To many Corvette lovers, the midyears are the real gems. Among them, those that are specially-optioned and those with a distinctive history are even more prized.
Even more highly treasured are the ones that combine the best of both...and more. Like the Pink Pearl '64 Corvette Sting Ray you see here. This one was specially-built by Chevrolet, with much input from its Engineering and Styling teams. Then-Chevy General Manager Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen ordered it up in the spring of 1964 for his wife, Florence.
This car is as much of a gem today as it was when Florence Knudsen first saw it, so says its current owner, Chevy dealer and noted Corvette collector Bob McDorman. "They can't believe it," he says of Corvette lovers who do a double-take when they lay eyes on it. "At first, they think that someone hot-rodded or customized it themselves. If I'm around, I tell them the story behind it-that it was built this way by Chevrolet."
Right away, you can tell it's not a production '64. Six taillights instead of four, the domed hood, and the Pink Pearl paint are the most obvious signs, as is the pink-and-cranberry interior, and the '65-style front fender louvers and rocker panel trim.
Under the hood is a 396-inch near-production version of what our brother-in-law mag, Hot Rod magazine, called "Chevy's Mystery V-8," when they saw it at Daytona in early 1963. Unlike the production 396 that graced the Corvette option list during the latter part of the '65 model run, this one has hydraulic instead of solid lifters. The transmission is a Powerglide, likely the first one ever bolted to a Mark IV big-block that wasn't a Chevy Engineering test mule, and the only one ever fitted by Chevrolet to a 396-powered Sting Ray.
To accommodate the 396, more than a few one-off and prototype parts were fabricated by Chevy's engineers as part of the project, which received the "GPV-61" project designation (and whose specially-made items carry the "0-" part numbers of an engineering special). Those include a front crossmember modified to clear the big-block's harmonic balancer, a modified right inner fender (again, for clearance), specially-fabricated front springs to handle the extra weight of the 396 over the production 327, a specially-fabricated radiator, and handmade fiberglass fan shroud.
Along with that new-generation powerplant, the Pink Pearl Sting Ray also got the next generation in stopping power. Four-wheel disc brakes with a dual master cylinder-items which became standard for 1965-were fitted.
Chevy Styling's paint shop outdid themselves with this one, spraying on a special shade of Pink Pearl that matched the dcor of the Knudsen's winter home in Florida. The sidewall trim on the tires was also "pinkified." Inside, the pink theme carried over to the seats and door panels, which were upholstered in pink and cranberry-hued leather. The seat belt buckles have Mrs. Knudsen's initials on them, and other one-off items inside the cabin include the 5,500-rpm tach. That's along with the AM/FM radio with power antenna, air conditioning, teak tilt-and-telescope steering wheel-and virtually every other option that was available with the 396 when it became a Corvette option.
McDorman acquired this special Corvette at Bloomington Gold to go with the Cadillac Rose-colored Sting Ray roadster that Knudsen commissioned. Before then, this '64 had at least two previous owners who were connected with Chevrolet Engineering. He told us of one particularly interesting bit of this car's history. "The gal whose dad bought the car from the engineer who bought it from General Motors-she got in touch with me through that second owner. Her dad had worked with Chevrolet, he got the car, then he gave it to her when he passed away. She was trying to find out where the car was (after she'd sold it), and that engineer told her that he thought it was down here (Canal Winchester, Ohio). She called me and she sent me a picture of her with that car, taken when she was a little girl."
In that image from the '60s, McDorman said, there is snow on the ground and the car is sitting outside. "She grew up with that car, and she's coming down to the show of ours, so I'll see her then." (For more info on the Bob McDorman Classic Chevy Show, log onto www.bobmcdormanchevrolet.com)
She and other show-goers will see this car in McDorman's extensive Corvette collection, located on the grounds of his Canal Winchester, Ohio, Chevy dealership. "We're putting Styling cars in one building, celebrity cars in another building, and then in another building we have all Indy Pace Cars. I've got eight buildings that I have these cars in, and I've got over 600 antique signs inside the buildings-mostly General Motors automotive ones."
But likely no signs in the shade of pink that this Sting Ray wears!
GPV-61: Special Equipment
Not only was this Sting Ray that Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen had built for his wife in the spring of 1964 quite a looker and loaded with factory options like air conditioning and an AM-FM radio, but it also had a lot of specially-made and prototype parts on it. Many of those carried the special "0-" prefix on its casting numbers, meaning that it was specially made by Chevrolet Engineering for this particular project ("GPV-61").
Items Unique To This Car Include:
A 396ci "Mark IV" big-block engine, equipped with hydraulic lifters. Not only was this one of the first 396-inch big-blocks built by Chevrolet (in advance of its mid-1965 regular-production debut), this is the only 396 known to have been installed into a Corvette by Chevrolet with hydraulic lifters, as the production 396 for the '65 model year-a one-year-only option-had solid lifters
>A Powerglide automatic transmission with "E66T-14" engraved on its case. Powerglide wasn't available as an option with big-block Corvettes until 1966
>Dual-circuit, four-wheel power disc brakes. These foreshadowed the four-wheel discs that went into production as the Sting Ray's standard brake system a few months after this car was built
>A modified right inner front fender, designed to create more room for the wider Mark IV -series engine
>A modified front crossmember, intended to clear the 396's externally-mounted harmonic balancer
>Special front springs (with "0-261795 FRONT SPG, LOAD 8.56 1539 RATE 224 CODED 3960" on their metal ID tags), to handle the extra weight of the 396 over the Corvette's standard 327
>A handmade fiberglass fan shroud, plus a specially-made radiator ("SHOP ORDER #7310") to keep the big engine cool
>Pearl Pink paint (to match the dcor of the Knudsen's winter home in Florida-not a Corvette RPO color choice)
>Six taillights instead of the four used on production '64 Corvettes
>Domed hood, similar to that included with the 396 engine option in 1965
>Front fender louvers and rocker panel trim that were the same design as those that appeared on the production '65 Sting Ray
>"396 Turbo Jet" badges on the front fenders and air cleaner
>Pink leather upholstery on the seats and door panels with contrasting cranberry-colored carpeting (neither were RPO Corvette interior color choices)
>Tachometer with a 5,300 rpm redline
>Florence Knudsen's "FMK" initials on the seatbelt buckles, instead of Chevy bow-tie or Fisher Body logos