1963 Corvette Hardtop Convertible

in Blog
Last Updated: 05 April 2022

By MotorMouth Radio Listener, Skip

This is the story of my 1963 Corvette, hardtop convertible. The year was 1967 and I was working days and attending the Academy of Aeronautics at LaGuardia airport evenings. At the time I was driving a 1963 Impala, 283, with 4-speed on the floor. I had a classmate of mine named Bart who asked me if I would be interested in a 1963 Corvette. I replied with “what 18-year-old wouldn’t want a ’63 Vette?” He said that he knew of one in his neighborhood of Elmont, NY and started to give me the details about the car.

1963 Chevy Impala used for Borg Warner T 10 transplant

Turns out that the guy that owned the car had the car purchased for him from Z Motors in Valley Stream by his father. The car was painted heavy metalflake green, but never clear coated. He drove the car hard and wound up blowing a head gasket. He told his father, then brought the car to Hoffman Chevrolet where they installed a brand new 327/340hp motor. Hoffman Chevrolet Franklin Square Long Island NYHe again drove the car hard, without breaking it in and blew another head gasket. He again told his father of the problem, but this time his father told him to pound sand. As it turns out, he didn’t have the resources to fix the car and he had an added issue with substance abuse, so he wound up selling parts from the car to survive.

This is where I enter the story after hearing this and still being interested in getting the car. There was no way that I could afford a ’63 Vette in running condition at this point in my life. So, I decided to take advantage of the situation and make it work for me if I could. 18 years old with a ’63 Vette – unheard of!

I met with my friend Bart, and we went to see the car. I was excited, and really didn’t know what to expect, or if I would even be able to make a deal. As we walked to the door, I felt like this was hopeless and there was no way that I could ever get this car. The owner came out and we met him in front of the garage. Well, when he opened the garage door it was like time stopped, and we were in slow motion. I had true mixed emotions, excited, nervous, disbelief, and the realization of what I was looking at, and if I could take on this project. The reality that hit me in the face was that the car was up on blocks, had 3 tires on it, no motor, no transmission, no seats, no hard top, etc. The car was gutted and would need to be rebuilt. Reality check, did I have the time, money, and resources to put the car back together again? At that point in time, I felt that anything was possible. After all, I was young, ambitious, and full of piss & vinegar.63 Corvette Fuel Gauge Full of P and V

I cleared my head, and we started to talk price. We went back and forth for a while, and we settled at a selling price of $500, and I was to pick up the car within 1 week. This would give me time to arrange the finances, and plan on how to get the car home from Elmont to Lynbrook.

The week passed, and all the arrangements were in place. I had the cash in hand, and enlisted the help of a neighbor, Vinny, to flat tow the car home. We proceeded to pick the car up, and when I rang the doorbell the seller’s father answered the door. He asked what I needed, and when I told him that I was there to pick up the car he said that he didn’t know that his son had sold it. At this point he asked what his son asked for the car, and I told him $500. He said give me $400 and take anything you see in the garage that belongs to the car. We put Vinny’s spare tire on the car, found a pair of Hedman headers, Hedman Headersassorted miscellaneous parts, along with a milk crate to sit on. We pushed the car into the street and hooked it up to Vinny’s car with a tow rope for the tow home. It didn’t take long to realize that the driveshaft was not attached to a transmission and was slapping around in the tunnel. Ungodly sound, but it was full speed ahead, come hell or high water! A side note: this is when an experienced friend with knowledge of flat towing comes in handy. This is a lost art that was the norm back in the day.

We got the car home in one piece and parked it in the back yard awaiting a plan of attack. In the meantime, I installed a battery, and would sit on that milk crate, operating the hidden headlights, power windows, and playing the radio, dreaming of a finished car. I even had my girlfriend Irene sit by my side and made her part of the dream.

63 Vette Car a few months after being assembled and put on the road. In front of house in Lynbrook63 Vette Road worthy with convertible top up. Waiting for hardtop

It didn’t take long to start to assemble the parts needed for the job. Through the “car guy friend network”, I found a period correct 1963 327/300hp motor from a wrecked Corvette. The transmission was the Borg Warner T-10 4 speed pirated from my 1963 Impala (I replaced that with a 3 speed trans). I bought a new Hurst Competition Plus 4 speed linkage from Spark Auto (now S&K Speed) in Rockville Center. I began to find out where the original owner had sold some parts and bought back the seats and some other parts. A new 3 finger clutch kit with a throw-out bearing, tune up kit, antifreeze, and oil & filter were purchased for the install.

