Mystery Machine: 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible

This 1963 Corvette Convertible is a car with an air of mystery about it, and it is a mystery that it will be interesting to see if our fantastic Barn Finds readers can solve. We’ll get to the mystery factor shortly, but before we do, you will find the Corvette located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is listed for sale here on eBay, and with bidding now sitting at $25,850 and the reserve having been met, the Corvette is set to head off to a new home.

The web of mystery and intrigue surrounds this simple little tag and a letter from the NCRS Historical Service. The tag was attached to the rear section of the frame on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The tag was removed from the frame when the owner sent it to be sandblasted, and now he is having some trouble locating the tag. We can only hope that he is able to locate it because this could be significant. That “Lab Frame 70” tag doesn’t seem to gel with the vehicle’s VIN, which shows this as being the 34th 1963 Corvette to roll off the production line. To further muddy the water, the NCRS letter indicates that the car was assigned to Dealer Code 000, and to Zone 00. This indicates that the car was destined for some form of internal use within Chevrolet. That makes this a curious car, and it is this which I am hoping that our knowledgeable Barn Finds readers can clarify.

As previously mentioned, the Corvette is the 34th car to roll off the line and is also verified as being the 13th Convertible. That makes it interesting for those people who would like nothing more than to secure an early production example of a ’63 Corvette. It was originally finished in Daytona Blue, but the owner had it repainted in its current shade of white some time back. The rear spoiler pre-dates his ownership of the car, and it is one item that would be worth “losing” fairly quickly (unless they relate to another mystery that we’ll get to shortly). The aftermarket wheels are also something that I would consign to the nearest rubbish skip because I don’t think that they do the car any favors. The good news is that the Corvette is nice and solid, so there are no rust repairs to be undertaken on this one.

The Dark Blue interior of the Corvette is largely original, except for the aftermarket black covers that have been fitted to both seats. In reality, this is an interior that is more in need of some detail work, rather than wholesale restoration. If it received new covers for the seats, fresh carpet, and a really decent clean, it would present quite well. It still features its original factory radio, and while this has been rebuilt, it has decided not to work for some reason. The owner thinks that it could be something as simple as a plug that has fallen out, so there’s another little mystery for the buyer to solve.

Another feature of this Corvette is that it still wears its numbers-matching 327ci V8 and 4-speed manual transmission. The engine underwent a rebuild around 10-years-ago and is said to be in really good health. However, this is a car that provides us with even more mystery…as if we didn’t have enough. When the owner purchased the car it was fitted with a roll-bar. Due to local regulations, this had to be removed before the car was deemed to be legal to use on the road. The roll-bar was bolted in, not welded. The Corvette also sports 4-wheel disc brakes, which tends to indicate that it might have had some competition work in its past. So maybe that rear spoiler was not purely a decorative item but actually served a practical purpose. By the way, the roll-bar doesn’t necessarily come with the car, but the owner says that if the buyer wants it, then they are welcome to it.

If you are a Corvette enthusiast who is looking for an early-production 1963 model, then this is a car that is well worth a look. It really does have the potential to be a nice car if restored, but it is currently a driver that could be used as it is. However, for me, the intrigue of this car is something that I would like to see unraveled. That’s where I hope that our readers can help.

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Comments

  1. Stephen

    Sweet ride.
    I hope someone can fill in the blanks.

    Like 1
  2. Rich C

    I take offense to the wire wheel comment.
    Those are period correct Dayton Wire Wheels. I can tell by the shape of the hubshell and the cap ears that these are early 1960s wheels.
    At the time it was not uncommon for the automakers to order custom wheels from us when they were showcasing a car. This might indicate this was special as it was suggested in the write-up that the car “was destined for some form of internal use within Chevrolet”.

  3. gbvette62

    If I were to buy this car, I wouldn’t be to quick to send the wheels “to the nearest rubbish skip”. They look like true knock off, Dayton wire wheels, and could possibly be original to the car.

    GM Design was very big on Dayton wires in the early 60’s. They used them on many early Corvette concept cars (such as the XP700 in the link below), production cars modified by GM Design for celebrity’s and GM executives, and on production cars destined for new car shows. Considering the early VIN, and the NCRS Shipping Data Report indicating that the car was initially kept in house by GM and/or Chevrolet, I think there’s a good chance the wheels were put on by GM. This car could quite possibly been used by a GM exec, or by GM for promotional purposes.

    I’m not sure if the early VIN, adds any value, unless you could prove it was owned by someone of importance at GM. Still, these early VIN and pilot line cars are important to the hobby, and should be documented and preserved. Early Corvettes built within the first 100 units or so, have often been found with many strange prototype and sometimes even handmade parts.

