By D. Brian Smith
A large number of vintage Chevrolet Corvette enthusiasts admire the 1963-1967 Corvette C2's the most of all the eight generations of the Corvette from 1953 to the present. There are many reasons why the C2 Corvette is so sought after. If you're unfamiliar with the 1963-1967 Corvette, you can learn all about the C2 by reading this article: 1963-67 C2 Corvette: History, Prices, Engine Options, & Production Numbers.
1964 Corvette Convertible for Sale
Several years before I wrote the just mentioned story, I found a 1964 Corvette convertible for sale in the vintage car classifieds section of the Orange County Register. Since the Corvette's seller didn't live too far from me, I decided to head over to his house and test drive the '64. Upon first inspection, the 'Vette checked all the boxes. The reasonable asking price included both the soft convertible top and the car's original removable hardtop. According to the owner, it was equipped with its born with 340-horsepower, 327-cubic inch V8, and its matching number Muncie M21 close-ratio four-speed manual transmission. As an occasional use vehicle, the car's body and Riverside Red paint looked just fine. I also checked the chassis, and it looked to be in good shape.
I noticed that the hood was a big block stinger hood that only appeared on the 1967 Corvettes. That didn't bother me too much, though I would have preferred that the car had its original bonnet.
The car's reportedly original black vinyl upholstery showed a bit of use, but no tears. The seats offered the sort of comfort that you'd find in many 1960's era bucket seats. The dash looked fine, not brand new, but with some patina that rang true to its age.
All was looking good thus far, so I asked the car's current caretaker if he'd let me take her for a short spin. He agreed and gave me the keys.
I must have an honest and trustworthy appearance, for the owner permitted me to take the sports car for a drive by myself. Having had several American muscle cars and a few sports cars in my well-spent automotive enthusiast youth, I put the Corvette through her paces without being a total hooligan in traffic and on the open road.
Above: This is what a 1964 Corvette looks like with a 1967 big block stinger hood and big block external side pipes. Of course, it also has non-stock mag wheels.
There did come a time in the drive when the 'Vette raised my pulse a tad. The car in front of me had to stop short in traffic. I also slammed on the brakes and locked up all four wheels. That's right, while skidding to a stop I envisioned dollars flying out of my wallet. I almost learned the hard way that 1963 and 1964 Corvettes are equipped from the factory with four-wheel drum brakes. I knew that 1965-1967 Corvettes came from the factory with four-wheel disc brakes. I just assumed that the 1963-64 Corvettes at least had front disc and rear drums, but no, they did not.
Above: This 3/4 rear shot of a 1964 Corvette has a total of four taillights, which is how all stock Corvettes came off the Chevrolet assembly lines for all years of the C2 Corvettes. Photos of Riverside Red convertible courtesy of Mecum.
I narrowly avoided making this owner's Corvette look like a rolling accordion, with fiberglass damage to the front and quite possibly the back. Given that life lesson, I drove back to the owner's house much more conservatively. The old adage of, "If you break it, you bought it" came to mind as I putt-putted back to the 'Vette owner's house.
Above: This is what the tail end of a 1964 Corvette looks like that has the three-taillight per side rear tail panel modification.
After asking the owner several more questions while walking around the car, I kept looking at the Corvette's caboose. Something looked strange to me. I couldn't quite figure out what was different about the backside of this Corvette. It just puzzled me. And then it came to me. This guy's 1964 Corvette had a total of six taillights, with three per side. Did all '64's have six taillights? I didn't know the answer to that question. Since I was thinking of trying to negotiate a selling price, I didn't want to ask the car's owner, as I didn't want to look like an idiot.
Segue to a Highly Customized 1964 Corvette Coupe
Above: Florence Knudsen, the wife of GM's General Manager, Bunkie Knudsen, owned a highly customized 1964 Corvette that sported six taillights. It also had these many other features:
- Owned by Florence Knudsen, wife of “Bunkie” Knudsen
- A one-off creation from GM's Design Center
- Custom Pink Pearl paint
- Custom pink leather interior
- This 1964 coupe incorporated many 1965 features
- 1965 style hood
- 396 CI engine, possibly the first big block Corvette produced
- Cast aluminum knock-off’s with “pink wall” tires
Factory Production Options
* AM/FM radio with power antenna.
