1963 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 “Tanker” Coupe

Nearly from the inception of the original Chevrolet Corvette, serious sports car fans and racers were critical of it for compromising performance in the name of style. Even as sales struggled and GM threatened to pull the plug on the program, plans for a more focused, purposeful Corvette began as early as 1957. It took some convincing of the board by a passionate team of engineers led by Zora Arkus-Duntov, but the Corvette was given a stay of execution.

In 1963, Chevrolet introduced the first all-new Corvette in a decade. Essential elements of the experimental Q-Corvette and Bill Mitchell’s Sting Ray dream car combined to form the most advanced and stylish Corvette yet. Duntov and his team revolutionized the Corvette, ditching its family sedan underpinnings once and for all and finally giving GM a proper, no-excuses sports car. The new purpose-built chassis featured four-wheel independent suspension, big drum brakes (discs followed soon after), and various iterations of the 327 cubic-inch small-block V8 ranging from 250 to 360 horsepower. Atop the advanced chassis was a stunning new body punctuated by its boat-tail fastback roofline, split rear window, pronounced fender bulges, and an aggressive, purposeful stance. Chevrolet quietly offered the 1963 Corvette with a unique package that prepared the car for racing to appeal to professional and amateur road racers. Known by its RPO code of Z06, the upgrade was developed by Arkus-Duntov to transform the ‘Vette into the proper hardcore sportscar he had always envisioned.

The Z06 targeted serious racers wanting a track-prepped Corvette for SCCA, USRRC, and FIA GT-class racing. For a whopping $1,818 on top of the $4,257 base price, the competition-minded Corvette buyer got a wealth of carefully developed high-performance parts. To get a Z06 required selection of the range-topping 360 horsepower 327 V8 with Rochester mechanical fuel injection, T-10 four-speed ‘box, and limited-slip rear axle. To that, it added uprated dampers, 50% firmer springs, a heavier front sway bar, heavy-duty finned drum brakes with sintered linings, and a unique dual circuit master cylinder (discs were still two years away). Early cars had magnesium wheels, which proved troublesome, so Chevy switched to heavy-duty steel wheels with decorative wheel covers, turning the Z06 into a bit of a “sleeper.” The Z06 was hardly given a chance to shine, as the anti-racing GM board pulled the plug on factory-sanctioned motorsport, leaving the Z06 to be quietly canceled after just 199 cars.

Presented in its original color scheme of Riverside Red over black upholstery, this 1963 Corvette Stingray split window coupe is one of the coveted Z06 factory road-racers equipped with the ultra-rare “Big Tank” high-capacity fuel system. The handful of buyers who selected the Z06 package could add the 36-gallon endurance-racing fuel tank as a separate option. Initially, it was only available on the Z06 but was later offered across the range – meaning not all Z06s are “tankers,” and vice versa. Out of an annual sales total of over 21,000 Corvettes, just 78 buyers (some reports say only 63) ticked the option sheet for both the Z06 Performance Equipment Group and the N03 36-gallon racing fuel tank. Today, approximately 50 Z06s tankers are known, and they are among the most desirable of all road-going C2 ‘Vettes.

This beautiful Z06 Tanker boasts fascinating, well-documented history from new. It is known that Mr. Jack Moore, an experienced racer from Sodus Point, New York, ordered this car through his local dealer. In a rush to make his first race with the car, Jack couldn’t wait for it to be trucked to Rochester, NY, so as soon as it rolled off the line in St. Louis, he flew to Missouri to collect it. The very next day, he had a roll bar installed and high-tailed it back east for its maiden race. Moore ran the car in events around the Eastern US and Canada at tracks, including Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Mosport, and Daytona. At events in Watkins Glen and Bridgehampton, Moore participated in a NASA-sponsored study observing heart rates of performance athletes, where he was wired for a heart rate monitor and the car fitted with a transponder to record the signals. Amazingly, this story was confirmed years later by NASA, explaining the information was used to train astronauts for space travel. After a few years of track duty, Moore traded the Z06 back to a local dealer, who, in 1966, sold it to Mr. Bernie Ellis, also of the Rochester area.

In 1977, local body shop owner Tony Sofia acquired the car, though, at the time, he did not entirely know what he had bought. After years of hard racing, the big tank and fuel injection had been removed, so aside from having a stiff ride and brakes that wouldn’t work in the cold, the car seemed like an otherwise standard Split Window. Tony began restoring the car in his spare time, eventually realizing his was one of the rare Z06 “Tankers,” and spent years returning it to its exacting original specification. In an article written by Mr. Sofia, he describes tracking down a man offering two 36-gallon tanks for sale, one from a ’63 and one from a ’65. Through their conversation, Sofia realized the ’63 tank was very likely original to his car and immediately bought it. He also acquired a complete Rochester fuel injection setup from a friend, who had bought it from a fellow local Corvette enthusiast. Some back and forth revealed that man was the original owner, Jack Moore, who still lived in Rochester! Yet again, Sofia had very likely tracked down the original components to his car.

With the superb restoration finally completed, Tony showed the car in local and national Corvette events, racking up accolades, including the all-important Bloomington Gold. More recently, the Z06 came into the care of Terry Michaelis of Pro-Team Corvette, and the awards continued to roll in, adding another Bloomington Gold, NCRS Top Flight Award, and a Gold Spinner Certificate to its impressive portfolio. Accompanying the sale is a large file, including judging sheets, correspondence, documentation, and a recorded in-depth interview of Mr. Moore by Sofia, where the men discussed the unique details of this Corvette and all those who had a hand in its history.

After years of meticulous care, the Corvette remains in excellent order inside and out, its condition belying the age of the restoration. In its original shade of Riverside Red, the body and paintwork are finely finished and the exterior trim is correct down to the last fastener. Likewise, the chassis and undercarriage are detailed to concours standards, showing only slight wear from occasional use. The 36-gallon fuel tank dominates the interior, and factory-correct upholstery materials are used throughout, with details like the radio-delete console being true to original specifications. Under the hood sits the correct-specification 327/360HP small block, complete with Rochester injection and T-10 4-speed ‘box, and the numbers on the block correspond with the car’s ID tags.

The Z06 Tanker is the Holy Grail of C2 ‘Vettes, and it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the most desirable models in the storied history of this American icon. An outstanding example and proven concours winner, this gorgeous ’63 Z06 is sure to satisfy the most discerning collectors.


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