How many Corvettes does a man have to own before you call him … uh, maybe paraphrasing Bob Dylan’s lyrics from his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan isn’t the best way to start this feature on David Nelson's 1963 Corvette split-window, but we had to start somewhere. The idea was to illustrate that when a person goes to buy their first Corvette they have a specific year and model in mind, but when it comes to looking for their second Corvette the requirements might not be as strict.
Such was the case for David Nelson, a Texas orthodontist that pilots his private plane all over the Southwest. David explained that he already owned a 1962 Corvette so when he began his search for old Corvettes stored in the hangars of municipal airports, a place he cites to be a proverbial goldmine, the question was always “do you know of any old Corvettes around here?”
“Yeah, there’s one that’s been under a tarp for the last 22 years you could probably take a look at.” David found its owner, and when the tarp was pulled back there sat a Daytona Blue 1963 Corvette split-window with a dark blue interior, and under its hood a 300-horsepower 327 with a Muncie four-speed transmission. David didn’t lowball his offer like the owner expected him to, so after personally bringing the dormant Sting Ray back to life David had bought himself another Corvette.
The next phase for David’s 1963 Sting Ray was to put it into the hands of a shop qualified to charge ahead and perform a complete high-performance restomod build in a reasonable amount of time. That old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is the perfect expression to illustrate how easy it would be to underestimate the intense sophistication of the cars constructed by Dooley and Sons Hot Rod Shop of Magnolia, Texas—and that would be a big mistake.
The shop’s unassuming name fooled us, too. We’d be the first to admit until researching the company responsible for building David Nelson’s Jet Black 1963 Corvette Sting Ray we assumed it was a two-man, father and son shop outsourcing major components and services. That said, the family operation did spring from humble beginnings. It was in 1961 that Dooley Cameron founded Dooley’s Custom Upholstery in Levelland, Texas. Since then Dooley and Sons Hot Rod Shop has had 55 years to evolve into a 20,000 square foot Magnolia, Texas, facility capable of handling anything in-house.
In the pre-build discussions, David wanted deep wheels and wide tires under his split-window and the stock Corvette chassis wasn’t close to feasible. The chassis under David’s 1963 Corvette Sting Ray is a Dooley and Sons Street Force built specifically for use under a C2 Corvette. Starting with a pair of 10-gauge steel framerails, at the front heavy-duty 1.5-inch tubular steel control arms accommodate C6 Corvette aluminum spindles damped with coilover shocks. Front and rear Dooley and Sons splined sway bars control body lean, and six-piston/14-inch Baer disc brakes with a hydro-boosted Wilwood master cylinder bring things to a halt. A Flaming River rack-and-pinion steering gear dials in the car’s direction. Independent rear suspension comes from a Dooley and Sons IRS with a 4.11-geared Dutchman differential with Positraction, and Baer disc brakes. The rolling stock is 19-inch Schott Mach V wheels all around with 255/30/19 Michelin tires in front and 345/30/19 Michelin tires in the rear.
The big-block–style stinger hood was a design element David specified and wasn’t necessary to gain clearance to swap in an LS series engine. Under the ’63 split-window’s stinger hood, propulsion comes from a 505-horsepower, 427-inch Chevrolet Performance LS7 crate engine. Dooley’s youngest son Tom fabricated the exhaust; it’s equipped with a Dooley and Sons T-304 stainless steel system starting with 3/8-inch laser cut flanges on beautifully formed long-tube headers. Creating TIG-welded artful exhaust systems is a hallmark of Dooley and Sons constructed cars. From braided stainless steel flex-joints at the collectors a custom-fabricated X-pipe meets over-axle pipes flowing curvaceously into aft-mounted dual transverse mounted Borla mufflers completing the 3-inch stainless steel exhaust system. The transmission is a TREMEC T-56 six-speed.
At 73 years of age, Dooley Cameron is still a hard charger, creating custom interiors the same way he did when he founded the company in 1961. Corvette C6 buckets were installed for driver and passenger seating. Phantom gray and satin black leather replaces sections where the original ’63 split-window interior was trimmed in vinyl. Black Mercedes-Benz wool carpet lies atop Dynamat thermal acoustic matting. Auto Meter gauges are nestled into leather wrapped dash cluster facing a Billet Specialties steering wheel. The Kicker sound system is an intelligent Bluetooth state-of-the-art IQI setup featuring a wireless entertainment, communications and tuning hub rolled into one. David stated the sound quality is phenomenal. Atlas Plating in Houston handled the metal finishing and chrome plating.
No longer tangled up in Daytona Blue, David’s 1963 Corvette split-window sport coupe is now finished in PPG Jet Black. The body- and paintwork on the car was headed up by Jeff Cameron, Dooley’s oldest son that picked up a spray gun in 1983 when the company name changed from Dooley’s Custom Upholstery Shop into Dooley and Sons Hot Rod Shop.