- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2000

There's no denying that Chevrolet's Corvette got off to a wobbly start in 1953. That first year only 300 were sold.

If Chevrolet hadn't sold 1,341,160 other cars that year to pick up the slack, we wouldn't be discussing Corvettes today.

The first decade of production saw just 68,989 Corvettes built, all of them roadsters.

Then along came 1963 and a totally revamped Corvette. It was the first Sting Ray, as well as the first time a coupe was offered. It was also, for Corvette, the first and last split rear window.

A total of 10,919 Corvette roadsters were sold in 1963 vs. 10,594 split-window coupes, by far the best sales year to that point.

The only parts the 1963 Corvette shared with the preceding model were the steering, front suspension, the various engines and the fiberglass material in the bodies.

None of this made much difference to Bill Sangrey until much later. By the time 1963 Corvette Sting Rays were 11 years old Mr. Sangrey had accumulated a college degree, a wife, a couple of children and was working in Columbus, Ohio.

He had always admired Corvettes but hadn't seriously considered owning one until he saw a for sale note on the bulletin board advertising a 1963 Corvette coupe.

He went. He saw. He bought.

His prize was a very silver Corvette with 70,000 miles on the odometer.

The 2,859-pound Corvette carried a $4,252 base price tag when new. Under the fiberglass hood is a 327-cubic-inch V-8 set up to produce 340 horsepower.

A lot of the appeal of the first Sting Ray was accomplished via smoke and mirrors. The dual vents on the front fender lead to nowhere and the dual vents on the "B" pillar likewise are fake. For every fake stylistic cue there are numerous functional touches that make up the difference.

A touch that makes entry into the low-slung car easier is the door opening, which is cut into the roof. Additionally, the hidden headlights when closed are very aerodynamic.

Mr. Sangrey took his acquisition home to show his wife, Jo Ann, their new second car. The fact that it had independent rear suspension, self-adjusting drum brakes and an alternator did not impress her.

Mrs. Sangrey, however, knew a good thing when she saw it. She took the children to and from preschool in the Corvette with the 6.70x15-inch tires providing plenty of grip for her purposes.

"The rear window center post will block a car from your vision," Mr. Sangrey said. The Sting Ray was used as a second car until the Sangreys moved to Great Falls in the spring of 1980. The Corvette made the trip on the back of a truck.

Along about 1987 the Sting Ray was still running fine but was showing signs of age. Mr. Sangrey decided a frame-on restoration was in order.

The engine was pulled to ease the restoration. However, since it was still running strong with no sign of oil burning or leakage, only the timing belt was changed.

During restoration Mr. Sangrey discovered his Corvette was sold new at Mahlon Maxton Chevrolet in Worthington, Ohio. The Sting Ray left the factory with five options:

• 4-speed transmission.$188.30.

• AM/FM radio……………..174.35.

• 340-horsepower V-8……107.60.

• Positraction rear end……43.05.

• White sidewall tires……..31.55.

All these accessories pushed the price up to $4,832.60.

Mr. Sangrey salvaged the original door panels while the rest of the interior was reupholstered. The original knobs to open the doors still protrude through the original door panels.

The sharply raked windshield is kept clean by wipers that both park at the bottom center of the windshield by overlapping.

A Daytona blue color was selected by Mr. Sangrey, which reflects the light off the rooftop ridge that extends down the rib through the rear window.

After only 18 months Mr. Sangrey had his fully restored Corvette back in his garage.

There's nothing quite like a fresh restoration to win prizes, awards and accolades. Mr. Sangrey gathered all the prize goodies that were his due.

Afterward he determined to actually drive his Corvette. He has happily motored to Corvette gatherings in:

• Steamboat Springs, Colo.

• Lack Placid, N.Y.

• Calaway Gardens, Ga.

• Grand Lake Shangri-La, Okla.

• Mystic, Conn.

The fun is getting there, Mr. Sangrey said. By boosting the gasoline from the pump with CAM2 racing fuel, he is able to achieve 15 mpg as well as decent performance.

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