I don't have to drive it," Gary Cox says about his '63 coupe. In most circumstances, we here at Team VETTE would consider that to be something of a heretical statement. After all, we're firm adherents to the "get out there and drive it" school of Corvetteing. On the other hand, we also know that there are exceptions to every rule. So, given that this split-window is an incredible, all-original example that shows only 5,381 miles on the clock, we'd have to agree when Mr. Cox also says, "It's like a work of art"--and treats it accordingly.
Like many who were impressionable youngsters when the revolutionary Sting Ray Corvette was introduced, Gary Cox had wanted a '63 coupe since before he was old enough to drive. As an adult, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resident made several trips to Bloomington Gold, taking extra interest in the Special Collection cars, thinking, "Boy, I'd like to have that." As it worked out, Cox's first Corvette was a brand-new C5, ordered before he'd even seen one of the new-generation cars. And while he liked the latest and greatest Vette just fine, his heart was still set on a mid-year.
The chance to own a '63 came in 1998, when Indiana car dealer and Corvette collector Gino Burelli needed to sell some of his cars to make way for a new acquisition. By this time, Cox really wanted a Special Collection car. It was, however, "a lot of money." (Lets pause just a moment to consider what an unrestored, near-perfect condition, 5,381 original-mile '63 split-window coupe costs.) The deal was finally done with encouragement from his wife, Elizabeth, who flatly stated, "You need to buy that car." With that, Gary (and Elizabeth) had what many desire and few possess: A Corvette that is as much priceless historical artifact and work of art as it is a sports car.
Speaking of Corvette art history, this '63 was ordered on December 29, 1962, from Yingling Chevrolet of Wichita, Kansas, by one Mr. Robert Bain. According to the car's second owner, Gordon Wellman, Bain was something of a "car nut" type who usually had more than a few cool sets of wheels parked in the garage. In this case, like many people at the time, Bain had to his own
example of the latest, newest Corvette--and who could blame him? The split-window was ordered in Riverside Red with the stoutest of Chevrolet's carbureted Corvette engines, the 327ci, 340-horse L76. The powerplant was joined to a M20 four-speed transmission, which sends the power back to a 3.36:1 rearend. Bain also checked off RPO J65, Sintered Metallic Brakes, and added a set of optional rayon cord whitewall tires to his new Vette's running gear. In the driver's compartment, Bain chose red vinyl seats and red carpet to complete the color theme, and RPO U65, the Signal Seeking AM Radio (aka the "Wonderbar") for audio entertainment.
As it tends to happen when a car is part of a collection, however, the '63 was used only sparingly. When Bain sold the car to Wellman in 1970, it had logged a mere 3,000 miles. The second owner didn't plan to hang on to the Vette for very long; in fact, he advertised it for sale in Hemmings Motor News for $5,000. The ad indicated that the car had 5,000 miles on it, and contained the seller's address for replies. Who wouldn't jump at a deal like that? That's only a dollar mile, for gawd's sake! Even so, hard as it is to believe in the year 2003, the ad didn't create very much interest, and Wellman put the car into storage. Several offers were made on the split-window over the years, but it took until 1987 for one to be accepted. When Bob Rowe took possession of this now ultra-rare Corvette, Wellman's new wife sat in the Vette for the first time, commenting that it still smelled like a new car.
It was while Rowe owned the Sting Ray that it made its first appearance in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection, as the split-window joined three other '63s in a display honoring the 25th anniversary of Chevrolet's Second-Gen. Corvette. The car was also Bloomington Gold certified at the time.
One Ray Norvell became owner number four in 1995, and the red Vette made a second appearance in Bloomington's Special Collection. The car again changed hands in 1997, with the aforementioned Gino Burelli taking possession. In June of that year, the mid-year was honored as one of the first 33 cars to be named to the Bloomington Gold Hall of Fame. After that, as you already know, the '63 again found a new home, this time with the Cox family.
It should come as no surprise that this like-new '63 continues to amass honors. Soon after the Cox' purchased the car, it went on display at the National Corvette Museum for two years. The Sting Ray then garnered an NCRS Top Flight award at the Louisiana regional meet in Baton Rouge in 2001. And most recently, the Sting Ray was again invited to Bloomington Gold, this time as part of the 2002 Special Collection Evolution Display of '53-67 Corvettes. Given that his Special Collection car was back in the Special Collection, we're sure Gary nothing less than thrilled.
In the meantime, Gary's mid-year infatuation has grown. The C5 is long gone, but he's added a '67 small-block convertible, and has just taken delivery of a one-owner, 435hp '67 ragtop. But that '63--Gary loves the red-on-red colors, and especially likes the depth and color in the like-new steering wheel. He starts it several times a year, and it never fails to fire. The brakes work perfectly, as does the rest of the car, and it rolls on the original bias-ply whitewalls. Time and the elements have left their mark in various places, most notably in the exhaust system, which has developed a few rust holes. Gary tells us that it's "sort of loud." He doesn't intend to fix it, however, because it's still original.
And that's exactly the way it's going to stay. The car is not for sale, and, as Gary's told us, it's not going to accumulate very many more miles. As we started to ask about if he felt he was missing out on anything by not driving it, Gary quickly responded. "I have it here, and everytime I look at it, I smile," he told us. "It's so well preserved...it's neat." And you know what? After looking at this oh-so-rare artifact, we agree: it is well preserved, and it is neat. With that, we'll just smile and say, "There's more than one way to enjoy a Corvette."
Gary Cox is especially fond...
Gary Cox is especially fond of his Sting Ray's steering wheel, which shows absolutely no wear. Look behind the wheel, and you'll find that magic number. After more than 40 years, the ol' split-window has racked up a grand total of 5,381 miles.
The '63s 327/340hp L76 powerplant...
The '63s 327/340hp L76 powerplant shows the effects of time and age, but certainly not of usage--it's all original and works perfectly.