Lot #11: 1963 GM Styling Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
Formerly the vehicle of famed Chevrolet President Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen
- Built for 1961-1965 Chevrolet Division president Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen
- Patterned after the ’63 Sting Ray built for retired GM Styling chief Harley Earl
- Unique colors, intricate side-pipe exhaust, striking modified interior and upholstery
- Features include custom steering wheel, console, and special engine finishes
- Truly advanced GM design statement with features used on later Corvettes
- Expert and beautifully maintained restoration by Werner Meier
- Painstakingly restored interior and recreated stainless side exhaust
- Multiple Bloomington Gold Special Collection vehicle; top concours entries
- Continuously displayed from 1994 to 2001 at the National Corvette Museum
- Fascinating, striking, and simply irreplaceable piece of Corvette and GM history
* Assembly Code: F0829RF (Flint, August 29 - RF: Fuel Injection); TMU
An early-production 1963 Corvette Sting Ray by GM Design and Engineering departments with many exciting modifications and updates throughout. 1 of 3 such cars with the intricate side-exit exhaust first used on the 1961 Mako Shark show car. Presented to, and used by, 1961-1965 Chevrolet president Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen. Beautifully preserved late-1980s restoration by Corvette expert Werner Meier. Multiple Bloomington Gold Special Collection member, displayed continuously from 1994 to 2001 at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY. A true piece of living automotive history in every possible respect.
Specifications: RPO L84 327 cu. in. V-8 engine, Rochester mechanical fuel injection, 360 bhp @ 6,000 rpm, Muncie four-speed manual transmission, four-wheel independent suspension with front A-arms, coil springs, and anti-roll bar, independent rear suspension with half-shafts, lateral struts, radius rods, and single transverse leaf spring, and power-assisted four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 98"
Launched for 1963, the second-generation Corvette Sting Ray stands as a massive landmark in the Corvette’s rapid development into a world-beating sports car. Sleek, aggressive, and almost otherworldly in appearance, the production Sting Ray’s design was rooted in sketches by Peter Brock, the XP-75 “Q-Corvette” concept, and GM Styling chief Bill Mitchell’s self-funded, SCCA champion Sting Ray race car. GM stylist Larry Shinoda oversaw the new Sting Ray’s refinement into production-ready form. Under that gorgeous new bodywork was a serious sports car, riding on shorter wheelbase than before and featuring a new front suspension and independent rear setup. The Corvette’s many engineering advances came, of course, from Zora Arkus-Duntov and his Corvette engineering team, which were tested and proven with his long line of racing Corvettes, test “mules,” and CERV I and CERV II Corvette Engineering Research Vehicles.
A large but often unheralded part of the new Corvette’s virtually race-ready, high-performance persona must also be credited to GM executive Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen, who – more than most of his peers – understood the sales value of racing success and cutting-edge styling. An M.I.T.-educated engineer with a flair for precise testing and advanced production techniques, Mr. Knudsen earned the respect of his colleagues and GM brass on his own merits and was far more than the fortunate son of former GM president William Knudsen. By 1956, “Bunkie” (meaning bunk-mate or chum) was appointed to the presidency of Pontiac, tasked with a mandate to “kill or turn around” the stodgy GM Division. In short order, Knudsen steered Pontiac into a performance-fuelled success story that rose to third place in American sales rankings by the early 1960s. It came as no surprise to industry insiders when Knudsen took over the reins at Chevrolet in 1961. There, he oversaw some of the most exciting years at GM’s largest division through 1965, including the launch and relentless development of the Corvette Sting Ray.
While Chevrolet had a massive hit on its hands with the new Sting Ray, its styling was steadily and methodically refined in the best GM tradition using a handful of design studies and electrifying show cars. Much as the company’s famous Motorama travelling shows did in the 1940s and 1950s, the new Sting Ray-based concept cars heralded the latest design and engineering advances that were eventually brought to production reality. A small batch of three 1963 Sting Rays brought these ideas to life, demonstrating the last word in design and race-bred performance with the visually arresting side-pipe exhaust system first used on GM Design chief Bill Mitchell’s Mako Shark show car. The first, a convertible, with special paint, white racing stripe, and side exhaust, made its debut at the February 1963 Chicago Auto Show and went on to tour the show circuit through that year. Another, known to Corvette fans as “Shop Order 10323,” was a specially modified Metallic Blue 327/300-hp convertible for Harley J. Earl, the retired V-P of Design for General Motors, who reinvented automotive styling and spearheaded the original Corvette during his long tenure at GM. This Sting Ray thrilled Corvette fans everywhere when it was hammered sold in October 2013 at a winning bid of $1,500,000.
