All of us at one time or another have let our minds run wild with the imaginative idea that we would somehow discover a Corvette Engineering prototype Vette. You know, maybe Corvette Sting Ray #1 from the bowls of the room where only the very privileged few are allowed to go. Well, over the course of time any numbers of these specialty cars have made it out the proverbial “backdoor” at the various OEM’s. But rarely does one escape the clinched grasp of Chevrolet the Corvette Division.
We checked in with the “Keeper of Knowledge” Franz Estereicher to get some background. You see, this will not be the only time we visit this Sting Ray. While we are providing a few insights here the “rest of the story” as they say is still to come. Turns out our Corvette historian has all sorts of knowledge on this car and its history…past and present.
Well, maybe just maybe we know of one that did escape it “shackles” and is now roaming free among Corvette aficionado’s everywhere…maybe not everywhere but there is one lucky individual who we believe owns 396 Corvette Sting Ray #3…one of the rare big-block Corvettes. This is the same car that appeared in a Sports Car Graphic article by Jerry Titus with Zora-Arkus Duntov in the March, 1965 issue. (Two of the photos in this article were taken Bob D’Olivo in December of 1964 about 10 days before Christmas, while the carb and the overall photo of the Vette in a garage were provided by General Motors from their archives.)
Although you can’t make it out in the photos on this page (but you will later when the complete article is published) you can see the number “14” lettered on the carburetor as shown on the carb sitting on a workbench in the Chevrolet engineering lab. According Estereicher this number signifies that it was the 14th prototype Holley carburetor used in this project. Estereicher also tells us that this was engineering car #3 and that it started life out as a 327 car and was converted over to the 396 (which weighs about 148 pounds more than the 327) to move the program along.
As is the normal course of events engineering cars are supposed to be dismantled and their parts are either studied or used in other applications, some are outright crushed, while a lucky few are kept for museum pieces. However, every now and then one does find its way to the outside world and we believe this is one of those very rare cars.