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Spied! 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Prototype Spotted During Testing of CERV I in 1962

From the Archives: Cobbled Prototype

Drew Hardin Feb 5, 2018
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A couple of months ago we showed you Zora Arkus-Duntov’s CERV I testing at Riverside in November 1960 (“Chevy’s Research Roadster,” Apr. 2018). While researching CERV I, we ran across more photos of it being put through its paces by Duntov and company, this time at Sebring in January 1962. These pictures, shot by journalist/racer Jerry Titus for Sports Car Graphic magazine, also captured a C2 test mule that was undergoing evaluation at the same time.

One of those photos turned up in Titus’s story about the new 1963 Sting Ray in SCG’s Nov. 1962 issue. He described the mule in a photo caption as the “cobbled prototype we drove in Daytona and Sebring back in January, testing HD optional components for ’63.”

002 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Prototype 2/5

The car looked awkward, as test mules often do. “From the firewall back it had a 1962 body, and new suspension was hung on a ladder frame of large diameter tubing. It proved to be an outstanding departure from the ’62 in every respect, clicking off five miles an hour faster at Daytona on the tri-oval, and five seconds a lap faster at Sebring, with the identical engine and gearbox [fuel-injected/four-speed] used by the 1962 car.”

Titus said both the 1962 Vette that was there for comparison and the test mule “had what amounts to the heavy-duty suspension and brakes, stiffer springing and anti-sway controls, and vented, sintered-metal brakes. The prototype was a bit lighter than the ’62, but the cobbled body didn’t allow the 2-inch reduction in height incorporated in the ’63 production Corvette.”

003 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Prototype 3/5

Titus admitted driving the prototype spoiled him for the production version he would sample later, “as it had all the heavy-duty suspension items included and added up to a fantastic improvement over the ’62 that was similarly equipped. The showroom model can’t, quite naturally, perform the same tricks on a racing circuit, but it can come darn close. The ride and handling are great.”

A substantial chunk of Titus’s story described the design and function of the Sting Ray’s new independent rear suspension, which he credited for the car’s “substantially improved” adhesion when both accelerating and braking. “Getting the new Corvette off the line [is] a lot hotter and easier than the previous live-axle model. Hard deceleration, even from extreme velocity, produces a very satisfying and spider-like squat. This was a major factor in the reduced lap times at Sebring, along with streamlining and improved roadability. Streamlining, especially in the coupe, has produced a higher maximum velocity, as well as improved the top end acceleration. Pulling a 3.08 final drive and 8.20 rear tires the coupe—sans mufflers—has been clocked at 161 mph!”

004 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Prototype 4/5

The road test data printed with Titus’s evaluation featured a different car. It was also a fuel-injected/four-speed model, but with 1963’s bump in torque to 352 lb-ft. A shorter rear gear, 3.7:1, and 6.70x15 tires may have contributed to its lower top speed, a 151-mph two-way average. In the quarter-mile it ran 14.1 seconds at 102 mph.

“Two things were obvious from our tests,” Titus wrote, summing up the new Vette. “First, the ’63 Corvette has all the attributes of the most sophisticated designs obtainable and is practically devoid of criticizable traits.”

The second came from his experience as a race driver. “The new car, while it can still be ‘tossed’ like previous models, will garner even better results by being smoothly driven instead. Even the ’62 car does not warrant the ‘dirt-track’ style applied to it by leading Corvette pilots, and they will either adapt—which appears a bit doubtful—or get whipped by drivers with finesse in the ’63 car.”

005 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Prototype 5/5

Photos by Jerry Titus and courtesy of Petersen Publilshing Archives

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