While researching the special 60th Anniversary publication we produced with Motor Trend recently, we ran across these two pictures of the new-for-1963 Sting Ray. The color photo was tagged as a “1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Coupe.” No surprise there. It’s the black-and-white photo that’s the mystery. To our eyes it looks like the exact same car shot at the exact same angle as the color photo, but with a driver posing with it. The man is in racing coveralls with what looks to be a USAC patch on the stripe. He’s holding a helmet in one hand and has a cigarette in the other. We don’t recognize him. GM’s tag for this photo identifies the car as a “1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06.”
It’s possible that both tags are correct, as there were no external badges, stripes, or other callouts that would differentiate a standard split-window coupe from one fitted with RPO Z06. Zora Arkus-Duntov put the Z06 package together in 1962 so that privateer racers could campaign the all-new Corvette in the SCCA’s production classes in spite of Chevrolet’s adherence to the AMA racing ban.
The Z06 option primarily targeted the chassis for upgrades, with beefier suspension pieces, a larger front sway bar, and a brake package that included metallic linings in the shoes and specially designed components to aid brake cooling—finned drums, vented backing plates, and fans within the drums. It also included a 36.5-gallon fuel tank and aluminum knock-off wheels at first, though both were dropped from the RPO a couple months later. (The wheels were prone to leaking; the tank was made available under its own RPO.) When RPO Z06 was ordered, certain other equipment had to be ordered as “mandatory options,” like the L84 327/360hp fuel-injected V-8, close-ratio four-speed manual transmission, and Positraction axle.
Duntov introduced the Z06 option in October 1962, and six of the race-prepped coupes were sold to “name” drivers like Bob Bondurant and Mickey Thompson. These cars first competed at the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix in Riverside later that month, where Thompson’s Vette, driven by Doug Hooper, logged the Z06’s first race victory.
Ultimately, just 199 Z06 coupes were built. RPO Z06 was a pricey package—$1,818, not including the $661 you’d have to pay for those mandatory options. Plus, the SCCA’s rules put the Z06 Vettes in the same class as Carroll Shelby’s new Cobras, which were significantly lighter and, therefore, faster. Duntov, though, would not be denied race victories for his Corvette, and soon the Grand Sport would take up the fight.