The striking 1963 Corvette Sting Ray offered here is a very early-production car, with VIN suffix 148, which carries equally fascinating history with its GM Styling modifications and use when new as the personal car of Chevrolet president Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen. Along with the Chicago Show car, Harley Earl car, and the 1961 Mako Shark, it shared a stylish, distinctive, and complex side-pipe exhaust system, modified inner and outer fenders, and a number of interesting design elements, features, and other modifications that would, along with those of its stable mates, serve to influence future Corvette design and engineering. It was built during September 1962 and in addition to its RPO L84 fuel-injected 327 cubic-inch V-8 engine with 360 rated horsepower and four-speed manual transmission, options included power brakes and power windows. Patterned in basic essence after the Harley Earl car, this Sting Ray also featured special Crimson Firefrost paint, a full-length white racing stripe, and an extensively modified cockpit including 1964 model-year seats trimmed in white Naugahyde with Maroon stripes, matching door panels with chrome-plated brass trim plates, slotted stainless-steel floor grille plates in place of floor mats, and a custom color-matching leather console and dash pad. The handsome two-spoke steering wheel was custom-built using two types of wood for the rim, and 1964-model instruments faced the driver. Later, the instruments were updated and 1967-type seat belts were installed. The Sting Ray was used by Mr. Knudsen for about two years, during which time it was joined by his personal Chevy II, Corvair, and Impala convertibles, with all sporting Mr. Knudsen’s preferred Crimson Firefrost exterior paint color.
Following the Knudsen Sting Ray’s eventual return to General Motors in 1967, the eye-catching side exhaust was replaced with a stock system, but the internal modifications for the side pipes remained intact – an important key to authenticating the car many years later. The Sting Ray was eventually sold to a designer at Chevrolet Engineering, later passing through several more Detroit-area owners. By the early 1980s, the neglected ex-Knudsen car was found by Corvette collector Wally Abela in need of total restoration. Mr. Abela suspected it was a special car, a fact confirmed by Detroit-area Corvette expert Werner Meier, who has owned numerous Corvette factory specials over the years. Given this Corvette’s importance and its many unique features, Mr. Abela entrusted the restoration to Werner Meier, who orchestrated the complex and painstaking work of returning the vehicle to its period glory. Indications of the level of quality and workmanship invested into the restoration are provided by the restoration of the elaborate custom interior treatment. The recreation of the show-car side exhaust system was particularly complex, involving the services of eight different fabrication and machine shops and at least a dozen expert craftsmen, including Werner Meier’s father, who happened to be an expert toolmaker, and Chuck Watson of Watson Engineering in Detroit.
After the restoration was completed, the Knudesen Corvette made its show debut at the 1988 Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance, followed by display at the Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance and the Domino’s Farm private museum. Predictably, it was featured several times in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection, and continuously displayed at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky from its opening in 1994 to 2001. Bob McDorman acquired the Knudsen Corvette for his renowned private collection in 2003 and retained it until 2010, when it passed through another private collector to Davis Nelsen’s Acacia Collection in Illinois. During Mr. Nelsen’s ownership in 2012, the Knudsen Corvette was invited to, and shown at, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance alongside other historic classic Corvettes. During 2014, the Knudsen Corvette was acquired by the Consignor. In summary, the “Bunkie” Knudsen Corvette Sting Ray continues to make a bold statement as originally intended. As such, it marks an incredible opportunity at auction, being a real GM design special with a beautifully preserved, expertly performed restoration, accompanied by extensive ownership history including Chevrolet president Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen. Along with its two sister cars, it profoundly influenced Corvette design. As written by Corvette authority Dr. Peter J. Giminez in Corvette Racing Legends, the Knudsen Corvette, along with the Chicago Show car and Harley Earl car, “…put the idea in the minds of car enthusiasts that anything was possible and that anything could be built by General Motors if they wanted to build it.”
|Bid Date||Bid Amount||Bidder|
|Aug 20, 2016 - 4:18:30 PM||USD 485,000.00||i6187|
|Aug 20, 2016 - 4:04:04 PM||USD 475,000.00||i6188|
|Aug 20, 2016 - 3:35:31 PM||USD 450,000.00||i6568|
|Aug 20, 2016 - 11:35:36 AM||USD 400,000.00||i6339|
|Aug 20, 2016 - 11:34:31 AM||USD 350,000.00||i6339|
|Aug 20, 2016 - 11:33:32 AM||USD 300,000.00||i6339|
|Aug 20, 2016 - 8:41:15 AM||USD 200,000.00||i6568|
|Aug 20, 2016 - 8:39:55 AM||USD 150,000.00||i6568|
|Aug 20, 2016 - 8:39:01 AM||USD 110,000.00||i6568|
|Aug 20, 2016 - 8:38:10 AM||USD 100,000.00||i6568|