There are plenty of parallels between modifying your car and modifying your body. Some people like their cars and their skin the way they came from the factory. Other people aren’t happy looking like everybody else. They want to personalise the way they, and their ride, looks. It’s a purely personal decision and we’re absolutely cool with both viewpoints.
But just as forking your tongue or making your eyeballs look like pool balls is a world away from getting a Nike swoosh inked on your butt cheek for a drunken dare or wearing a nose ring through college, then later letting the hole heal, so this rare 1963 Corvette reminds us that for some car mods, there really is no return. Or at least no return without spending an awful lot of money to pretty much rip the car up and start again.
Offered for sale on the Bring-a-Trailer auction site earlier this week, this Sting Ray coupe is from the C2 Corvette’s first year on sale, the only year when the model featured a split rear window design. That visual detail alone ensures a base 1963 Corvette with the ordinary 250 hp (254 PS) V8 in excellent condition is valued at $140,000, compared with only $71,800 for a 1964 car with the same mechanical spec but the one-piece rear window. Step up to L84-code fuel-injected cars and the ’63 car is worth a staggering $211,000 more.
But some fairly radical custom work carried out on this car in the 1970s means it will never come close to achieving those values unless it’s treated to a ground up rebuild that could easily end up costing far more than the $56,550 the car bid to. That was below the seller’s reserve so the car didn’t sell, but proving how valuable splitties are, the reserve-not-met price would be enough to get into a nice, original condition-3 ’64 Corvette requiring no serious work.
The pictures show that at some point the Corvette was fitted with flared fenders and sills, a custom rear end, flush door handles, a hood bulge, integrated front air dam and a Le Mans-style fuel filler below that iconic split rear window. Completing the 1970s look is what appears to be a set of 15-inch American Racing Turbo Vecs and a his’n’hers two-piece pop up sunroof. It’s enough to make a C2 fan cry.
But while your most instant impression might be to think what a shame it is that such a rare and historically important car has been mutilated, that would be doing a disservice to this car’s long, near-60-year life and the enjoyment it must have brought to its owners along the way.
It’s worth remembering that although a ’63 Corvette is rare and valuable, they’re not that rare. Chevy built over 10,000 of them, and there are still plenty of pristine originals around if you want to see one at a car show or put one in your garage. And it’s also worth remembering that when this car was modified during the mid 1970s, it was just a dated, 12-year old car.
Moreover, though fairly extreme, and not the kind of thing that could be unbolted to return the car to factory spec, the mods it received were fashionable at the time. Which presumably meant that driving the car around after its transformation made the driver feel like a million bucks, despite that fact that it might actually be worth half a million bucks one day if he’d just kept it in standard condition.
We regularly post about modified cars, including modified classic Corvettes, and usually because we think they look great. But we’re not so naive to think that the mods we all lust over today won’t one day look as embarrassingly awful as the orange Toyota Supra driven by Brian in the original Fast and the Furious movie does two decades after its build.
Interestingly, though this Corvette is now red, having been repainted in 2019, there are some pictures in the listing showing its original custom paint job, and given how custom vans from the 1970s have become hugely collectible, you wonder whether it could be restored to its 1970s pomp, just as fans of Britain’s defunct, but once-hugely influential Max Power magazine have been rescuing 1990s hatchbacks with Lamborghini doors and outrageous bodykits from fashion purgatory and putting them proudly back on display.
Whatever a future buyer decides to do with the topside of the C2, he shouldn’t have to worry too much about what’s going on underneath the skin unless he wants to embark on a total resto. It sounds like the engine isn’t the original, but it was rebuilt in 2019, and with a stretch to 383 cu in (6.3 litres), it ought to be reasonably punchy, while the four-speed manual transmission and limited slip differential have also been rebuilt.
This car is never going to be one for the purists, and it has undoubtedly lost value as a result of the changes made to it. But if no one ever modified a car just to keep originality-obsessed future generations happy half a century down the line, much like if no one got inked because they were worried about what their skin might look like at 75 years old, the world would be a very boring place.
What do you think about the idea of modifying cars that are rare and might one day be collectible, and what would you do to this Corvette? Leave a comment and let us know.