* Air conditioning.
* Telescope steering column and teak wood steering wheel.* Cast-aluminum knock-off wheels.
* Power windows.
* Power steering and power brakes.
* Tinted glass.
* A preproduction L36 396 big-block with hydraulic lifters and 390-HP.
* Preproduction front springs to compensate for the extra weight of the big-block engine.
* 1965 front fender vents and side rocker panels.
* Powerglide automatic transmission (possibly the first one ever bolted to the then-new big-block engine). This was not available until 1966.
* 1965/1966 style big-block hood.
* Preproduction 4-wheel disc brakes and dual master cylinder. This was not available until 1965.
* 5,500-RPM tachometer.
* “396 Turbo” front fender badges and air filter decal.
Customized and Fabricated Features
* Pearl Pink exterior paint to match the door of the Knudsen’s Florida home.
* Six taillights.
* Pink & Cranberry colored leather interior and door panels.
* Pink dash instrument cluster plate and glove box door.
* Modified front crossmember for the big-block.
* Special fabricated radiator.
* Handmade fiberglass radiator shroud.
* Pink sidewall tires.
* Engraved “FMK” on the seat belt buckles to replace the Chevy Bow Tie.
* Modified right inner front fender.
Above: Bulleted details and photos of pink 1964 Corvette coupe provided by a story published by Mecum Auctions.
Back to Not Smitten by Six...
By explaining that he had several other prospects that were coming to see the car that same day, the owner gave me the impression that his Corvette was in high demand. The asking price was admittedly quite reasonable, so I attempted to negotiate an even better value without offending the owner.
To my surprise, I was able to whittle down the price a little more, and we agreed upon a fair value. Though I was happy with the sale, there were three things that bugged me about this car. The three taillights per side instead of two, the '67 Corvette stinger hood, and the fact that the 1964 Corvette comes stock with four-wheel drum brakes - those three items were gnawing at my gearhead brain. Hence, I asked the seller if I could give him a $50 refundable deposit to hold the car for me for one day. He said no. In the end, we agreed to a $50 nonrefundable deposit to hold the 'Vette hostage on my behalf for 24 hours.
Upon leaving this guy's house, I drove to a Barnes & Noble bookstore and went directly to the Transportation section to do a little C2 Corvette research. Though Al Gore had invented the internet by then (as if), it was still in its infancy. I figured I could do my fact finding more quickly with a published Corvette book. The full color photographs would also look better in print. I learned for a fact that 1963-1967 Corvettes all have a total of four taillights from the various Chevrolet assembly lines that mass produced these all-American sports cars. I also confirmed that 1963-'64 Corvettes were all configured with four-wheel drum brakes. I also learned that customizing the tail end of C2 Corvette's with six taillights as opposed to four was a common modification in the mid-'60's and into the '70's.
That evening I had some critical thinking to do. In the end I decided that these three things bothered me too much about the Riverside Red 1964 Corvette. The next day I phoned the owner and told him he could keep my fifty bucks.
Restored or Restomod - What's Your Preference?
For the most part, I still prefer restored American pony and muscle cars to customized or restomodded vehicles. But it depends on the vehicle, too. I'd rather own and drive a hot rodded 1934 Ford roadster than a bone stock '34 Ford roadster with a '34 flathead V8 and a three-speed manual trans with mechanical brakes. To each their own.
Now you can guess why this article is titled Not Smitten By Six...Taillights.
Classic Industries Sells Chevrolet Corvette Parts
Whether you own a C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, or C6 Corvette, you'll find a great assortment of Corvette parts and accessories for your sports car at Classic Industries. Simply click on the Corvette generation that matches your 'Vette to shop online. If you'd like to find out more about America's Sports Car, an insightful article can be found here.