    The 00 Zone and 000 Dealer codes do add some interest though. Cars ordered by GM Design and Engineering, still usually have a Zone and Dealer code. Cars were usually shipped from the St. Louis plant, to a local Detroit MI dealer to be dealer prepped, before being delivered to GM, and their Shipping Data Report’s show the dealer’s zone and dealer codes.

    https://www.corvettes.nl/gm_prototypes/xp700/index.html

    Like 14
    • Ralph

      I’m almost 99% sure those are Corvair knock off wire wheels, they were an option on 1st and 2nd gen Corvairs, they were made by Kelsey-Hayes from what I recall.

      You can get reproduction ones now too, I really like how they look on the Corvette.

      It does look like one of the “special” Corvettes that were made for few GM upper management execs like Pete Estes.

      Like 4
      • PairsNPaint

        Corvair wheels would be 13″, not 15″ Corvette size. Also the ducktail was added later (along with the sidepipes), probably an Eckler’s, who made lots of aftermarket fiberglass body mods for C2’s.

        Like 3
      • Ralph

        Corvair style is maybe what I should have said, the 1st gen Corvairs were also all 4 lug except for the FC/Vans so the adapters wouldn’t work anyway. Some of the Corvette and Corvair knock of parts do interchange too.

    • Don Sicura

      I am in agreement about the wheels, the aluminum knock off wheels were not yet an option on this early production car, as well as the side exhaust (available from on 1964), even the spoiler may be original to the car, this car needs to be thoroughly researched before anything is done to it, and that missing chassis tag must be found & included with the car for it to be worth anything beyond just a driver 63 convertible.

      Like 2
    • Ted Walther

      I agree with gbvette62 and the others! Those wheels were a very common styling touch on GM “in house” Corvettes, used by GM/Chevrolet executives.Others were used as 1963 introductory show cars and then sold to public.

      Like 1
      • Ted Walther

        It has a build date of 9/18/1962! The first day! As previously stated, this car needs to be researched to the maximum.

        Like 3
      • Ted Walther

        Correction this car was completed on 9/5/1962.
        9/18/1962 was the first official day of production.

        Like 5
  4. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Jeez, wait while that tag is being blasted! I kind of like the looks of the duckbill, I would not want to see it on many more, but one is OK. As much as I hope God saves the Queen, I would remove the stickers. And replace the wires with the rally wheels.

    Like 1
  5. Andre Joly

    Nice car. I’d find some original vintage aluminum Torq Thrusts, put the bar back in, and enjoy it. Cool driver.

  6. Chas Henry

    Corvairs had 13″ wheels. These wire wheels appear to be 15″.
    I sure would do a lot more research before removing any of the non-standard details, including the duck tail, if I owned the car.

  7. Rich C

    Those are definitely not Corvair wheels. The Kelsey-Hayes were 13″, had a 2 earred spinner, and a different lacing pattern.
    GM had fitted prototype and show Corvairs with Dayton wheels but latter went tieh the K-H and mimicked the Dayton style.

  8. 71FXSuperGlide

    This one is very close to the first of the 25 ‘pilot line’ cars produced for 1963. Too bad, as they bring some very big $$.

    Will likely still have some other neat early design features, such as cutout for the toolbox behind the front seat.

    Like 2
  9. art

    Having the presence of mind to remove the tag from the frame before sandblasting, makes one wonder why the owner didn’t put that tag in a safe deposit box, knowing it’s value.
    Mind boggling.

    Like 13
  10. pwtiger

    My memory tells me that a 63 had drum brakes, I looked in my standard catalog of american cars, there was a $37.70 option for metallic facings. It would be interesting to know what calipers are on it. Also it says that aluminum knock-offs wheels were a $322.80 option, nothing about wire wheels.

    Like 2
    • JoeNYWF64

      I didn’t know you could get 2, let alone 4!, wheel disc brakes with a single reservoir master cylinder! Perhaps one should rethink that in this case, 4 wheel manual drum brakes with a DUAL reservoir mast cyl might be “safer” than this vette’s setup, as long as you avoid tailgating, deep water & mountains(going down them) lol.
      A master cylinder can “let go”/go bad without warning.
      I would assume conversion to a dual reservoir for the above vette would be ez today?
      Do i wana trust even 1 of these new ones?
      http://www.rockauto.com/en/catalog/chevrolet,1963,corvette,5.3l+327cid+v8,1324460,brake+&+wheel+hub,master+cylinder,1836
      lol

      Like 2
      • Chas Henry

        You can get anything you want to put on a car like this. A number of European cars had disc brakes and a single master cylinder at this time. At least it has power assisted brakes.

      • gbvette62

        A single reservoir master cylinder was standard on all Corvettes till 1967.

