There were 10,494 Corvette split-window coupes built for 1963, so there has to be at least that many stories, and thousands more if a pass-around rate for Corvette owners is added to the mix.
If a person works real hard in life they get to buy back all of the prized possessions they let go in their younger years, or at least a reasonable facsimile. Such is the case for Dr. Roland Walters of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and the ’63 Corvette split-window he owns today. It was late December 1962, when Roland took delivery of his first Corvette, at 19 years of age, from Ayres Chevrolet in Edmond, Oklahoma. Roland was in California attending Stanford while his dad handled ordering the Corvette with him by phone.
Roland recollected back to September 1962, when they ordered the split-window, and they weren’t even sure what it was going to look like. They knew a fixed roof coupe was new to the Corvette lineup, and theirs should have a four-speed transmission with a fuel-injected 327 under the hood.
The Walters didn’t option N40 power steering for an additional $75.35 like 3,063 other 1963 Corvette buyers did, but they did spring $37.70 for J35 sintered metallic brakes and wisely another $43.05 for J50 power brakes. Wisely because J35 sintered metallic brakes don’t work real well cold, and take extra heavy pedal pressure to stop.
In late December 1962, when the split-window arrived in Edmund from St. Louis, Rowland sold his Tri-power 348 ’61 Impala in California, and flew to Oklahoma to take delivery. The split-window served Roland well during college in California and made short work of driving back to Oklahoma after graduation. Time marched on. Marriage and children followed and a stick-shift sports car without air-conditioning proved to be inconvenient.
It was late 1966 when Roland sold the ’63. “As the years passed and finances improved I have owned a 1974 Corvette with a 454, a 1978 Silver Anniversary, 1984 C4 and a 2014 Z51.” It was 42 years to the month after Roland got his ’63 split-window that he found almost an exact duplicate of the coupe he once owned on the Internet. The car was at ProTeam Corvette in Napoleon, Ohio. Roland flew to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, rented a car and drove to Ohio. The known history of Roland’s second split-window can be traced back to 1974 restoration notes when the fuel-injected 360hp 327 got freshened up and the four-speed transmission rebuilt. In 1985, the ’63 was NCRS judged.
The exact number of ’63 Corvettes painted Silver Blue is unknown, but there were 3,121 Corvettes painted Silver Blue in 1964, and the color was only available on first and second year model Sting Rays. The split-window looked magazine ready directly from ProTeam’s showroom floor. Roland immediately show-and-shined the ’63 but discovered its beauty was only skin deep when he delivered it to Heartland Customs for a repaint.
Heartland’s Jeff Page explained to Vette, the shop stripped the ’63 down to the bare ’glass and discovered deep, fractured caverns packed with filler over poorly executed repairs. Stress cracks; misaligned, broken body panels, but nothing severe enough to require replacement of major sections. Hours and hours went into body working the ’63 well beyond factory original standards before it was ready for paint. The doorjambs and hood were gapped to 3/16-inch; even the doorsill plate ends were shaped evenly at both ends.
Instead of refinishing in single-stage Silver Blue acrylic lacquer as original equipment, Heartland sprayed PPG Deltron in a Silver Blue basecoat color match and then cleared with Deltron urethane to complete a two-stage paintjob. The finishing touches were a color sand and rub followed with polish and wax. Corvette Central was Heartland Customs source for new emblems and trim parts as needed.
There were two interior color choices with a Silver Blue exterior in 1963: dark blue and black. Mike Ballard at Nip’s Auto Trim in Oklahoma City did the interior work starting at the floor with Dynamat sound deadening mat and then laid dark blue loop pile carpet throughout. Next, Al Knoch Interiors bucket seat covers in dark blue were fitted over new foam, and Al Knoch door panels were installed, followed by the headliner. Heartland Customs repainted interior areas originally painted by the factory and restored the dial faces on the dashboard instruments.
It was unusual for Heartland Customs not to remove the body from the chassis for bodywork and paint, but because the chassis—complete with engine and transmission—was so nice as it arrived from ProTeam Corvette it was left in place and masked off. The L84 360hp, 327-inch engine didn’t require much more than having Tom Parsons of Mustang, Oklahoma, dial the fuel injection in, but the four-speed transmission required rebuilding.
The single best improvement one can make to a ’63 Sting Ray’s handling qualities, especially if they want to retain a completely original appearance, is to ditch the 670x15 bias-ply OE tires and uprate to radial tires. Firestone 205/75R15 tires are mounted on RPO P48 cast-aluminum knockoff wheels in place of it originally being equipped with hubcaps.
Roland and his wife, Kelsey, were married in 1964 and the wedding reception was held at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club. In 2014, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, Roland’s second ’63 Corvette—an exact duplicate of his first ’63 Corvette—was parked at the front door of the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club. Vette
Photos by Grant Cox