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1961 Corvette Split Window - Splitting The Difference

What if Chevy made a C1 coupe?

Scott Ross May 29, 2012
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Sometimes, a custom car is an answer in search of a question, with the builder's or owner's ideas behind it not easily understood. But this car answers a "what-if" question that some Vette lovers may have: What if Corvette's 1961 rear restyling included a fixed-roof, split-window coupe?

Mike Walker built this one at his shop, Street Rods Only, in Macon, Illinois. If that name and shop sound familiar, then you probably know about the "fastback" '59 Corvette Walker and company built (and this author wrote about for Corvette Fever, also with Jerry Heasley's photographic assistance). "I just had so many people looking at that one," says Walker. "I said to myself, 'What do I do next?' My shop and A-1 Fiberglass teamed up, and I was asking them, 'What do I do next?'"

Vemp 1208 1961 Corvette Split Window Splitting The Difference 001 2/8

What he did was another lift-off-topped C1. Walker says that, unlike some builders, he didn't start with an intact '61 Corvette--or with a basket case '61, either. "We build the body," he says. "We build everything--it's a total build." That work also included the four months A-1 Fiberglass took to design and engineer the roof and trunk lid, then make the required molds.

A new body and frame may have saved Walker and the Street Rods Only crew from "remedial" rust and/or crash-damage repair, but the project consumed a lot of time nonetheless. "We have over 3,000 hours in this car," Walker says of the two-year build.

A look at the finer details shows that those hours were time well spent. The roof wears a split rear window--inspired by the one on the production '63 Sting Ray--atop the '61's body. But unlike the C2 coupes, this split-window has a functioning trunk, one whose lid blends right into the roof and rear body lines. A Sting Ray show/race car–inspired tail treatment also contributes to the "hybrid" styling theme.

Just as with Street Rods Only's orange '59 C1 fastback, you'll find two '67 Sting Ray hood scoops--but only one on the hood itself. "The other scoop is reversed and underneath the roof, inside of it," says Walker of the interior styling detail that uses the split between the two rear windows as the "stinger" that projects out of the scoop's open end.

Unlike some projects, the later-model chassis hardware and LS3 engine in this car look as if they were installed at St. Louis Assembly. What's it like to drive? "It's nice," says Walker. "It's got C4 front and rear suspension, six-piston disc brakes front and rear, power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning," he adds, pointing out the features and comforts this C1 and its fellow '61s never got from Chevrolet way back when.

No '61 Corvette caused a sensation like the production Sting Ray did when it was announced--and it's a safe bet that no '61s other than this one have ever been confused for a '63 model. As Walker points out, "Unless somebody's really a Corvette person, they'll look at this car and say, 'Oh--a '63 split window.' And you go, 'Yeah, right. It does look like one…from the back." He adds, "It's done so well that maybe Chevrolet should have thought about doing it."

Could a split-window fastback version of the '61 and '62 Corvettes have been a big seller? Possibly. Recall how Corvette coupe sales complemented those of the drop-top starting in '63. Chevrolet could have done the coupe and convertible to counter its biggest two-seat rival, Jaguar's all-new E-Type, which debuted in '61 and was available in both fastback and topless body styles.

Then again, a production, St. Louis–built split-window '61 wouldn't have the LS-series engine, C4 composite leaf springs, Baer Brakes, or custom cabin that this one does!

OWNER Mike Walker; Macon, IL
ENGINE GM Performance Parts LS3 crate engine
BLOCK LS3 cast aluminum with six-bolt mains
HEADS LS3 cast aluminum
VALVES 2.16/1.59
CAMSHAFT Stock hydraulic roller
PISTONS Stock hypereutectic aluminum
CRANKSHAFT Stock nodular iron
RODS Stock powdered metal
INTAKE MANIFOLD Stock composite
FUEL PUMP LS3 electric
IGNITION Stock coil-on-plug
EXHAUST SYSTEM Street & Performance headers, 3-in stainlesssteel mufflers
TRANSMISSION GM 4L70E four-speed overdrive automatic with Lokar shifter
DRIVESHAFT Custom-fabricated steel
REAREND Dana 44 Positraction
SUSPENSION C4 transverse composite leaf springs with tubular shocks (front and rear)
BRAKES Baer Brakes discs with six-piston calipers (front and rear)
WHEELS EVOD Industries billet aluminum; 19x10 (front), 20x10 (rear)
TIRES Sumitomo HTR ZIII; 245/40ZR19 (front), 275/40ZR20 (rear)
CURRENT MILEAGE Approximately 100 since completion



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