The C2 Corvette History
We are looking at the C2 Corvette’s history. The changes that were made during the five-year span. The C2 Corvette ran from 1963 to 1967. Here’s an overview of the second generation of Corvettes built during this time.
The muscle car is integral in the American story, from the Beach Boys’ giddy-up 409 to Bruce Springsteen’s ’69 Chevy with a 396. However, none capture the collective imagination of all the great muscle cars like the Chevrolet Corvette.
Though the Corvette debuted in 1953, it was the introduction of the second-generation Corvette, the C2, that solidified its place at the top of the muscle car market.
What makes the C2 Corvette so unique? Read on to learn all about the iconic Corvette manufactured by General Motors from 1963 to 1967.
1963 Chevrolet Sting Ray
The 1950s and 60s were the golden eras for the American automotive industry.
The economy was in the post-World War II boom. Folks who previously lived in urban centers moved to newly constructed suburbs. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act into law in 1956, and construction began on the Interstate Highway System.
It was this golden era that produced the Chevy Corvette. The first-generation Corvette rolled off the General Motors Assembly Line in 1953, and production continued until 1962.
The second-generation C2, known as the Sting Ray, was born from two different Chevy projects: the Q-Corvette and the Racing Stingray. Designers Pete Brock, Bill Mitchell, and Larry Shinoda worked on the C2 project, then XP-720. Their goal with this new model was to improve handling and increase passenger room.
Their design, known as the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, sent shockwaves across the automotive world. Today, its legacy is still felt as the most recent Stingray rolled off the factory floor in 2022.
Improvements From the C1
The C2 generation arrived in 1963 with several changes and improvements. The stated goal of the C2 designers was to improve both performance and style. Chevy also introduced the new Sting Ray Corvette as a coupe among the upgrades. The previous generation was only available as a convertible.
Exterior Design Changes
The C2 Sting Ray debuted with a narrow “fastback” design. This fastback also included a rear window panel design quirk: a dual-paned rear windshield. While the look of the dual panes turned heads, drivers found them to be a safety issue. They could not see while they were in reverse because of the split rear window.
The split window coupe was a one year only. Chevy took that feedback and introduced a single pane in 1964.
Included in the design were the quad headlights, hidden as folding lights. Vents on the hood were designed as functional but were made decorative due to high design costs. The coupe doors cut into the roof, making entering and exiting the low to the ground car much more manageable.
Interior Design Changes
A more prominent, rounded speedometer and tachometer were new to the C2 interior design.
The new Sting Ray also featured a roomier interior and a larger glovebox. Still, the lack of an external trunk meant that storage remained an issue, with the only storage space behind the two front seats.
A shorter wheelbase and Ball-Race Steering improved the handling of the Sting Ray. A shorter wheelbase can inhibit handling in most cases, but the improved weight distribution negated the shorter wheelbase and improved handling. The rear wheels carried 80 more pounds to improve traction.
The C2 also featured cast-iron, 11-inch drum brakes like the C1. The C2s were wider, thus improving braking in tight situations.
Optional braking improvements included power-assist braking, sintered linings, and finned aluminum drums to improve brake cooling.
More Steel, Lighter Weight
The C2 featured twice the steel as the C1. This increased steel gave more body support and increased the strength and safety of the cockpit.
Yet the increased steel didn’t make the car heavier. Designers did not want to increase Sting Ray’s weight, so they decreased the thickness of the fiberglass body. Doing so made the Vette lighter than the C1.
1963 Engine Specifications
The 1963 Sting Ray came with a factory-issued 250 horsepower, 327 cubic-foot engine. The standard engine had a single 4-barrel carburetor, hydraulic valve lifters, and a dual exhaust system.
Three upgrades existed to the standard engine. Sports car enthusiasts could choose a 300, 340, or 360 horsepower engine.
The 300-horsepower model also came with a 327 cubic-foot engine. Its more oversized aluminum 4-barrel carburetor and larger intake valves differed.
340 and 360 Horsepower
These models have upgraded aluminum domed pistons. Their high-speed valve systems finish with specific exhaust valves.
These engines also have a five-quart oil capacity combined with mechanical valve lifters and an aluminum rocker. The 360 fuel injection engine comes with a larger aluminum manifold featuring better ram pipes and a tachometer warning buzzer.
The exhaust systems on the 1963 Corvette pipes were either 2.0 inches or 2.5 inches. On the 1963-1965 Corvette the exhaust manifolds came in either 2.0 or 2.5-inch outlet size.
After 1965 all small block engines had 2.0 manifolds. The engines with the higher horsepower continued to have 2.5-inch pipes, and these had a smaller 2.0-inch connection to the manifold.
