Arguably one of the richest legacies in automotive history is that of the Corvette Sting Ray or Stingray—your preference for which model years are your favorite. America’s first true sports car is one of America’s longest-running models.
In the beginning, the Corvette Stingray was a privately funded concept car that formed a basis for the second-generation Corvette Sting Ray (1963-’67). General Motors’ designer Harley Earl is widely credited with inventing the concept car and through the Motorama, the mobile traveling show of the ’50s, made these cars immensely popular.
The Stingray racer-concept car was designed in 1957 by GM designers Pete Brock, Bill Mitchell (GM’s vice president of styling), and Larry Shinoda. The basis of the Sting Ray was the ’57 Corvette SS, an engineering test mule chassis used in the Chevrolet race effort at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After the Automobile Manufacturers Association banned manufacturer-sponsored racing, the SS was relegated to putting in the laps around a test track.
When the first Sting Ray appeared on the covers of many car magazine back in the day everyone knew it was something special. Corvettes had always enjoyed healthy doses of performance from hot rodders but they were also favorites among customizers. The Sting Ray with its “stinger” rear window (while restricting rear vision) was popular; it was also popular to remove the “stinger” after the ’64 Sting Ray debuted with its factory “de-stinger” design.
Hot rodders immediately responded to the “split-window” as a true street and track performance car. At the time, Corvette Chief Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov was a huge proponent of performance via the engine and the suspension. Leading the way to the more powerful fuel-injected 327-inch small-block and the fully independent suspension.
And that brings us to Larry Olson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and his 1963 Corvette split-window. Larry calls himself “a farmer” and while many of us have known plenty of farmers with fast cars, Larry must get to the end of his row of corn long before any of the others.
Larry has owned hot rods since 1972, with his first car a $300 ’32 Ford that he brought back to hot rod life. After sitting down with Bobby Alloway of Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop in Louisville, Tennessee, the idea was hatched to design and build the ultimate in ’63 Sting Rays. As you walk up to the front of the Vette you immediately recognize a ’67 big-block hood with its “stinger.” (Apparently, the air cleaner on the big-block didn’t fit below the hood line so Corvette designers and engineers came up with a popular design element that supplied the required mechanical function.) We now have a Sting Ray with the stinger appearance from both the front and back. The remaining fiberglass is a stock body second-generation Corvette sprayed in PPG black with red accent on the hood.
There are two major focal points on this ’63: the engine and the chassis. While a big-block Chevy isn’t unique, hot rodders everywhere are fascinated when they see one stuffed under the hood.
Larry’s big-block Chevy is based on a 502-inch V-8 modified by Mylon Keasler of Keasler Racing and Machine. What makes this Chevy different is the Rochester-looking “big-box” injector that GM didn’t make. The mechanical Rochester was intended for the 327 and not for the big-block, which didn’t come around until mid-year in 1965. The big-box injector was fabricated by Keasler based on one of their intake manifolds. Upon closer inspection you see that what was once the Rochester air horn is now the throttle body. Within the newly fabricated plenum the modern EFI components are hidden.
Other engine components include the following: COMP Cams camshaft, MSD control module and distributor with the factory-appearing ignition interference shroud, and PML valve covers. A Steve Long radiator cools this potent big-bock, making it a downtown cruiser. Barillaro Speed Emporium headers coupled to Flowmaster Model 44 mufflers (that deep throated sound!) provide the necessary exhaust.
The chassis is an Art Morrison Enterprises, of Fife, Washington, proprietary system utilizing their own IFS front suspension along with triangulated four-bar rear suspension that incorporates Strange Engineering adjustable coilover shocks on all four corners, giving enhanced traction control and maximum lateral stability. Keisler Engineering (not to be confused with Keasler Racing) supplied the Tremec TKO five-speed that ushers the power back to the Ford 9-inch rearend that has 4.56 gears, Strange axles and coilover shocks, and a Baer disc brake package, which includes 14-inch drilled and slotted rotors.
Inside, the first reaction is a nicely done stock interior, and while the impression is to make you believe it is stock there are a handful of changes enhancing the interior’s appearance and function. The factory gauges were reworked and modernized by Classic Instruments. They reworked the gauge faces by changing color, indicator needles, and placed the Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop logo on the faces. Modern air conditioning from Vintage Air is now in place, along with lots of Dynamat to arrest unwanted heat and sound from infiltrating into the interior. The stock seating, reworked door panels, and carpeting was redone by Steve Holcomb of Pro Auto Custom Interiors, who used red leather and Daytona weave wool carpeting.
Should you ever find yourself out on a farm and notice this split-window make sure to say “hello” to Larry. Odds are he will be the fastest farmer you have ever seen.