In the years B.C. (Before Centralization), General Motors' five car-making divisions operated like five separate car companies. Those who were picked to be a Division's General Manager enjoyed the perks and privileges of a company vice presidency-including a free hand in the making of the company cars they drove home.
In the case of Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen, one company car that he had built when he was Chevrolet Motor Division's boss in the early '60s reflected on the performance theme he'd used to build Pontiac into a sales winner starting with the '57s, and the styling theme that his father, William Knudsen, used to turn Buick around in the '30s. It's a special '64 Corvette Sting Ray coupe that's now part of the MY Garage Museum Collection at Mid America Motorworks in Effingham, Illinois.
"In those days, those guys [senior GM execs] swung a pretty good sword-they could get done anything they wanted," says Mid America's founder, Mike Yager. "Obviously, with him heading up Chevrolet, it's my understanding that he had that car built for him, and that he had a pink one built for his wife that matched their home in Florida. So he went through the Styling studios and said, 'Do this,' and 'Do that.'"
Knudsen had a number of one-off features designed and built for the project that Chevrolet Engineering tagged "GPV-57." Starting at the front of the car, the grille was larger than the production one, with an "egg crate" design. The front bumpers were a different shape, mounted higher on the body than the production bumpers. A special hood with deeper recesses was designed, as was a pair of specially finned side exhausts. Two-prong knock-off wheels-as seen on the early '63 Sting Rays-were picked instead of the '64s RPO three-prong knock offs.
The cabin received as much, if not more, attention than the exterior. "It's got power windows and power vent windows, which is unusual [and] it's got one-off door panels, and Cadillac-style cut-pile carpeting," Yager points out. Those door panels are covered in the same white leather that covers the one-off, high-back bucket seats, as well as the center console. Yager notes the dash also got special attention. "Instead of being covered in vinyl, it had grain in the dash panel itself-they never did that [on production Corvettes]." Dashes were either flat or covered in vinyl. There's also a one-off tilt-and-telescope steering wheel with a teak rim, and one-off chrome floor grilles.
The coupe body received special attention before the DuPont Firefrost Blue paint (again, a Cadillac item) was sprayed on.
For power, the 365hp 327 was picked, with extra chrome pieces that the production '64s didn't have. It breathes out through a set of one-off prototype side exhausts, whose finned styling seems to foreshadow that of the production '69 Stingray side pipes. It's backed by a four-speed manual tranny, with the drivetrain likely getting the same meticulous attention the rest of the car did as it was assembled and installed.
After its stint in the Knudsen "home fleet," this Sting Ray was sold to a lucky Chevrolet engineer, who'd won the chance to buy it at a special GM employees party in the summer of 1964. Between then and when Yager acquired it, this car had at least three other owners-and one of them treated the car to a restoration that kept all its special one-off/prototype features.
What's it like to drive it? "It drives great," says Yager. What's it sound like? Hear for yourself, once you've fired up your computer. Follow this link: http://www.mamotorworks.com/MYgarage/cars/MYgaragesounds/1964styling.mp3 ...then turn your computer's sound up. (WAAAYY up!)
Along with the adoring gazes of Corvette lovers, this car is due for some attention of a different kind. "Makes & Models magazine wants to do a photo shoot with it," Yager says of the fashion publication that's outside the general automotive area, but obviously notices eye-grabbing automotive style. "They'd like to shoot good-looking models with [it], then do all the high-end fashion around them." We'd suggest filming this car with models decked out in styles reminiscent of what Diana Rigg wore on TV's The Avengers!
GPV-57: Special Equipment
(That The Boss Wanted On It)
When Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen wanted something on-or off-a production car during his tenure as General Manager of Pontiac, then Chevrolet, he got it. That went for his "company cars," which included this '64 Sting Ray coupe built by Chevrolet Styling and Chevrolet Engineering as "GPV-57."
Items Unique To This Car Include:
*A larger front grille opening with an "egg-crate" pattern grille, similar to the one that became the production '67 Sting Ray grille
*Unique front bumpers, not used on subsequent midyears, mounted higher on the body than the production bumpers were
*Unique hood with deeper recesses than the production 1964 hood
*Unique finned side exhausts, similar in design to the optional side exhaust offered on the '69 Stingray
*Non-production chrome underhood pieces including fan, valve covers, ignition shroud, and master cylinder top
*Two-prong knock-off wheels, similar to the early '63 optional wheels, tinted blue to match the body color
*DuPont Firefrost Blue lacquer paint (an optional Cadillac color not available on production Corvettes), with special body preparation before paint was applied by Chevrolet Styling's paint shop
*Unique high-back bucket seats and door panels, upholstered in white leather
*Console covered in white leather to match seats/door panels
*Dashboard covered with "grained" pattern, instead of smooth vinyl
*Power windows and power vent windows, with switches on center console
*Unique tilt-and-telescope steering column, with teak steering wheel
*Unique chrome floor grilles
*Black cut-pile carpeting (instead of production loop-pile carpet), sourced from Cadillac's carpet supplier
*Special Michigan license plate with "Manufacturers Plate" in place of "Water Wonderland" at bottom (as used on other Chevrolet and GM Engineering/prototype cars of that era)
MY Garage Museum
Mid America Motorworks
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