When Chevrolet unveiled the Corvette in 1953, they became the first of the Big Three to take a serious stab at the burgeoning American sports car market. With its tuned version of the venerable overhead-valve inline-six and a fiberglass body, the Corvette seemed to have the formula right – on paper anyway. But American buyers are notoriously fickle, and after an initial flurry, sales quickly cooled. Even as the addition of a V8 engine boosted interest, GM threatened the cancellation of the Corvette after just one model cycle. Thankfully, a team of dedicated engineers within Chevrolet, led by Belgian-born Zora Arkus-Duntov, kept the project alive, working feverishly to ensure the next Corvette would be the proper sports car it should have been all along.
Planning for a more focused, purposeful Corvette began as early as 1957. In 1963, Chevrolet introduced its first all-new Corvette in a decade. Essential elements of the experimental Q-Corvette and Bill Mitchell’s Sting Ray dream car came together to form the prettiest and most advanced Corvette yet. Finally, GM had a proper, no-excuses sports car on its hands. Duntov and his team revolutionized the Corvette by finally ditching its family sedan underpinnings once and for all. A completely new purpose-built chassis featured four-wheel independent suspension, big drum brakes (discs were still in development), and several iterations of the 327 cubic-inch small-block V8 ranging from 250 to 360 horsepower. Fiberglass remained the material of choice for the Bill Mitchell-designed body, which featured a boat-tail fastback roofline, split rear window, pronounced fender bulges, and an aggressive, purposeful stance. The 1963 Corvette is a true icon of American motoring, and one of the most recognizable shapes in automotive design. More than five decades since its inception, the C2 Corvette – particularly in its purest split-window coupe form – stands as one of the most revered, iconic, and collectible cars of all time.
Proudly offered here is a stunning 1963 Corvette Stingray coupe, presented in gorgeous Riverside Red over a black interior. At first glance, this car looks like an impeccably-restored, fully detailed standard split-window. But closer inspection reveals this car is one of the fabled, coveted Z06 “Tankers.” This rare option package was the brainchild of Zora Arkus-Duntov, envisioned as a way to homologate the Corvette for road racing. Known officially as RPO Z06 Special Performance Equipment Group, it offered a host of performance parts with the additional option of a high capacity fuel tank for endurance racing. But it was expensive, and out of an annual sales total of over 21,000 Corvettes, just 78 buyers (some reports say 63) ticked the option sheet to include the Z06 performance equipment group and the N03 36-gallon racing fuel tank. Today, about 50 of the Big Tank Z06s are known to exist.
The Z06 was indeed a serious performance machine, yet Chevrolet offered the option with little fanfare, targeting serious racers who wanted a track-ready Corvette for SCCA and FIA GT-class racing. For a whopping $1,818 over the top of the $4,257 base price, the competition-minded Corvette buyer got a wealth of high-performance parts including the range-topping 360 horsepower 327 V8 with Rochester fuel injection, T-10 four-speed ‘box, uprated dampers, springs, and front sway bar, limited-slip rear axle, and heavy-duty finned drum brakes with sintered linings and a unique dual circuit master cylinder (discs were still two years away). Initially, the alloy knock-off wheels were specified, but the porous alloy proved troublesome, so Chevy switched to heavy-duty steel wheels with decorative wheel covers, giving the car a bit of a “sleeper” character. After suffering losses on track against Carroll Shelby’s Cobra, GM execs pulled the plug on the racing program, and the Z06 died with it after just 199 cars, with only a fraction of those featuring with the massive 36.5-gallon fuel tank behind the seats.
This fabulous Z06 Tanker is arguably one of the most desirable of all the road-going C2 Corvettes. It is one of 5 known examples finished in the Riverside Red per the trim tag, and came well-equipped with the aforementioned Z06/N03 options, tinted glass, an AM/FM radio, and 6.70-15 whitewall tires. According to the NCRS Shipping Data Report, this car was produced in April 1963 and sold new through BF Chevrolet of Commack, New York. It is believed that the original owner had the car for just two years before returning it to the dealer. From there, it was acquired by the second owner who cherished and enjoyed the car regularly, well into the 1990s. It traded hands once more before coming under the care of the fourth owner, Mr. Andy Cannizzo of New Jersey, known widely in Corvette circles as “Mr. 63” for his unrivaled expertise with these cars. He became aware of this particular car in the late 1990s when he helped a previous owner find some of the unique, Z06 only parts. When he was offered the car in 2006, he personally verified its authenticity and brought the car home to begin the meticulous, nut-and-bolt restoration to exacting, factory-correct standards.
Now presented in superb condition, the astonishing restoration remains factory-fresh with exquisite paintwork and detailing. Virtually every component, from the correct-spec 360hp fuel-injected 327 to the very last fastener, was restored to an obsessive level, painstakingly researched to ensure this car is accurate and correct. Cannizzo went to great lengths to source many of the rare Z06-only parts – particularly related to the special brakes. The result of his effort is a stunning automobile that stands proudly as one of the best of its kind. An array of awards and trophies reflect the quality of the restoration and the exceptional level of detail. Prestigious awards include a 2012 AACA Senior National First Prize, 2016 AACA Grand National First Prize, 2014 Bloomington Gold Certification, NCRS Top Flight certification (No. 41.3167.190), a 2013 “Chip’s Choice” award from Corvettes at Carlisle, and numerous class awards at Concours d’Elegance events including Greenwich, Hilton Head, and Pinehurst and an award for Best American Post-War Car at Amelia Island. The car also featured on the cover of the September 2016 issue of Corvette Magazine.
Experts believe that only 50 of the original Big Tank Z06 coupes still exist, making them among the rarest and most coveted of the marque. In 2001, Chevrolet revived the legendary Z06 name, and it remains the reserve of only the most driver-focused, hard-edged, technologically advanced Corvettes. This remarkable example remains in concours-ready condition and is sure to please even the most serious of Corvette collector.
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