1963 Bunkie Knudsen New York Auto Show Corvette Convertible
Almost from the beginning of automobile mass production, there have been prototypes, one-offs, and styling cars. Staff designers would build these pieces of rolling sculpture to display at car shows and “Motorama’s” to gauge the press and potential buying public’s response to new design concepts. If it was positive, some of the styling cues could find their way onto future production cars.
The ’50’s through early ’60’s were considered the “Golden Age” of these exercises. One of GM’s designers was the legendary Larry Shinoda. In 1961, Larry was the guiding hand behind one of the most famous Corvette concept cars of all time, the XP-755, also known as the Mako Shark. This sexy concept was a huge hit on the show car circuit, with its bold look and external side exhausts.
Following in the spirit of the Mako Shark, the 1963 Corvette presented here was built specifically for the New York Auto Show. This very special Corvette Sting Ray incorporated various design concepts conceived at the GM Design Center. Unique interior appointments included a steering wheel that used two separate kinds of wood and a custom shift console. The 1964 seats were upholstered with white naugahyde, as were the doors. The instrumentation was also from the 1964 Corvette, even though it was technically a ‘63. And the most obvious modification: the Mako Shark inspired side-mounted external exhaust and period correct two-bar spinner knock off wheels. Those pipes added a level of daring every time you’d open the door to get in or out of the ‘Vette. Because of clearance issues with the exhaust, the battery was moved behind the seats (shades of the ’68-’82 production Corvette).
Needless to say, the car was a huge hit not only with the general public, but also with the GM brass! Most notably, Chevrolet Division General Manager Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen. So much so, that he arranged for Chevrolet Engineering to build a copy for his personal use. What you see presented here is the result of that effort.
The GM team painted Bunkie’s Corvette a color called Crimson Firefrost (with a white stripe on the hood and rear deck). Crimson Firefrost adorned the rest of his personal fleet of high-class Chevys, which included a Chevy Corvair, Impala, and Nova, all painted the same lovely shade of red. Under the hood was a seriously blinged-out fuel-injected 327 with all the performance goodies.
After completion, Bunkie drove this unique Corvette for years as his personal ride. Most of the time, after their show car salad days are through, these concepts are destroyed or snuck out of the warehouse under the cloak of darkness into a private collector’s hands and otherwise lost to the ages. In this case, Bunkie ended up selling the car and a series of owners progressively neglected the Corvette until it was mercifully uncovered in the early 1980s by a collector who recognized the automotive artifact for what it was.
The 1963 Bunkie Kundson New York Auto Show Corvette Convertible was then restored back to its former glory, the way Bunkie drove it back in the day. Restoration was no easy task. The project was unusually complex, needing special attention to recreate the unique custom interior and stainless exhaust system, which required the skills of eight different machine and fabrication facilities and at least a dozen expert craftsmen.
The finished product was then put on show duty once again. This time at the Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance, as well as several times in the Bloomington Gold Special Collection. It was also on constant display at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY. from its opening in ’94 until ’01. The 1963 Bunkie Kundson New York Auto Show Corvette Convertible has since been in notable private collectors hands and most recently has been invited to participate in the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
These pieces of auto-art seldom come up for sale, so here is a rare opportunity to not only own a 1 of 1 1963 Corvette but a piece of automotive styling history, as well! Stk #5867