanatics who demand that everyone keep them original and no one has the right to modify even a hose clamp. I don’t really enjoy the company of that last group, and yes, I’m being a little facetious about them, but some folks can get pretty riled up. There is a strong sense of community across all generations of Vette owners – we all wave at each other, love to get together and just talk cars. I’m not sure Vette owners are different as much as classic/muscle/hot rod car owners are different from cars as transportation owners.”

Speaking of owners, the late author, P.J. O’Rourke wrote in Driving Like Crazy, “Americans are big people from a big country. We like our elbow room so well that we carry it around with us. We can’t stand to be squished together as if we were sitting in the backseat of a Nissan Micra or living in England. And in our big country, we’re in a big hurry. When we drive an immense Lincoln Navigator, Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon XL, Ford Expedition EL, or a Dodge Durango - all having names that imply leviathans and are the size of the U.S. deficit, we get to where we’re going sooner, or at least the front part of our car does, though it may be a long walk to the bumper.” But I would prefer to drive a classic Corvette over a SUV any day. I mean why has Corvette been so successful over the past 60 years? It didn’t become a sedan or a SUV or a minivan. It stayed true to the original concept. It didn’t give in to social pressures and became a 4-door sedan. This is why Corvette is a success story, a flagship for Chevrolet, and an American icon.

Click Here to Begin Slideshow

Bruce Gregory's 1963 Chevrolet Stingray Coupe

Bruce Gregory's 1963 Chevrolet Stingray Coupe

Bruce Gregory's 1963 Chevrolet Stingray Coupe

Bruce Gregory's 1963 Chevrolet Stingray Coupe

Bruce Gregory's 1963 Chevrolet Stingray Coupe

Bruce Gregory's 1963 Chevrolet Stingray Coupe

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About Clive Branson 49 Articles
Clive Branson is a photography graduate from Parsons School of Design in New York City and has since divided his career as an advertising creative director/copywriter and as a freelance writer/photographer. He is the author of Focus On Close-Up and Macro Photography and numerous articles for magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Britain. Clive lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario.

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