General Motors entered the sports car market in 1953 with the Chevrolet Corvette. Based on the 1952 EX-122 Motorama dream car, the new Corvette featured a fibreglass body and two seats. Corvette was marketed as an economical sports car for young adults, but due to its basic family car suspension components and Powerglide automatic transmission, it was generally snubbed by sports car purists.
While the initial models may have been somewhat lacking, something far more magical occurred when the second-generation Corvette arrived in showrooms for 1963.
The new Corvette Sting Ray was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. Visual highlights included an aerodynamic design with hideaway headlamps, fastback roofline, low-slung stance, side scoops and doors that opened into the roofline. A winner before it even turned a tire, the new Sting Ray had more than just style — it also had a chassis capable of taking on any road course.
Gone were the solid rear axle and kingpin front end and in its place a full four-wheel independent suspension with much improved braking.
For 1964, a simple restyle cleaned up the look by eliminating some of the fake vents and scoops, while still maintaining that futuristic styling.
For Igor Murenko of West St. Paul, Corvettes and fast Chevys are nothing new.
“I’ve had several, but when my wife Peggy got into our 2003 Corvette on a ride home from an outing and said, ‘I don’t like this car, why can’t we get an old one like our ’63,’ it took me back a bit,” Murenko said.
Finding an early Sting Ray at an affordable price isn’t an easy task, and looking for a restoration candidate in reasonable condition is equally difficult. After some online searching Murenko found a 1964 Sting Ray convertible in Perryville, Mo. An original car, it had been off the road since 1978, used as a drag car until 1981 and then stored.
“An estate sale, the present owner said a restoration wasn’t in the cards for him and he just wanted to let it go,” Murenko said of how he found it.
Yellow with a black top and white interior, the 327 four-speed-equipped car had been a drag strip terror; unfortunately, that wasn’t the role Murenko envisioned.
“Fast but totally undriveable on the street, I went the pro-touring route with it,” Murenko said.
Long regarded by old-time hot rodders as the holy grail of Corvettes, the ’63 to ’67 models will accept a multitude of modifications and still remain a very tractable driver. The frame-on rebuild included the removal of the original 327 V-8, replaced with a 1968 Corvette 327 bored 0.010” over with the original 1.94-inch intake valve cylinder heads and built with everything new except the crankshaft, resulting in reliability and balanced power. Additions include a new H.E.I. ignition, Edelbrock chrome-plated, aluminium intake manifold and Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor.
For the transmission Murenko chose a 1992 vintage 4L60 overdrive automatic. Bowtie Overdrives is credited with supplying the only known shifter and console shift plate for the early Sting Ray when equipped with overdrive. Coupled with the 3.08 gear ratio positraction rear axle, it makes an easy transition from street car to highway cruiser.
Exhaust for the car was supplied and installed by Extreme Performance Exhaust and features a full custom dual system with stainless-steel mufflers. Murenko also gives a credit to the crew at Joy Automotive for helping get through wiring and electrical issues.
For the body, Murenko called upon Gord Leiss at GOD Autobody to finish, prep and paint the Sting Ray in a bold silver pearl. An original ’65 colour, it’s rarely seen on an early Sting Ray.
The black convertible top and wine leather interior and upholstery, including the new dash pad, are the work of D N R Custom Upholstery in St. Andrews, and blend nicely with the bright silver paint. Murenko chose the later Sting Ray big-block hood and had it finished with a contrasting black stinger.
Bumpers and chrome trim are all new and supplied by Eckler’s Automotive. Rolling stock is 15-inch B.F. Goodrich T/A radial tires on steel rims, dressed in ’65 Sting Ray wheel covers. Options are few, but include dual side-view mirrors and the addition of a Custom Autosound AM/FM CD player. Future plans for the Sting Ray include air conditioning, cruise control and power steering.
For Murenko, the three-year build still has a few bugs to work out, but it’s now very driveable and well on its way to being a family favourite.
There were 13,925 Sting Ray convertibles produced in 1964 — the start of a trend which saw Corvette convertible production outpace the coupe nearly two-to-one until 1969.