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Chevrolet: 1963 Corvette
After 10 years in production and with various tweaks, the first couple of Corvette generations were ready for a real change. The original Harley Earle vision was plainly dated and needed a change. It took a new generation of designers and engineers to bring about the model everyone associates with the Corvette, the fastback Sting Ray.
The first sports vehicle to use wind-tunnel testing, the 1963 Corvette was a changed car. From its pointy snout and disappearing headlamps to its implementation of the first production fastback in a sports coupe, the new Corvette – named after the earlier racer but the name was changed to two words – was stunning. The lines flowed from its angled front end and its lower valance with two functional scoops through its rounded fenders that also emphasized the wheels to its doors that picked up the line of the fenders and carried it through the rear quarters to the short rear deck. The raked rear finished in a short rear panel and two small round taillights.
This was the car that Duntov built. He lowered the amount of unsprung weight with some surprising changes to the chassis. Instead of a live rear axle, Duntov (Zora Arkus-Duntov, credited with being the key designer and father of the modern 'Vette) opted for what amounted to a floating rear differential and half-shafts that were insulated by rubber which handled lots of ride harshness. At the same time, a simple leaf-spring, acting as a torsion bar, transferred a lot of body torque directly to the frame and kept things smooth.
In the rear, the half-shafts also acted as control arms for better wheel placement, less unsprung weight and enabled gave the rear slightly greater weight and control. The front suspension retained unequal length control arms, but added a quick lock steering wheel that cut the number of turns to less than 3. It was quick and thanks to the anti-roll features, it was sure. New use of steel in the center body also made the whole frame stiffer and enabled designers to dial in smoother ride. The number of changes was amazing but it resulted in a totally new vehicle that even incorporated a dual split rear window.
Duntov's changes would fill volumes but suffice it to say his Sting Ray was a complete break with the past. About the only thing they didn't think of – while still adding interior space – was a good way to get gear stowed for traveling as there was no rear trunklid. You had to stow it behind the seats.
Engine choices remained the same; still four standard 327s – 250-, 300-, 345- (4 bbl) and 360-horse with fuel injection. And, there were still six rear axle choices, plus three trannies (two autos and a four-speed).
Stopping power was better through bigger drums (11 inches) that used sintered metal linings. You could even have a set of finned drums -- cooled things quickly and prevented fade – installed that also reduced unsprung weight.