Just imagine walking into a Chevrolet dealership in 1963 and laying your eyes on the new Corvette Stingray. The second generation (of what would become an iconic model) Corvette was an all-new design compared to the original. It looked mean, in the best way possible. We drove the convertible, which (interestingly enough) was a bigger sales success than the coupé.
Riverside Red. That is the official name Chevrolet gave the red paint used on this 1963 model. An apt description for the 327 cubic inch (5.4 litre) V8 powered cruiser I’d say. You want to drive it. But not too fast — like a river, lazily flowing along the roads to nowhere. You want to enjoy the scenery and be seen. The 50s-esque red and white colour combo makes you want to head into the nearest sunset to the closest roadhouse and slurp up a bubblegum milkshake!
The lazy burble of the 190kW lump tells you this car is not a wild racing machine, despite its looks. Throttle response is astonishingly good, with the torque curve directly accessible at almost any revs. You breathe on the throttle with your big toe and the exhaust announces your gesture as the nose lifts up. Mash it into the corner and you feel a surge of power that never feels like it wants to break traction, but still hurls you forward with great enthusiasm. The four-speed manual gearbox is a gem. Smooth and precise, with a distinctly mechanical feel to it. It wants you to change gears, and I can guarantee a smile on your face with every shift.
You feel like an actor in an old movie. Constant steering input is needed — even in a straight line. Sawing away at the wheel becomes second nature within no time. Cornering is not its forté. As with most old American cars, looks and power are more important than going round a corner at breakneck speed. The dash arrangement is a spectacle, but beautiful. Analogue dials and gauges swing needles as you run through the gears.
This car is fitted with the optional “Power Brake”, which means your brake pedal is connected to a brake booster. The drum brakes on all four corners lack feel and do not inspire braking confidence. Especially not while wearing a lap-strap only. Braking requires concentration to prevent lock-up.
For a car that is celebrating its 55th birthday this year, it’s remarkably easy to drive though. This particular one is a matching numbers, completely original example and is looking for a new owner. The interior looks and smells as it should. What stories it could tell I’m sure.
If I walked into a Chevrolet dealership in 1963 and I saw this gleaming Riverside Red beaut, I would have bought it on the spot. – Waldo Swiegers (Pics: Waldo Swiegers)
- Thanks to Wat Swaai Jy? For the use of this test vehicle. Interested buyers can contact Corber Viljoen at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.