1963 CHEVY CORVETTE USHERS IN 2nd-GENERATION
Of course, the 1963 model year was a critical turning point in the Corvette’s history and development. It went from a convertible-only sports car in the British mold, to a gorgeous exotic that looked like it could have been designed in Italy. It was sleek, sexy, and at the same time, muscular and poised for action. There were several “firsts” with the new 1963 Chevy Corvette. First off it was available in a couple body style for the first time, in addition to the convertible (interestingly, Corvette convertibles outsold coupe in ’63). This was also the first year many of the comfort features that helped the Corvette to become a ‘real car’, not just a toy. Power brakes, power steering, and air conditioning became options. Despite this, only 278 people ordered their ’63 Vettes with AC. Then of course there are those hideaway headlights, new for ’63 and would remain a Corvette trademark until the 6th-generation. Lastly, this was the first, and only time that the rear “Split Window” appeared on the coupes, replaced in ’64 by a huge, one-piece rear window. The ’63 cut a bold new image as it introduced the world to the second-generation of Chevy Corvettes, a generation that would come to be known as the “Midyear Vettes”.
1963 Chevy Corvette CONVERTIBLE
1963 CHEVY CORVETTE INDEPENDENT SUSPENSION
There was a long list of mechanical improvements made to the 2nd-gen (C2) cars. The 1st-gen, or C1 Corvettes had been cobbled together with what was available in GMs parts bin in 1953. The front suspension was of the ancient and primitive King-pin setup. It was heavy, bulky, expensive, and didn’t make for very precise handling. By 1955, Chevy had introduced its new double ball-joint front suspension across its entire model line, all except the Corvette. It was felt that the cost of retooling was just too great for a low-volume ‘niche’ vehicle like the Corvette. But now that the entire car was being redrawn from top-to-bottom, the choice was an obvious one. The new Corvettes would have ball joints up front. But no one was paying much attention to the front suspension in 1963, it was the back that was getting all the attention. Gone was the solid rear axle, in its place was an elegant new fully-independent rear suspension setup with a single traverse leaf spring running side-to-side across the top. It was brilliant, simple, fairly compact, and light-years ahead of its time. Almost no production cars, certainly very few American cars, had independent rear suspension. It helped cast the Corvette’s image as a world-class high-performance sports car.
1963 Chevy Corvette SPLIT WINDOW COUPE
1963 Chevy Corvette INTERIOR
1963 CHEVY CORVETTE EQUIPMENT OPTIONS
Corvette sales jumped by almost 50% over the previous year, itself being the record-sales year up to that point. 21,513 ’63 Corvettes found new homes, and this huge increase was partly due to the many comfort and convenience features and options that allowed the Corvette to be used daily and routinely. Of course, the option of a Coupe body style must have helped, with 10,594 of them sold. But even the Convertibles were more comfortable and ‘livable’ than before, with things like leather interior, air conditioning, power windows, power steering, tinted glass, and 3.03:1 “highway gearing” were all available as options. Now the Corvette could race on Sunday and drive to work on Monday.
1963 Chevy Corvette ENGINES
1963 CHEVY CORVETTE ENGINE OPTIONS
The engine lineup wasn’t exactly carried over from the 1962 Corvette, with 4 versions of the 327. Gone were the dual 4-barrel setups, replaced by single 4-barrel engines. The 283 V8 had disappeared in 1961, replaced in 1962 by the 327. Now all Corvettes came with a 327 of one kind or another. For the 1963 model year, the base engine was a 250hp 327 V8. Then there were 2 upgraded 4-barrel 327s, RPO L75 with 300hp, and RPO L76 with 340hp. The top of the performance pyramid was the “Fuelie” engine, the 360hp 327 equipped with Rochester mechanical fuel injection. This was a larger, improved version to address the enlargement from 283 to 327 cubic inches. Chevrolet switched transmission suppliers for 1963, from Borg-Warner to Muncie.
360hp 327 V8 w/Rochester Fuel Injection
ABOVE: This new F.I. was larger than the old system, to accommodate the bigger breathing needs of the new 327 over the 283. It also capitalized on the lessons learned with the first system. Here you can see the enormous throttle body on the left of the big airbox. Note the large cylindrical air filter on the lower-right. This houses a conical air filter element, and breathes cold air through a hole behind the grille.
BELOW: They were a bear to tune, but once you got them right, they were killers on the street! When in proper tune, they were very drivable, got good mileage (for the times), gave you more power, but also gave you a few more rpm than you could get out of a carburated car.
ABOVE: The older Rochester F.I. was introduced in 1957 on the 283hp 283 V8, the first production engine ever to produce 1 horsepower per cubic inch. Actually it made more like 300, but Chevy thought 283 sounded better. When the standard Corvette engine went from the 283 to the 327 in ’62, Chevy began working on a larger version, which was introduced in the 1963 Corvette, as seen here, and continued through the 1965 model year. Fuel injection was always an expensive option (that’s why they’re so rare today), and by this point it became obvious that it was cheaper to get more power by dropping in a big block.
BELOW: The entire high-pressure fuel system ran off of a pump at the back of the fuel meter (on this side of the airbox), which was powered by a short speedometer-type cable that ran off of the distributor. You can see it bending almost 90-degrees from the distributor to the pump. The Corvettes of the day had mechanical tachometers which were cable-driven off of the left side of the distributor. On Fuelie cars, this cable drive continued through to the right side of the distributor as well, allowing a speedo cable to be hooked up to both ends, one for the tach, and one for the F.I. Caution if you own one: Keep it lubed. With that tight bend, if it goes dry it will snap, then the car is dead. I know, it happened to me with mine.