In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine a time when a secondhand ’63 Corvette split-window coupe was considered just a “used car” to some people. With its now iconic one-year-only rear window feature and peppy performance for its time, this particular vintage Corvette has since risen to legendary status among car collectors and automobile aficionados alike. And with the passing of time, the ’63 has remained one of the most sought-after cars since its introduction to the marketplace more than 50 years ago.
But to 22-year-old Ron Stanczyk, at first, this ’63 was just someone else’s used and recycled playtoy. It was 1965, and the young hot rodder was looking for a cruising companion for his ’60 fuelie daily driver. Ron was on the lookout for a car he could build up and race on the street and at the local track … if that thought ever popped up. Early on in his search he found this Sebring Silver fuel-injected split-window coupe for sale without an engine and trans for $1,000 on a used car lot. Ron was immediately intrigued.
“I saw it, I liked it, I bought it,” Ron nonchalantly states. Hard to imagine nowadays that this castaway mid-year was just a recycled car to him, but it was definitely a car he could use. So he immediately ponied up for the carcass, figuring this sweet Split would be the perfect canvas to start his custom build with. The roller was soon brought back to his garage and a plan was devised; a plan that would make this plastic Chevy into both a street-legal driver and a dragstrip contender. Game on!
Being a hot rodder through and through, and someone who had played with mechanicals his whole life, Ron decided to build the Vette up himself. First order of business was finding the right powertrain combination to maximize performance, while not being a burden out on the street—as this ride was going to be a driver first and race car second.
For that first engine, Ron built up a basic 327 to power the Split. Nothing fancy, just a workhorse small-block with enough power to please the owner. With a four-speed behind it doing the shifting, Ron quickly became enthralled with the one-year-only Chevy. But soon the winds of change would come howling around Ron’s garage door. The thought of competitively racing this silver bullet was too much for him to hold off on.
Ron decided the time had come to build the Split into a track car. So first off, he purchased another 327ci block, which was punched out 0.030 inches to 331ci, to clean up the cylinder walls. Forged, true high-compression slugs were installed next, along with a set of Chevy special high-performance connecting rods, which in turn pushed the compression up to 13:1. A General Kinetics roller cam was added to get the valves jumping and a pair of massaged Chevy “turbo” angle plug heads topped off the cylinders. A Hilborn fuel-injection setup gets the go juice to where it’s needed, and was an important ingredient in Ron’s “rodders recipe” for making horsepower from the get-go.
To get the spark out, a Vertex magneto was chosen to handle the duties. Specially ordered Doug’s Custom Headers get rid of the spent gasses in a hurry, and look killer doing it. And to get this Vette through the gears, a Super T10 four-speed transmission was added to the mix, and shifted with a Hurst Super Shifter. The trans also sports an Ansen cast-steel bellhousing for a measure of safety.
So out came the warmed-over small-block and in went the race-ready setup. Once installed, Ron did some creative plumbing up front. He installed a Jabsco Water Puppy—a chassis mounted electric water pump—which would help keep this race engine cool on those stiflingly hot Jersey summer nights. Along with the Hilborn fuel pump up front there’s a crafty setup of pipe and plumbing to make it all work. To finish off the engine bay, a Moon gas tank was mounted up front, along with a military surplus, aircraft-grade fuel filter, all in all to help feed this powerplant the dose of octane it needs.
Next, Ron installed super tall 5.36 gears in the stock posi rear. He also performed a few tricks out back. He clamped down the rear springs so the car would not squat on takeoff. It’s a trick that would save his halfshafts over the years, as he would never break one out on the strip! Last but not least, to get the aggressive look he wanted, Ron opted for a set of American Racing wheels: magnesium 14x6 up front and aluminum 15x7 in the back. The latter are shod with 28x9x15 M&H slicks to help this beast grip the pavement. Stock brakes were set up with optional semi-metallic brake shoes for stopping power.
Ron kept most of the interior in the car, even though it was a racer. Interior is late ’60’s style, complete with an array of gauges that made up your typical race ride. A Moroso tach sits up on the dash, while a homemade panel sits off to his right, angled toward the driver for an easy read. It features oil temp, oil pressure and water temp gauges. On the facing panel an array of toggles handle the electrical add-ons. A custom rollbar was installed after the first two weeks of racing to keep Ron out of harm’s way.
Once Ron was happy with his build, he was ready to take it to the strip. Being from Jersey, tracks like Raceway Park in Englishtown and Island Dragway out in Great Meadows would be the typical stomping grounds for the Corvette. It was 1969 and the muscle car wars were on, and Ron jumped into the fray with his creation.
Ron started in the C/Gas bracket with the ’63. Though he was happy with his class, he soon found out a trick that would help him get more work out of the Corvette. “When I first started drag racing the car, I raced C/Gas. But I learned that if I took the hood off I could run C/Altered, which meant I could race the car a lot more and get more passes with the Vette,” Ron says. So with a quick body mod in the pits, Ron got twice as many runs with the Chevy.
Ron feverishly remembers how the ’63 stood out at the track. It was so loud; it drowned out every car it ever came up against. He says that’s all due to the design of the engine—the cam and those nasty headers. The car would go on to consistently run low 11s, and run a best of 11.2 at 129 mph. Ron continued to run the car into 1971, but decided to retire it when other business priorities came up. The car went into the garage, and lay dormant for over 20 years.
By the mid-’90s, vintage drag racing started becoming popular, so Ron’s friends convinced him to get the Vette out of mothballs. “So we dug the ’63 out and went through it and there was nothing wrong with it. We put a set of slicks on and went vintage drag racing with it a couple times a year,” says Ron. After a few shows, drag racing once again became part of his life, and so he decided he needed a new ride to compete with. So an 8-second Super Pro drag race 1975 Vega became part of Ron’s stash in 2005. Today, they are still racing, with Ron’s son Keith handling the driving duties, along with his brother Al as chief mechanic.
Ron still takes the ’63 out for big shows and some cruise nights, but you’d have to be lucky to witness the event. Lucky for us, he kept the “secondhand” split-window around in its race ready form for the next generations to witness.