        Four wheel discs were first offered in 65. 65-66’s with power brakes, got a dual reservoir MC, but manual brake cars still used a single reservoir MC. Even the 63 Z06 race package, came with a single reservoir MC.

        63-64 drum brake cars can be easily upgraded to discs, by using stock 65-82 brake parts. 67-82 dual reservoir MC’s can be used to convert 63-66’s to dual reservoir.

        Like later Corvettes, my 62 also has a single reservoir MC. Years ago I was on a night rally with it, when the rear crossover line failed. Luckily I had Vice Grips with me, so I clamped the rear brake hose closed, and finished the rally with just front brakes. I’m not much brighter today, but if it did happen again, I’d probably have it towed.

        Like 5
  11. DRV

    There are tons of questions about this one that will remain. I like it as is and wouldn’t change a thing except a cleanup and driver comforts. It is much more curious as is than any other way.

    Like 1
  12. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I hope the new owner does not over-restore this and just drives and enjoys it as originally intended.

    Like 1
  13. William OBrien

    I would love to see the roll bar for this, with a frame tag, 340 HP, convertible, did the factory install it? HMMMMM no way it would be a factory race version with a single master though. I love this car and think there could be a very interesting and value enticing history. I saw the other car found with a tag that said ” 61″ in the same spot but it didn’t say “FRAME LAB ” it said TEST LAB and also had the zeros as delivery codes. Turned out to be a performance test car. Somebody on this site has to know someone who worked at the LAB.
    Anyway. I love it

    Like 1
  14. moosie moosie

    Corvette day today ?

  15. JOHN Member

    A very intriguing car for sure. Also needs the correct shifter re-installed.

  16. Mike

    Very interesting car for sure. I hope someone has more info!

  17. John Mereness

    The editor seems to miss the point on the wire wheels – This Corvette features Dayton Wire Wheels of the period which were incredibly expensive for the time (and for that matter still are). The Corvette wire wheels were made popular in via the Route 66 Television program where the feature car sported them – I believe put on the car by George Barris (and raised Dayton’s profile to a whole new level – a pivotal point in their business at the time). The wheels can be restored today by Dayton Wire Wheel all be it I do not believe are in production anymore. AKA – someone wanting to be or that was pretty cool had this car when new or relatively new.

    Like 1
    • Rich C, Dayton Wire Wheel

      At Dayton we still build wheels like this, although with updated engineering improvements. It would take a trained eye to tell a modern set from the original 1960s set on this car.

      Like 3
    • moosie moosie

      There is no doubt in my mind that whomever was the original owner was cool, c’mon, 340 horse 327, 4 speed, Roadster, Wire wheels, Hurst Shifter, he , or she, definitely wasn’t a Casper Milquetoast. To my mind that hideous duck tail had to be added way later in this cars life. BTW, what exactly is this ” no frost plug ” on the intake that the seller speaks of ?

      • Dave Mazz

        Moosie’ I suspect they may be “freeze plugs”. typically thin metal caps that are used to cover the holes where sand is poured out of a metal casting. I’m not much of a “Vette expert, maybe one of our more knowledgeable members can tell us if “early” Corvette intake manifolds had “freeze’ plugs??

  18. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great story gbvette62. This seems well bought to me. Ended: Aug 16, 2019 , 12:47PM
    Winning bid:US $28,200.00
    [ 34 bids ]

  19. moosie moosie

    @ Dave Mazz, I am well aware of what a freeze plug is, the correct name for them is “core plug”, which as you correctly stated is why they are there. I have never seen an intake manifold for a small block Chevy that had core plugs unless it was to seal off the oil fill tube hole at the front of the manifold adjacent to the water outlet. They became known as freeze plugs when they would come out of the block if the coolant froze, instead of cracking the block. What came first, the chicken or the egg ?

  20. Todd Fitch Staff

    Great find, Adam! A friend of mine shared it with a friend who was “in the know” at GM at the time of this car’s construction. Though wishing to remain anonymous, his first-hand knowledge and comments hopefully add to the thread, and I pass them along in their entirety. “The discrepancies noted in the records for the frame are not uncommon. Substitutes at the assembly plant have happened, usually caused by parts shortages. I agree with his (Adam’s) comments about the wheels.” He believes it would be plausible that the factory reused the frame from a lab car on an early production car. Regardless this is one interesting Corvette!

    Like 1
  21. Mitch Martino

    Starting 2020 I am the current owner. If anyone has information please pass it on.
    Thank you

  22. TED WALTHER

    Congrats Mitch! Enjoy your car, and keep those wheels, as stated previously, they are original. Continue researching this car, through NCRS, and contact some experts. I hope the previous owner Found the “Lab Frame 70” tag for you.
    Good Luck
    R/
    TED WALTHER

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