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A 1963 Split-Window That “Almost” Got Away

Rare Finds

Jerry Heasley Jan 26, 2017
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“It just blew me away,” Travis Snyder said. His boss had just moved a few boxes out of the way in the garage. Suddenly, he could make out the front end of an old Corvette. But, what model was this?

“The car didn’t have a front bumper and the headlights were bolted shut. I didn’t know what it was at first until I walked over and started looking at it real close.”

When Travis Snyder graduated from high school in 1995, he went to work at Perry’s Body Shop in the small town of Ness, Kansas. His idea was to see if he liked working on cars for a living before he went off to college. Turns out the young man really hit if off with shop owner Perry Rupp and started to learn the body shop craft.

“He taught me and I’ve just stayed here. We do a lot of restorations.”

Four to five years into his tenure there, Snyder happened to ride with him to Rupp’s house to bring back a Porta Power tool.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window Side 2/3

The 1963 doesn’t look like much now, but the deal includes “everything for the car.”

“He had a spare down at his house in one of the sheds. We went in there looking for this tool and found that Corvette.”

Being a car enthusiast, Snyder immediately tried to buy the Corvette, which he found out was a 1963 split-window coupe. Rupp had purchased the car in 1976, the same year Snyder was born, and began collecting parts for an ultimate restoration. He planned to fix up the Vette, but the car had turned into a real barn find after about a quarter century of storage.

“Every month or so I would pester him at work about selling the car to me, but the answer was always no. He planned to fix it up one day.”

Ten years later, in 2009, Snyder, who grew up in a family that went to car shows “about every weekend,” eventually bought out Perry Rupp’s body shop and now owns the business. He didn’t forget about the Vette, but he quit trying to buy the old car.

In May 2016 Rupp walked into the shop and told Snyder they needed to talk. He wasn’t going to fix up the 1963 after all and was ready to sell the Corvette. The two being friends, Rupp gave Snyder a very good deal at $20,000 for the car and the parts he had collected over the last 40 years. But, what exactly is this 1963?

“It’s the 340-horse 327 with four-speed and a 4.11 Positraction rearend. It’s not fuel injected, but just a step down. The car came with no power brakes, no power steering, no power windows, and no nothing. I mean, it was ordered strictly as a hot rod.”

Originally Sebring Silver, the car had been repainted in the 1970s. Snyder heard that somebody in a large Denver area Corvette club had been modifying the coupe in the 1970s for show.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window  Rear 3/3

The old custom lacquer paint was so thick it was starting to form spider webs. This is a dream find for a paint and body shop owner.

“Whoever did it, did it in purple and was going to take it to shows, then never got the car done. The old lacquer paint is so thick it is starting to spider-web. Someone molded the headlights shut, very mildly flared the fenderwells and then added an extra taillight on each side. Other than that the body is completely stock.”

Parts include two “LOF” Corvette windshields, which Snyder says are very hard to find. He also got N.O.S. headlight buckets, N.O.S. front and rear bumpers, and N.O.S. window trim, including two sets of trim around the rear window.

This 1963 was built November 5, 1962, about three weeks into the model year production run. Units built during about the first four months came with tool trays under the front seats. These trays integrate into a dip in the floorpan that owners discovered would bottom out and cause damage. So, Chevrolet eliminated them.

Early 1963 models also came with fiberglass headlight buckets, which Chevrolet changed to pot metal early in the model run. This one has fiberglass buckets, including an N.O.S. set.

Snyder says Rupp drops by the shop almost every day and is excited to see the car finally get restored. Now, he’ll be able to ride in it someday.

(Editor’s Note: Readers can contact Jerry Heasley at jerryheasley@gmail.com or follow him along on Twitter @jerryheasley)



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