'63 Split-Window Corvette
Ben Hsu's collection of cars includes Corvettes, Porsches, an Ariel Atom track car, and a Chevy SSR. One of his most prized possessions his 1963 Split-Window Corvette Sting Ray. As a long time Corvette owner, Ben wanted a 63 and found this beautiful survivor on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The car was in good shape but Ben has restored this car in original but better than new condition. The car has won many awards and Ben tells us the story and gives us a walk-around tour of the car.
Hi everyone I'm Bruce Hitchen and welcome back to Center Lane. Well, today I'm back at the home of Ben Hsu because Ben has just a wonderful collection of cars. I mentioned last time we were here a little while ago and he was telling us about his Porsches but one of the really unique cars he has is this 1963 split-window Corvette. Now, I'm just going to remind you to subscribe to my channel if you like this content and click the bell if you want to be notified of future episodes. So Ben, tell me about this car. It's just an absolute gorgeous car. '63, split-window, it is the holy grail of Corvettes and I think it's also your birth year. Is that correct? Tell me about the car and how you got it?
Yeah, you're 100 correct. One year only split-window Corvette, It is the holy grail of all Corvettes. Since it was my birth year car, I wanted a car with history, I wanted a car with the original drivetrain, and I wanted a car that either I need to restore or or just buy it as is. So it's tough to meet all all three of those criteria so one day, one of the club members from the BC Corvette Club phoned me up, knew that I was looking for a split-window Corvette. She said that well, here's the phone number. I think there's a '63 Corvette on the Island so I said, okay, well can you send me some pictures. So he sent me the pictures and sure enough I knew it was '63 because it's got the split window. So that was two years before I actually bought the car. What kept me away from it was this color. I wasn't too crazy about the color. I said to my wife...I said, you know I've been looking at this car for the last two years. What do you think? She looked at the color, look at the car. She's like, it's beautiful, I love the color. Go buy it right. So call the fellow up is the car still for sale? Yes, the car is still for sale. Well, I mean no wonder because it's on the Island for one. It's three hours from the mainland to get to the car, the guy wasn't friendly to show the car, and the guy that selling the car didn't know anything about the car right. So anyway, the deal was made, I loaded the car up on the trailer, went to the insurance and when I pulled into the parking lot a fellow came running up to me and says, "my god this is a urban legend". So, what do you mean? Well, we've heard about this car and there's one other one exactly like it on the Island. I've never seen this car. We knew it's been here since the 70s but I've never seen this car. I said well, here it is right. So, always in the back of my mind there's that other one right. Like, where is the other one?
So Ben, I thought it was interesting, you say you didn't like the color because I think it's absolutely gorgeous. Clearly your wife thought it was gorgeous. Is this the original paint on this car?
No, the car has been fully restored. Now, this particular color...there were six colors available for 1963. This happened to be one of the more popular colors but you rarely see them in this color. The fact that over the years people paint them black, red, white or whatever and now you know, owning it for the last, I've owned this car for seven, eight years now. Every time I go to a car show I get comments like, I never see this color, it's beautiful. So you know, I'm grown to like it and it's the original color. So we restored it back to completely original and going back to the condition of the car when I got it, it was, it was a good original survivor okay. Hindsight, what I should have done was take in this car go down Route 66, go do some road trips and not care about it, you know. And it was a great running car but you know it is what it is. I got it restored and now I'm kind of scared to drive it, but I still do drive it. Right. But not not the way that I would have driven it when, if it was, if it was still original.
Well because it's absolutely gorgeous. I mean, the shine on this paint, the chrome, everything about it just looks perfect. Can you, can you pop the hood for us and show us inside?
Oh gorgeous. So what do we have in here Ben?
So it's a 327. 300 horse. It's a four speed. It's a super t10 transmission and it's the original engine born with engine, with a stamping of last six of this serial number. It's been rebuilt at some point because this car runs beautifully. It runs great. Purrs like a kitten. The the car was so clean that we you know you often hear a frame-off restoration on Corvettes. Now, the frame and the undercarriage on this car is so clean that the factory markings are still on the frame and on the floorboard and all that so we decided not to disturb that. We just cleaned it up and put a clear satin coat of clear paint over top to to preserve it. Okay, and so we did the body, we did the paint, we did the interior. You know, the engine we just basically painted and detailed. That's all we did. People often over-restore the cars and like this car here, the the paint's better than original but, you know, we try to keep it as original as possible, use as many original parts as possible. And, and, it's very rare to find a 1963 Corvette with the original drivetrain. I mean, this car is 57 years old. Somewhere along the line, I mean, engine oil quality was not as good as they are now. I mean, like you rarely hear an engine failing these days but I mean, back then it's very common for engines to fail and you know like these were cars back then, and people drive them like cars so you know they get abused the engine blows up you put another one in then originality's gone.
Well that's the interesting thing you know they were just regular cars and I guess in 63, that was one of the complaints about these cars was the split-window, people didn't like it because you couldn't see through it.
Yes, you cannot see the car directly behind you and and I can vouch for that. Like, it's not a very safe car on the road and there's only one mirror. The passenger-side mirror is an option which this car does not have and when you're actually driving the car, you cannot see anything behind you. So I mean for safety reasons that's probably one of the reason why they got rid of it in 1964. And the interesting part is, you know, it it's a urban legend that people were cutting these bars off and put a 64 back window in just to make the car modern right. And I mean those people, whoever did that probably regret it now.
This car is very unique. Again, it's the holy grail of all Corvettes. It's the American sports car. I've always wanted one of these and it just happened to be a birth year car. So it's pretty basic. This this particular car doesn't have air conditioning so you just got the heat, you got the air, you got the just the am radio. It's a wonderbar type radio so you need to heat up before it starts to work. This gauge cluster it's a 63 specific with the stainless styles. It looks great at night. Now, throughout the restoration of the car I found out there's a lot of things are 63 only. You know, the dash, the gauges, the glove box, the console, the steering wheel. You know that's what makes these cars very unique because I mean, to restore these cars it's very very costly because anything to do with the 63, price basically doubles. You know, for example the windshield molding. The molding is different, the clips are different, and they're 63 only. There's a tool box actually underneath the seat. To buy carpet for this car it was next to impossible because they have to make the molded carpet to fit the toolbox. So those are the challenges to restore a 63 Corvette. Everything's done now. Everything's good you know this car will stay this way for a long, long time.
One day my friend called me up and said, hey your car's in the ICBC calendar. I said, no it's not my car. And he says oh, okay so he sent me a picture. I looked at it said, okay well it's got different wheels but very similar car and then when I read the caption. The car is from Duncan. So then put two and two together, it's like gee. This could be the other car. So I Googled the name and made a few phone calls and I got a hold of the owner and we agreed to have a photo shoot together with our cars. But I've lost his contact so if you're watching? If you have a car just like mine. Saddle Tan with the Saddle Tan interior, 63 from Duncan. Please reach out. My Instagram handle it's it's BenTheCarGuy and yeah. Let's get this together and maybe Bruce can do a episode on these two cars.