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Beginning with the dramatically styled ’63 coupe and ending with enormously powerful big-block models, the Sting Ray cemented the Corvette’s place in history as one of the world’s great sports cars.

December 19, 2012

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Gorgeous styling and performance few production cars of the era could even approach propelled Chevrolet’s second-generation Corvette to superstardom. When introduced in 1963, the nearly all-new Corvette Sting Ray instantly won the hearts of the motoring press and, even more important, flew out of Chevy showrooms from coast to coast. Only nine years earlier, Chevy’s hesitant entrance into the sports-car market nearly came to an abrupt halt when more than one-third of 1954 production remained unsold at year’s end. By the conclusion of model-year 1963, however, some 21,513 of the new Corvettes were sold, an astounding 50-percent increase over 1962 sales figures.

Much of the second-generation Corvette was new. The C2’s chassis was a ladder design with fully boxed side members and five welded cross members. The four forward cross members were fully enclosed while the rear-most cross member was formed from C-channel. Compared with the C1’s chassis, with its central I-beam X-member, the new design was nearly 50 percent more torsionally rigid.

The C2’s suspension was updated with ball-jointed unequal A-arms up front and a multi-link independent setup at the rear replacing the C1’s kingpin front and leaf spring-mounted solid-axle rear. The new suspension, along with an updated steering system in place of the C1’s antiquated third-arm bearing arrangement, made the new Corvette a much better-handling sports car.

The first-generation braking system was little changed for 1963, but in 1965 Corvette stopping power took a giant leap forward with the adoption of four-wheel disc brakes as standard. Large, four-piston Delco calipers dramatically improved braking performance, particularly in the wet and in competition.

Similarly, the C2’s engine lineup was carried over from 1962 essentially unchanged and remained that way until 1965, with the mid-year introduction of Chevy’s ultra-powerful Mark IV big-block V8. It was initially sized at 396 cubic inches and then enlarged to 427 cubic inches for 1966. By 1967, no fewer than five different versions of the 427 were offered.

On the styling front, the Sting Ray represented much more of a radical change. While the back half of the 1961-62 Corvettes foreshadowed the new generation’s rear treatment, none of the rear panels interchanged, and the front of the ’63 was all new. For the first time, a coupe body style was offered as an alternative to the convertible, and it debuted in the form of the legendary, one-year-only ’63 split window. Other new features included retracting headlights, the elimination of the trunk and the addition of door-vent windows.

The second generation’s interior differs from its predecessor in some noteworthy ways, too. Unlike the C1’s cockpit, the C2’s is symmetrical from one side to the other, with the arch-shaped, passenger-side glovebox and dash pad mirroring the driver-side arch-shaped pad and instrument cluster.

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