Designer Digs: Rare pair of C2 “styling” Corvettes going up for grabs

Mecum Auctions

From 1963 through 1967, Chevrolet built 117,966 of its second-generation, or C2, Corvettes. And while they all look like a million bucks, the vast majority have always been generally accessible to mere mortals. Some, however, either because of the way they were spec’d from the factory or because of owned them, have always remained out of touch.

The 20 race-ready 1967 L88 Corvettes, for example, are a prime example of such stratospheric positioning, with their 427/430 engines and suite of heavy-duty go-fast bits. They consistently populate “most expensive Corvette” lists, and indeed the most expensive Corvette ever sold at auction was a ’67 L88 coupe, at Barrett-Jackson in 2014, for $3.85 million.

As for the Corvettes that bring big money because of their ownership history, welp, the two listed here are hard to beat, and both are on the docket for Mecum’s 25th annual sale in Kissimmee, Florida, January 2–14, 2024.

1963 Harley Earl Styling Car

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Harley Earl Styling Car front 3/4
Mecum Auctions

Outside of Zora Arkus-Duntov, no one was more influential in bringing the Corvette to life than Harley J. Earl, who served as head of the Art and Color Section (later renamed the Styling Section) at General Motors from 1927 until his retirement in 1958. Well-known in the Corvette world, including within the hallowed halls of Bloomington Gold, this car was gifted to Earl as a retirement present, and he drove it regularly around Palm Beach, Florida, in his golden years, even lapping the Daytona Speedway in it in 1965 when he served as Grand Marshal of that year’s 500.

The car is finished in metallic blue paintwork (not offered in ’63) with a white stripe starting at the “stinger” and running the length of the car. It is complemented by a matching blue-and-white leather interior. And though Earl’s Corvette is fitted with a rather tame 327/300 V-8 and four-speed manual, this unique car sports dual-circuit four-wheel disc brakes (not offered until ’65) as well as a passenger-side gauge cluster with accelerometer, altimeter, and two thermometers. The most notable custom touch, however, are the pair of fantastic four-branch polished stainless steel sidepipes, which were never offered on production Corvettes.

This car is not new to market. It sold at Barrett-Jackson in 1999 for $152,300, and then also 11 years later, at Mecum Indy, for $980,500. In 2013, it sold again, this time for $1.65 million, at a Mecum auction in Chicago. Then it failed to sell for a high bid of $1.7 million in Kissimmee in 2019, when it was paired with another famous blue C2 styling Corvette once belonging to another famous GM designer…

1964 Bill Mitchell Styling Car

1964 Chevrolet Corvette Bill Mitchell Styling Car front 3/4
Mecum Auctions

Bill Mitchell was hired on at Art and Color by Harley Earl in 1936, and when the latter retired in 1958, Mitchell succeeded him as head honcho of GM design. As such, it was Mitchell who breathed life into the 1963 Corvette (through the pencil of Larry Shinoda). Mitchell had a 1964 Corvette constructed to his liking, which he then drove as his personal car.

Though less flashy than Earl’s simply for its lack of sidepipes, the Mitchell Corvette does not lack for custom touches. Outside, the car is finished in special Bright Blue Metallic paint, with unique chrome knock-off wire wheels and an egg-crate grille, while the doors lack wing windows. The side vents are chromed, and the rear end features six taillights rather than the standard four. Inside, the entire interior—seats, dash, glovebox door, door cards—is clad in blue leather.

Underhood is a 327/365 V-8 putting power to the rear wheels through a three-speed Turbo Hydramatic 400, which didn’t make its way into production Corvettes until the 1969 model year.

The upcoming Kissimmee auction presents a great opportunity for Corvette collectors looking for something different. There will be dozens, if not hundreds, of Vettes among the 4000 cars consigned, but these two styling cars, with their impeccable ownership histories and their special connection to two greats of GM design, could anchor just about any collection of Corvettes, or American cars, or sports car, or one-off cars.

The Earl Corvette is estimated at $750,000–$1,000,000, the Mitchell Corvette at $500,000–$600,000. If you had the means to bring one home, which would it be?




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    Harley Earl, the P.T. Barnum of car stylists.

    But it’s difficult to blame him, he just gave the people what they wanted.

    So, blame it on society…what a concept!

    It’s a wonder Rick Hendricks hasn’t bought them or held on to them, with all of the one of a kind Chevrolets he’s bought.

    Those side pipes are just terrible to me. So I pick the Mitchell which is also a better looking as a coupe to me.

    Agree! It ruins everything about the car. I think it’s a multi hundred thousand dollar detractor!
    I like 6 rear taillights too!

    Harley Earl retired in 1958 but they didn’t give him a car until 1963? (As a side note, I’ve never understood why C1 lasted until 1962. Shouldn’t C2 begin in 1956? I assume there is a reason.) I agree that the side pipes look terrible. They look better in the black and white photo where you don’t see them reflected in the chrome beneath.

    Tom, I agree. Never understood why they don’t consider the ‘56 as the first C2. There’s as much difference between the ‘56 and ‘55 Vette as there is between the ‘05 and ‘04’s yet they give the ‘05’s the C6 handle.

    I always like the 3 taillights on each side. My first Vette was a ’62 and it had 3 taillights on each side. Oh, to have it back.

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