From a hardcore collector’s standpoint, it may not be as desirable as, say, one of the five original Grand Sports or an original L88 ’69, but nonetheless, it tends to top the Corvette-lover’s list of dream cars. And as with any historically relevant classic car, there’s some amount of backstory that’s always worth noting. The ’63 split-window is, of course, no exception.
Below, we take a brief glimpse into the rich background of (arguably) one of the most beautiful cars ever made.
1. The Story Behind The Split-Window
The split in the rear window is present to help carry this spine-like stripe down the Corvette’s body. When looking at post-’63 C2s, it’s immediately evident that the window-split really ties the Stingray look together. On ’64 and later models, the “spine” is lost and, consequently, a bit of the character that Mitchell worked into the car disappeared.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to own, drive, or even sit in a split-window Corvette, you’ll know firsthand that visibility becomes an immediate problem. This was one of the primary concerns of executives, engineers, and enthusiasts alike when the split-window was introduced.
The split itself sits dead in the middle of the driver’s line of sight when looking in the rear-view mirror. As a result, the car’s debut was accompanied by a barrage of complaints due to drivers not having a clue what’s behind them when backing up – let alone driving down the road.
During its production, however, another concern presented itself – manufacturing thousands upon thousands of cars with split rear windows proved to be a much larger headache than piecing together cars with a simpler, single-window design. Labor and complexity was essentially doubled in that area of the car, as two separate windows meant two sets of screws and weather-stripping, two panes of glass, and twice the install-labor time.
After a year of production with the design of the ’63, Mitchell’s determination to see his vision in effect was superseded by executive authority and the split-window was no more.
2. Bill Mitchell Versus Zora Duntov
Mitchell had taken the position of styling chief in December 1958. To reiterate, he was a hot-headed, stubborn character with a very acute sense for his own tastes – he knew exactly what he wanted out of the Corvette, and was bound and determined to get his way.
Both Mitchell and Duntov were at the helm of the development efforts for the second-generation Corvette. While both aspired for the C2 to take the Corvette to a whole new level, there was a great deal of conflict between the two as to how that would be accomplished.
Most of the head-butting resulted from the typical engineer-designer struggle: form-versus-function. Mitchell so badly wanted the Corvette to fit the stylistic profile he had dreamt up, whereas Duntov was concerned with making the Corvette’s performance unbeatable.
3. E Pluribus Unum
There’s an old saying, “Icons reflect their time.” Between its liberating and uncompromising attitude, relative attainability, and the feelings of ego and power that it evokes, the Corvette has always mimicked the American spirit.
On the surface, the split-window may seem to be just another handsome, high-dollar classic, but a quick look at its background reveals the incredible amount of passion and patriotism that went into it. The title of “America’s sportscar” is unquestionably something that the Corvette well deserves.
Article courtesy of Chevy Hardcore, written by Joshua Phillips.