1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray – The Birth of American Sports Car

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray – Watch This Amazing Video of The Birth of An American Sports Car.

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The Birth of An American Sports Car.

Europe 1950. New sites and new sounds flash across the continent as road racing erupts into truly international sport. A new vocabulary of names and places develops. Names like Ferrari, Porsche, MG, Austin Healey, Lancia, Alfa Romeo and many more. Places like Lemans’ France, Nürburgring Germany, Monza Italy and the road races of Monte Carlo, Belgium and other European nations. This new vocabulary is spoken not only by drivers but by 25 million spectators who make road racing the world’s most popular sport. There is more than fun involved in road racing. There is the need for high-performance vehicle, skilled drivers to handle them and challenging courses where men and machines can test their mettle. This in turn leads to significant engineering advances to independent four-wheel suspension system, high compression engines, fuel injection, self-adjusting brakes and new frames and body design.

Racing In Europe

Racing In Europe

European road racing

While the excitement of sports cars and sports car driving gains momentum in Europe throughout the early 50s, there is excitement of another kind in the United States. Where competitive events are still being held in the traditional American way. Big racing cars on closed-circuit oval tracks with all turns banked and the major emphasis on speed. But, much of this is to change in the fall of 1953. When America’s largest producer of automobiles takes a significant step forward. Filling the sports car void in this county by introducing America’s only true sports car.

European road racing had proved that a true sports car is a very specialized vehicle. It puts a greater premium on handling and maneuverability than on speed alone. It emphasizes cornering steering and road holding and it calls for something special from its drivers. A sense of challenge, a love of precision, a respect for power. American recognition of these and other requirements was reflected in the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette. It was continued with year to year styling and engineering refinements during the following nine years. As Corvette proved itself, not only as a quality sports car, but as a competition car too. These basic ideas in sports car going. This same drive to improve through experience. Have been brought to the here and now in the dramatic exciting 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray.

General Motors Technical Center

General Motors Technical Center

Biography of a Sports Car

The idea of the new 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray was conceived at the General Motors Technical Center. Where designers and engineers were given free rein to develop a distinctly different kind of sports car from the ground up. Once overall design requirements for a convertible and a sports coupe were established, and major components had been built and pre-tested. The next major step was the construction of pre-production prototype models to check out design and engineering details of the finished cars.

1963 Corvette one-piece underbody

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray one-piece underbody

Beginning with a one-piece underbody. The first hand made prototype, a sports coupe takes shape and form. On a perfectly level surface plate in the fiberglass body shop. For this new fastback model, the passenger compartment is completely framed in a steel network. That in non-technical language is known as the birdcage. It isn’t long before the surface plate is filled with clamps and fixtures as additional body sections are assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Birdcage

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Birdcage

Each new section is carefully fitted into place.

Then prepared for bonding to adjacent panels. All of the pieces that make a complete prototype body. Including this rear quarter panel are formed in plaster molds that are hand cast from wood patters. After the molds are treated with a coat of resin, fiberglass cloth is carefully hand fitted to their contours, then coated with more resin. When the plastic material has set and been trimmed the panel is taken out the mold and fitted into a sub assembly. Consisting of the roof and the opposite rear quarter panel.

1963 Corvette Sting Ray Rear Body

1963 Corvette Sting Ray Rear Body

A rear end panel across the back completes the four-piece sub assembly. Fiberglass reinforcing strips are then bonded along all seams for added strength and rigidity. With the rood and rear fender assembly now joined into a single unit. The entire piece is lifted out of its special fixture and bonded directly to the underbody and birdcage. The birdcage is designed to provide steal support for the fiberglass roof section in the passenger area of the fastback model. This marriage of steal and fiberglass also results in a stronger body with increased torsional rigidity. While each piece of the prototype body, including front fender panels is carefully and accurately joined on the surface plate in the fiberglass body shop.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Rear Frame

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Rear Frame

Frame for the new sports car takes shape.

A prototype frame for the new sports car takes shape on another surface plate in the experimental frame shop. The shorter frame for the 98inch wheelbase car is entirely new. A ridged perimeter with five cross members. The all welded steel structure formed by these members results in greater torsional stiffness, while closed side members outline the entire passenger compartment. Sports car design requirements are also evident in the rear sub assembly of the frame. Where twin exhaust pipes will pass not under but through the intermediate crossmember. As the frame continues taking shape constant checks against engineering and production standards are made. Then the two sub-assemblies are welded together, and the completed frame is moved into the paint shop for final finishing.

Soon afterwards frame and body are ready to be joined. Temporarily, to check fit accuracy and alignment and to transport the body to the paint shop. The clutter of fixtures surrounding the fiberglass body is removed, revealing a different sports car look. The hood line is long low and tapered. later retractable headlights will be installed to complete the smooth sweeping effect. The body is also significantly lower and more compact then previous years. Yet some interior dimensions have actually been increased and for easy entry and exit. Doors opening wrapped right into the roof panel.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Rear Seats

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Rear Seats

The prototype’s interior

Providing a complete set of handmade trim for the prototype interior is the responsibility of the engineering trim shop. Here as elsewhere during the construction of prototype models. Highly specialized skills are called for. This handcrafted pre-production seat for example is designed to combine a deeper bucket with more wraparound support in the back section. Objective, increased driving and riding comfort. Because beauty is important too, standard seats are covered with treated leader grain vinyl. Or, a plush touch genuine leather seat trim is optional.

1963 Corvette Sting Ray - Parts

1963 Corvette Sting Ray Parts

Every part on a pre-production car calls for special attention.

