The introduction of the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray was a seismic event in the sports-car world. The first all-new Corvette since the two-seater's debut ten years earlier, the 1963 Sting Ray was both an engineering triumph and a design milestone. The car incorporated a boat-tail taper that was common of sporting roadster of the 1930s.
The back featured a Bugatti Atlantique and Bertone BAT inspired split rear-window. This styling was replaced in 1964 with a single piece because of drivers complaining about visibility problems. The headlights were concealed in the front and would 'pop' out when in use.
This was the very first time Corvette was available as a hardtop coupe model as well as the traditional convertible. The wheelbase was shortened by four inches to 98 inch. This, along with independent rear suspension, improved the handling and maneuverability.
Influenced by Bill Mitchell's racing Stingray and the Q Corvette designs from 1957, the new body was an absolute sensation. Elements of the Q Corvette and the Stingray Special racer were incorporated into an experimental project called XP-720, which was the design program that led directly to the production 1963 Corvette Sting Ray.
The new styling was a big hit, its angular body, with a minimum of bright work and a distinctive split rear window on the coupe version. This was the first year that Corvette offered both convertible and coupe body forms, nonfunctional vents were featured on both the sides and the hood and it was the only year for the split window.
There are fewer split window models today compared to how many were original produced because many owners, who found the look controversial, removed the split and installed a one-piece, 1964 rear window.
The name Corvette, wîth the extended name 'Corvette Sting Ray', would prove widely popular. Base price for the coupe was $4,257.00 while the convertible ran $4,037.00. The 1963 model year would produce 10,594 coupes and 10,919 convertibles.
But who designed the 63 Stingray? Ultimately, the project came down to GM’s Director of Styling, Bill Mitchell and Chevrolet Corvette Chief Engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov. And these two colorful individuals couldn’t have been more different in their ideas of what the Corvette should become in the early 1960s.
Throughout the decade prior, style ruled over substance throughout the automotive industry. This fact was especially obvious in the first Corvette design, which made its debut in 1953. That original Corvette looked fast, but it was largely a collection of ordinary sedan components cloaked in a sexy, flamboyant body.
The 1963 Corvette Stingray design was undeniably beautiful. But it nonetheless ignited one of the more heated battles between Mitchell and Duntov. Mitchell had designed the car's arching back window to be split down the middle by a slender but visibility-blocking bodyline. Duntov protested vehemently against the split rear window, citing the poor rearward vision it caused. Mitchell dug in and claimed that the whole design was ruined without it.
In the end, a compromise was ordered: The split would stay for the '63 model year, but thereafter the rear window would span the width of the roof uninterrupted.
Duntov also won another key battle with GM management, thereby almost singlehandedly elevating the '63 Corvette into the realm of truly credible sporting machines.
By this time, the best sports cars had independent rear suspension, which allowed each rear wheel to traverse bumps without disturbing the other wheel. It makes a car more composed over rough surfaces, therefore enabling faster driving over less-than-ideal roads.
The new car was a resounding success, winning the hearts of car buyers as well as the perpetually hard-to-please legions of serious automotive enthusiasts – even fussy Europeans. By the time the '63 model year had ended, Corvette sales had leaped to over 20,000, from around 14,000 the previous year.