1963-1967 big-block engines had 2.5-inch manifolds and pipes. The mufflers were standard, or you coupe chose optional N11 off-road mufflers. N11 had one less baffle inside, which give it less restriction and created a more aggressive sound.
No matter what the pipe size or engine horsepower, the muffler outlets were always 2.0 inches.
The factory offered option N14, the side exhaust from 1965 through 1967. These had 2-inch or 2.5-inch inlet pipes with aluminum covers.
1963 Transmission Specs
The entire run of the C2 lasted only five years. Chevy only offered three different transmissions for the Sting Ray during that time.
- Three-Speed manual
- Four-Speed manual
- Two-Speed Powerglide automatic
The standard transmission on the 1963 model was the 3-Speed Syncro-Mesh. But the three and four-speed share similarities. Both have a ten-inch semi-centrifugal clutch with an aluminum clutch housing.
1964 Sting Ray
One of the quirks of the 1963 model is the introduction of the “Sting Ray” line. Subsequent generations are “Stingray.”
The differences between the 1963 and 64 models are minimal. Designers eliminated the faux hood air vents. Designers also made the fake rear pillar vents functional on the ’64 model.
Horsepower remained the same, yet the 365 came with a new 4-barrel Holley carburetor rather than the 1963 Carter.
1965 Sting Ray
The ’65 featured a significant amount of tweaks, including the introduction of the 396 big-block V8 engine. This powerful engine clocked in at a whopping 425 horsepower.
Alongside the big-block V8, Chevy also provided a small-block V8 with 350 horsepower.
Another significant change to the ’65 was a brake system with four-wheel disc brakes.
1965 also came with a new-look front end with a wider grille. New front fender vents came fully functional, and the smooth hood was free of any indentations, with the Corvette logo a prominent feature.
1966 Sting Ray
The 1966 Sting Ray came with two big-block V8 options: 390 and 425 horsepower.
Chevy saw the demand for big-block engines the previous year. So they ramped up production of those engines while reducing the availability of the small-block 300 and 350 horsepower engines.
The exterior design of the ’66 featured significant changes. A new “egg crate” radiator grille had hidden hood vents. The headlights came with a black outer ring, and the rear end featured a fastback wrap-around rear window.
The Corvette logo moved to the hood corner.
1966 also came with a striking interior design. A new interior option was the four-way power seat. Headrests were also introduced to the interior for the first time.
1967 Sting Ray
1967 was the last year of the C2 line. Some believe it is the best of the line due to the five previous four years of innovation. They’re not wrong.
The ’67 came with minor but significant changes from the ’66. The standard engine of this Sting Ray was the 427 with Rochester 3×2 Tri-Force barrel carburetors. The factory engine also required a special 103-octane-rated fuel that was not widely available in the 1960s.
This Sting Ray was not meant for casual car enthusiasts but competitive racers looking for a mean machine.
If the factory standards weren’t powerful enough, Chevy offered a specialized racing package for the C2 line called Z06.
The package included:
- Vacuum brake boost
- Larger front anti-roll bar
- Stiffer springs and shock system
- Dual Master Cylinder
- 36.5-gallon gas tank
- 5.4-liter 327 cubic-inch engine with 360 horsepower
- Fuel injection
Starting in 1963, the Z06 only came with coupes due to their larger fuel tanks. Later on, the option became available for convertibles as Chevy removed the larger gas tank as a feature except for coupe models.
Interesting C2 Facts
The introduction of the C2 Sting Ray Corvette was a watershed moment in the American car industry. The launch represented a reflection of sports car culture in America and incredible innovations that’d impact high-performance vehicles in America and abroad.
Over half the 1963 Sting Ray weight rests on the rear axle. This weight distribution was a first for American front-engine cars and meant the C2 could handle turns better than any other American car.
GM introduced “off-road” exhaust for the C2. This off-road option wasn’t meant for mudding but rather a modified exhaust system with three baffles rather than five.
Fewer baffles increased the airflow, resulting in a louder and more aggressive sound muscle car drivers love.
As stated previously, the first C2 coupe had a split rear window. GM discontinued the divided window for the rest of the C2 generation due to safety concerns.
The rarety of the 1963 Sting Ray split rear window makes it a coveted model among car collectors.
Calling All Chevrolet Corvette Collectors
The Chevrolet Corvette is an American icon. The car represents the best of American automotive design and manufacturing, with the second-generation C2 Sting Ray born of the American car industry’s golden age.
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You can read more about Corvette’s History by generation. Check out these Corvette overviews:
- Chevrolet Corvette C1 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C2 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C3 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C4 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C5 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C6 Overview
- Chevrolet Corvette C7 Overview