Borg Warner T 10 4 speedHurstCompetition PlusShifterandT HandleS K Speed Perofrmance Centers Rockville Center NY

The scheduled weekend came, and my friend Richie Devine from Queens came to lend a hand. We got an early start as we pushed the car 3 houses down to the Venables house, where we used the huge oak tree in their backyard to swing the motor from. Some rope, a block and tackle, muscle, back and forth, and youth prevailed, as we set the motor in the chassis. We pushed the car back to my house, and by early evening we had it fired up. With open headers, and a few burnouts later, we called it a night. The car was on the road shortly thereafter.

63 Vette Newly installed 327 300hp motor

That car became my daily driver, street racer, putting in many hours at Wetson’s in Valley Stream, and cruising Sunrise Highway.
Wetsons 70s Valley Stream NY
I also had a habit of making spur-of-the-moment decisions (with my friend Don) to take off and drive to NJ and visit my cousins Roger, and Larry, or my Uncle Chuck & Aunt Irene. This was ultimately the car I drove with my best friend Don to Fort Hamilton for my induction into the Navy. I would watch my best friend Don drive it away to be put in my garage until my return home from Boot Camp. I used the car for a few months while going through training before leaving for Vietnam.
63 Vette Owner Skip home from boot camp 1968The car was put up on blocks, waiting my hopeful return from the Far East. When I did get home, I heard that there was a rumor circulating around that the guy with the metalflake green Vette died in a fiery crash after his return home from Nam! This for them, explained the absence of the car from the local streets.

Upon my return from Nam in 1969 the car racked up many miles, as I was stationed in Norfolk Virginia, and made weekend trips from Va. to Queens, to see my fiancé, Irene. I would leave early Friday and return after Ed Sullivan show on Sunday night. In September of 1970 we were married and moved into an apartment in Norfolk until my discharge in 1972. So, for 2 years the car had less miles driven on it. We moved back to Long Island (LI) in 1972.

Once back on LI I got back in the groove and would go to NY National Speedway every Sunday to race the Vette.
63 Vette at starting line of NY National Speedway before launch 63 Vette with trophy from NY National Speedway race win
The car treated me well, so I decided to finally upgrade the paint job. I sourced out a painter who went by the moniker of “Michael Angelo”. He had painted a ’68 Chevelle & ’68 Nova with identical isometrics pattern, but reverse colors. Those cars were car show winners and they were featured on the cover of hot rod magazines with full center page stories. I met with Michael Angelo, the painter, and I decided to have the car painted a 1959 Cadillac color, sapphire blue fire mist. I wanted something done on the hood but wasn’t quite sure what to do so, I left that up to the painter to decide. I went to see the car and he had done an awesome job on the hood. A few days later I went back to the shop, and he said that it didn’t seem right without something on the rear, so he took the liberty of doing some flames – he hoped that I didn’t mind – I was ecstatic! I also decided to add high back bucket seats from a ’68 Corvette, along with metalflake blue steering wheel, and Thrush side pipes.

63 Vette One of a kind hood art by Michael Angelo 63 Vette Rear end art to balance car out 63 Vette Interior with metalflake blue steering wheel and 68 Vette high back bucket seats

Around that time my wife and I were thinking of looking for our first house. We started the process of house hunting on the weekends. After a short period of time, we found a new house out east that was affordable. Now came the question of the down payment, how much? and did we have it? Well, it was decided that the best and most do-able action at the time was to sell the ’63 Vette. Afterall it was just freshly painted and upgraded. What better time to realize a good selling price? It was no surprise that the car sold as quick as it did. We now had our down payment for our house. We bought that house and lived in it for 43 years, raising two daughters, before moving to Florida.

It was bittersweet watching the ’63 Vette pull out of the driveway that day. I was a little concerned because the car was going to Queens. Over the years I tried to track it down but have always come up empty handed. I would like to know what ever happened to that ’63 Vette. If anyone remembers it or has any input about it, please let me know. I think the guy that I sold it to had the last name Wunch, or something like it.

63 Vette in pits after NY National Speedway race with Owner Skip NY National Speedway Winner Sticker

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