Someone to design it and someone to make it. Prototype body hardware for instance is diecast one piece at a time in the engineering foundry. But, the precision molds are made from wood models. The hand-carved wood models are made from blueprints and the blueprint are based on sketches drawn by stylists. The end result of this long chain of skills can be something as large as a complete fiberglass body, or as small as a zinc nameplate. Then when every component has passed through testing manufacturing and finishing steps final assembly of the prototype car gets underway.


1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - Chassis

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Chassis


1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - Diff

11963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Diff

Assembly proceeds from the ground up.

Starting with the prototype frame and a completely new rear suspension system. First to decrease the unsprung weight of the car and thereby produce true sports car and road handling. A rubber isolated differential is bolted to the frame. Additional stability is provided by a unique three link suspension unit attached at each rear wheel. One link absorbs acceleration and braking forces and another controls forces set up by twists and turns. A separate axle shaft with double universal joints forms the third link in each rear suspension unit. A transverse multi-leaf spring is also part of the rear suspension system. But, is designed to handle vertical forces only.


1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - Suspension

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Suspension


1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - Suspension

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Suspension

Full four-wheel independent suspension

Full four-wheel independent suspension is achieved with the introduction of a new coil spring design for the front wheels. Steering is also improved and allows quick changes from standard steering ratios to a faster ratio for competitive requirements by repositioning the tie rods. Steering handling and traction are improved to because unlike most front engine cars. The 1963 Corvette Sting Ray carries over 50% of its weight on the rear wheels.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - Body

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Body

Now the fiberglass body which has been sprayed with an experimental metallic color is lowered on the chassis and bolted to eight body mounts. Alignment of the rap-over doors is checked. The ends of the transverse multi-link spring are bolted in place. And, the final assembly of the interior and exterior of the car now becomes a matter of nuts and bolts. Plus, several hundred other parts each has its own production number. Which has been carefully recorder in the parts catalog for the prototype car. Whether big or small whether a production part or a handmade piece. Every component has been requisitioned and is on hand when required.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - Interior

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Interior

Skilled assemblers work round the clock

With the prototype rapidly reaching its completion and evaluation faze. Skilled assemblers work round the clock to meet predetermined build schedules. Soon the prototype interior is completed down to the very last screw and washer. Rapid progress is also made in the outside appearance of the car. Which takes on a distinctive look and personality all its own. Electrically rotated headlights for example are a key design feature of the prototype. The lights are operated from inside the car by two controls. One reveals and retracts the twin units the other turn the lights on and off. With the lights in their concealed position from-end styling has a smooth aerodynamic flow.

1963 Corvette Sting Ray - Front Lights

1963 Corvette Sting Ray Front Lights

At the rear of the car the gas filler tube cover for the standard 20-gallon tank or optional 36-gallon tank is attached. Later the distinctive Corvette emblem will add styling highlights to the cover. Finally, the spare wheel is raised into concealed well beneath the gasoline tank. A major check point has now been reached for the prototype sports car. After nearly two years of planning, designing and pre-testing and the individual efforts of hundreds of people is a complete reality. It moves now to the test car garage were final changes will be made in paints parts and engineering specifications before final evaluation of the convertible and a sports coupe begins at the General Motors proving grounds.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - At Test Track

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray at Test Track

Testing at the General Motors proving grounds

Here a group of Chevrolet research and development engineers and Zora Arkus-Duntov staff engineer in charge of high performance vehicles are joined by two well-known Corvette drivers, Dr. Dick Thompson and Dave McDonald. Their purpose to evaluate a Sting Ray Convertible and a Sting Ray fastback. Two prototypes which reflect a full decade of sports car experience by stylists, engineers, research and testing personnel. Production experts and individual craftsman of a hundred different skills.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - At The GM Test Track

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray at the GM Test Track


1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - General Motors Test Track

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray at General Motors Test Track

Yes, it takes people with know how plus a nationwide network of manufacturing facilities to produce a distinctively different car. A car worthy of its sports car designation. Nothing illustrates all of this better than the sight and sound of the new 1963 Corvette Sting Ray itself. So, watch and listen to this new and dramatic idea in sports car going.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - Race Track

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray – Race Track


1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray - Test Drivers

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Test Drivers

After the first run. Duntov and the Drivers have a discussion on the performance of the new cars around the proving grounds.

Exciting all right let’s stop being excited, tell me the general feel.
A great improvement over the 62.
She’s quite a car we got this time.
We’ve had power for some time. But, now you’ve got the other finer points to go with it.
Dick, tell me what do you think about the acceleration and traction?
It was very difficult to actually spin the wheels starting off. I think this will be important not only to Dave and myself under racing conditions. But, also to the average public driving on the highway. The average person accelerating off, say in slippery weather even, or dry pavement will have a car much more under control.

Dave, what do you think of the inside of the car?
Well the dash arrangement this year is one thing I noticed right away and the way the instruments are arranged this year. It’s awful easy to pick out what you’re looking for. Whether it’s the speedometer, the tack or the oil pressure or something like that.
Tell me Dick. How do you feel about the driving position, pedal arrangement, all the interior?
It was very comfortable Zara. I have a particular problem with my legs clearing under the steering wheel. And, in this particular car they clear the steering wheel very nicely. We’re very happy with it. Were you happy Dave?
Sure was, and it not only looks like a dream car. It even handles like one. At any speed it’s beautiful.


1963 Corvette Sting Ray Convertible

1963 Corvette Sting Ray Convertible


1963 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe

1963 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe


Yes, the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray is the sports car with a European heritage, but an American biography. A biography that summarizes a decade of outstanding achievement in design performance and engineering.

The 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray  Americas sports car.


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