The C2 Corvette Stingray – A split window wonder.

This American shark comes with a V8 and was born in 1963. Intrigued? Read on!

When it comes to judging beauty among postwar classic cars, most agree that the Europeans largely got it right. Courtesy of stunning coachwork from Pininfarina, Carozzeria Touring of Milan and Bertone among others, the cars definitely won the day in the looks department. A few contenders from Japan did crop up over the years, but could never compete with the Continent.

The Americans on the other hand, focused on making big power, with bigger displacement being the name of the game, at least till the 1973 oil crisis forced them to reconsider. However, in the lovely decade that is the ‘60s, the Americans brought out a number of cars, some of which would become evergreen icons in the automotive world. The Mustang and the Camaro immediately spring to mind as worthy recipients of this title. However, there is one other name that belongs with the two others mentioned, and it sits squarely on the flank of the car in the photo above.

In 1953, Chevrolet debuted the new Corvette. In keeping with the style of the time, the car was long, with big headlights, and looked in my opinion, slightly frumpy. Ten years later, it was time for a new generation to enjoy a new Corvette, and so one was designed. Enter the 1963 C2 Corvette Stingray.

This is the car that most remember when they think of the first Corvette, because it was the first iteration of the car we know today. Razor sharp looks with the grunt to match, it seemed the Americans were taking the fight to the Europeans in the looks department. Flipping headlights, a sleek roofline and most importantly, a split-window rear windshield, a feature that was discontinued after 1963 after being deemed too inconvenient. The Corvette has, over the years, turned into an underdog supercar, possessing the looks and the performance of its European counterparts, but at half the price.

The split window C2 has become incredibly coveted among fans of the Corvette brand, making rare appearances on public roads. So, when the Shed Collection told me about their newly restored C2, I jumped at the chance to see one. It’s always an occasion to see a split window car up close, and I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity.

Hitting the fast forward button, I’m in Abu Dhabi a few days later, standing in front of a dark blue 1963 split window C2 Corvette, which has been parked on the grass. In the background, I can see a small creek and the majestic Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The scene has been set.

In the flesh, the car is as striking as it is in photos, if not more. The newly finished paintwork shone and the car looked as if it would be right at home at a Concours. On numerous occasions, I found people walking past, only to do a double take, turn and come back to engage in smartphone photography. Can’t blame them really, the car is a looker.

Working my way around the car, every angle looks like it could cut you. The classic wheels with knock-off caps only added to the package, helping the car to give off an elegant presence.

The gents who ran the Corvette program did their very best to make the car as unique as possible and this extended to the interior. Large concave gauges with bent needles, seats and a large steering wheel upholstered in rich leather and a distinctive slender centre section were the notable points of the interior. Popping the hood, the engine block was so clean that you could actually eat off of it. The traditional image of an American V8 with the large circular air cleaner mounted on top was true here.

On firing up the engine, it barked to life, settling into the low rhythm peculiar to large displacement American V8s, which never fails to get my heart beating just a few beats faster. Aye, the 60’s was a good time to be around, speaking purely in automotive terms.

I hadn’t noticed another car turn up, since the area was off limits. So, I almost fell over when I realised that there was a black shape that resembled a battle tank looming in my peripheral vision. It turned out to be a matte black Mercedes Benz G63 4×4. A very special car, its sinister presence would probably make small children cry.

The gentleman driving it had called me to see the Corvette and we got talking. When I said the car had been freshly restored, I had been right. The car had been out of the garage for barely four days, he told me, which explained the strong smell of new upholstery. Furthermore, he had stripped, cleaned and reassembled the engine by himself. Like they say, you want something done right, do it yourself.

Eventually I decided to call it a day and packed up my kit. It had been a fantastic introduction to the first ‘proper’ Corvette. Hopefully, we’ll get to see this particular example on the roads soon, where its sharp looks and deep engine note will get the attention they deserve.

As always, a big thank you to the Shed Collection for their incredible hospitality and the opportunity to see their C2. Here’s to many happy miles in the car. 

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