1963 through 1967 Corvettes are known as C2 Vettes. They have their own distinctive styling and an impressive array of engines and horsepower ratings. The mid-sixties were a time of increasingly powerful cars, but before emissions standards were much more than a simple PCV system. These were the automotive equivalent of the wild west and Corvettes were the quickest gunslingers in town.
Big and boxy were still apt descriptions of most American cars in 1963, so imagine the stir caused by the sleek new Corvette. The body was all new and for the first time buyers had a choice between a traditional Corvette roadster and a closed coupe. The roadster was handsome, but it was the radical rear roofline of the coupe that garnered the most attention. The ’63 coupe looked more like a concept car than a production car.
There was a prominent styling ridge that ran from the windshield to the taillight panel on ’63 coupes. That styling cue was accented with a split rear window. The visual effect was stunning, but the visibility wasn’t so great. As a result a single piece rear glass was substituted on 1964 and later C2 coupes.
Underneath the new C2 Corvettes things were just as exciting. Independent rear suspension was mounted on a transverse leaf spring. This marked the start of a whole new era in Corvette handling. Air conditioning became available in 1963 as did true knock-off wheels.
Fuel injection was available through 1965. The fading days of the high performance small-block dovetailed with the dawning of big-block Corvettes. The focus changed from quick and nimble to raw, tire-shredding power. Four-wheel disc brakes became standard in 1965.
The ’65 big-block displaced 396 cubic inches and produced 425 horsepower. Displacement was upped to 427 ci in 1966. Aluminum cylinder heads became available on big-blocks in 1967. Sales slipped a little in 1967 (probably in anticipation of the new 1968 Corvette), but ironically, ’67 Corvettes are among the most valuable of all.
The mid-sixties were an exciting time and the ’63-’67 Corvettes were very representative of those times.
The all-new 1963 Corvette caused a sensation. Only the engines were carried over from 1962. The chassis was new with independent rear suspension and the wild body was new, too. A coupe was available for the first time. It proved to be very popular with buyers.
A split rear window highlighted the tapered rear roof styling. Bill Mitchell was the Styling Chief responsible for this radical design. Ironically, there were a lot of complaints about the split window so it was eliminated for 1964. Today, it’s an iconic feature that makes ’63 coupes extra desirable.
The top engine for 1963 was the 360 hp fuel injected 327 small-block. This optional engine was quite popular selling 2,610 units.
A one-piece rear window glass improved rearward visibility in 1964, but it eliminated a key characteristic of the ’63 Corvette coupe.
1965 was the last year for the fuel injected 327 small-block and the first year for the 396 big-block. The power bulge hood on this ’65 roadster indicates that it has a big-block. Knock-off wheels and side exhaust were two high profile options.
In its inaugural year the 396 V8 was only available as a 425 hp version. Even though it wasn’t introduced until mid-March it still found its way into 2,157 ’65 Corvettes.
As popular as the big-block cars were there was nothing wrong with the small-block C2 Vettes. Small-block Corvettes, such as this red ’66 coupe could be had with up to 350 horsepower from their carbureted engines. The fuel injection option was no more.
The gentleman resting his arm on this ’66 big-block coupe is Zora Arkus-Duntov. Even though he wasn’t directly involved with the first couple years of the Corvette he is revered as the father of the Corvette. He is the man who put Corvettes on the road to high performance.
1967 was the last of the C2 Corvettes, but they went out in style with the availability of several 427 cubic inch big-blocks including the vastly underrated (430 hp) L88. This is an L89 coupe with aluminum heads on the 435 hp L71 427 big-block. The optional aluminum wheels were now bolt on instead of knock-offs as in previous years.
The L89 427 featured tri-power carburetion and was rated at 435 horsepower.
BY THE NUMBERS
Legend: cp=coupe, cv=convertible, T=total, PG=Powerglide