The Sting Ray’s instant success was not a flash in the pan. Nearly half a century after its debut, the passion it engenders is not only undiminished, but in fact grows continuously stronger with the passage of time. These Corvettes remain the favorite of hardcore collectors, restorers and aftermarket tuners, as well as with casual enthusiasts who want a reasonably affordable classic they can work on themselves and actually drive with some regularity.
Second-generation Corvettes—also commonly referred to as mid-years because they were offered between the 1963 and 1967 model years—are especially suitable for people interested in using them because despite the unstoppable march of technology, they are still cars that can be driven long distances and thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way. This is the result of a capable but forgiving chassis, excellent brakes, good weather sealing, loads of power, decent ergonomics and a wide range of available optional equipment.
Mid-years originally could be had with comfort-enhancing features previously unavailable in Corvettes, such as power steering and brakes, leather upholstery and air conditioning. Beginning in 1965, a telescopic steering column and headrest seats were also offered. On the performance side, C2s ranged from utterly docile, modest compression, mild cam, hydraulic-lifter 327-cid small blocks to ferocious street-fighting, solid-lifter, high-compression, 427 big blocks breathing through high-rise aluminum intakes, big-valve heads and massive Holley 4-barrel carburetors. And by checking off now-legendary option package designations such as Z06 or L88, buyers could have off-the-shelf race cars capable of competing anywhere from legendary road circuits like Sebring and Le Mans to the nation’s great drag strips.
While L88s, Z06s and other rare mid-years garner the most attention, the less exotically configured models usually have a higher fun-per-dollar ratio. This fact was not lost on Bill Mehrkens, the owner of our featured 1963 coupe. He’s a seasoned Corvette owner who set out to find a modestly priced ’63 split window that he could show, drive, work on and enjoy.
Two years ago, his garage was home to a heavily modified ’05 Corvette nicknamed “The Silver Devil” and an extremely original and beautifully preserved 1973 big block. But there was a problem, according to Mehrkens. “Both of these cars were ‘done,’” he recalls, “so I was looking for what was next.” As he got more involved with the National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS), Mehrkens’ interest in mid-years in general, and 1963s in particular, deepened: “I thought it would be great to have a ’63—my favorite C2 with its one-year-only body style—share the garage with the ’73, my favorite C3 with its one-year-only body style.” He targeted his upcoming 50th birthday as the date by which he would try to find a suitable ’63 coupe.
To open up a space in his garage and fatten his ’63 fund, Mehrkens decided to sell his C5. After listing it on an Internet auction site, he was worried that it wouldn’t bring enough dough—but, to his relief, it caught the attention of a guy in Florida who had just won big in Las Vegas and was looking to spend his newfound wealth on a wild ride. “I lit the tires up for one giant good-bye burnout and put it on a transporter to Florida,” Mehrkens says with a broad grin.
With cash in hand and an open spot in his garage, Mehrkens began his search for a split window. He scoured the Internet every night until his eyes got blurry. “Then, there it was,” Mehrkens recalls, “a 68,000-actual-mile Daytona Blue ’63 listed in Columbia, New Jersey, about 100 miles from my home. It was a matching-numbers 327/300, with the original trim and VIN tags, a lacquer repaint and it was owned by the seller since 1973. The price was more than I wanted to spend, but I figured it was worth a look. I called and spoke to the owner, Ed Capwell, who was in his 70s. He explained he had a hangar at his local private airport with a few old cars and his plane. He was looking to sell everything and move.”