Bought by a teen for $1500, this ’63 Corvette is now priceless

Bruce Richardson

Even in his teenage years, Brian Richardson had an eye for Chevrolet Corvettes. Turns out he also had a nose for buried treasure.

Richardson and his identical twin brother, Bruce, bought and sold Corvettes in northern California to help finance their college education in the 1970s, but Brian could never part with one of them: This 1963 convertible, VIN 30867S100003, the earliest-known second-generation (C2) Corvette in existence and now a priceless collectible.

“My mom worked for the DMV, and Brian wanted a fuel-injected Corvette,” Bruce says of his brother, who died unexpectedly two months ago. “He came up with the brilliant idea to have her run the first 20 serial numbers, and he found #00003 in Los Angeles.”

Since Mom Richardson was traveling to Los Angeles anyway, she drove to the address registered with the DMV and spoke to the owner’s wife, who shared two pieces of important information: 1. The car didn’t run, and 2. Her husband had just lost his job. Those two negatives added up to a positive for young Brian, who recounts the story in Larry M. Galloway’s book, Corvette: 1963–1967.

1963 corvette project driveway
The Richardson brothers check out Brian’s 1963 Corvette after it was returned to its original red paint. Courtesy Lainey Richardson

“I flew down soon thereafter and was able to see the car through a garage window,” he told Galloway. “… Later I made a deal with the owner over the phone for $1500. The next weekend my brother and I drove down and picked it up.”

When there simply isn’t another one like it, a car’s value is impossible to pinpoint—or, in the words of our valuation team, priceless. The deal for the Vette—equipped with a 327-cubic-inch, 360-hp V-8 (L84)—was completed on April 26, 1975. Taking inflation into account, the $1500 price tag is the equivalent of $8300 today. As the earliest-production second-gen Corvette in existence, however, it’s in a league of its own. When verified, as this convertible’s status is, the title of “earliest known” holds great weight in the collector market. Such a vehicle can easily sell for more than its top value in the Hagerty Price Guide: In this Corvette’s case, $180,000.

By any measure, Vette was an amazingly shrewd purchase, especially for a 19-year-old college student, but it probably wasn’t all that surprising to anyone who knows the Richardsons.

“We were always into mechanical things, trying to figure out how they worked, learning how to make them work better,” Bruce says. “Our dad died when we were 15. He was a businessman, and he had served as a tank commander in World War II. Our grandfather worked for Lockheed, and all of his tools went to Dad, so we had a lot of them, and we used them a lot.

“When we were 14 or 15, we bought our first car—a three-cylinder, two-cycle German car called an NSU Prince, which is about the size of a Mini Cooper. We drove it around in the back yard. We had go-carts and gas-powered skateboards and …”

Bruce’s wife, Lainey, interjects: “When they were 10, they took apart their mother’s washing machine, fixed it, and put it all back together. Can you believe that? Ten!

Ian, Brian, Bruce, and Perry Richardson at Laguna Seca. Courtesy Lainey Richardson

Brian and Bruce went to the University of California-Berkeley and became mechanical engineers. Between them, they have more than 100 patented inventions; Brian specialized in lighting, Bruce in biotech. Brian was also an Olympic bobsledder who competed in the two-man event at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France. In addition to competing, he came up with an innovative sled design that is still in use today. As for Bruce, he and his son, Perry, run AccelRaceTek, a motorsports business in Los Gatos, California, that specializes in high-performance race car training, tech, and service.

In other words, the Richardson brothers never lacked for brains, and Brian’s purchase of a historically significant C2 provides automotive proof.

1963 corvette wedding day
Brian and Lee Richardson, with #00003, on their wedding day. Courtesy Lainey Richardson

“It is a genuinely significant car, likely the earliest existing C2 Corvette,” confirms Hagerty contributor and Corvette expert Don Sherman. “Its original fuel-injected V-8 adds to its value, and the ability to trace the ownership chain helps as well.

“Speaking from experience, C2 frames are susceptible to corrosion [rusting] because they were not painted by the manufacturer. Instead, they received a coating of tar-like stuff which didn’t last forever. Since this car apparently spent its life in California, that’s a plus for longevity.”

Not surprisingly, the brothers’ restoration work on the Sting Ray was meticulous.

“The car looked ugly when I bought it,” Brian told Galloway. “It was originally red on red. One of the previous owners painted both the interior and exterior black. They even painted the carpets. The paint job was poor. In many places red was showing. The good news is they didn’t replace the interior. They only painted it. So, I was able to see how it came from the factory.

“I still have the original interior seats, carpets, and door panel covers [the panel shape is slightly different from later production]. The paint on the body looked horrible. The body had only been damaged slightly in the rear. All of the original panels were on the car. As I said, the engine didn’t run.

“I drove the car for a short time and then took it completely apart. At the time, a lot of parts could be bought from Chevrolet. Things like weather strips, glass, and FI parts were still available.”

1963 Corvette convertible engine
Bruce Richardson

Bruce adds that his brother “wanted to make it as close to its original configuration as possible. We worked on it and had it running within about a year, and we later did a frame-off restoration and got it into a real nice position. Brian also did a refresh about 10 years ago.”

In addition to the car’s Riverside Red paint and 327 fuel-injected engine, it has a four-speed transmission, positraction axle, radio, and both hard and convertible tops. Its aluminum knock-off wheels and white wall tires were also undocumented options.

The body trim plate does not have a date code, but the National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) confirms that #00003 was shipped on August 29, 1962 with a dealer code indicating it was for General Motors’ use.

Knowing that Brian’s C2 is VIN #00003, and there is no recorded account of what happened to #00001 and #00002, he reached out to Corvette author and historian Noland Adams in 2009, hoping Adams could shed some light on their whereabouts. Adams, who died in 2017, wrote back, sharing a lengthy account of what he knew. He stated, without hesitation, that Brian’s car is “the oldest existing Sting Ray.”

1963 Corvette convertible dash
Bruce Richardson

“Why haven’t the first two Sting Rays, numbers 1 and 2, been found? I think I know why,” Adams wrote. “… First of all, why build pre-production prototypes? The answer is obvious—build them about two months before the production run is scheduled [to begin] to check fit and function of all new, never-used-before parts. Soon, production of the new model will begin, and ill-fitting or ill-functioning parts must be replaced …

“Another consideration is how the pre-production prototypes were dispatched. Assuming a coupe and a convertible model for the year in question, one example of each body style was scheduled to be destroyed in a barrier test …”

Adams wrote that, considering the importance that GM placed on these crash tests, “I am certain that 1963 pre-production prototypes 1 and 2 were prepared for such a barrier test as quickly as possible … Apparently the next convertible in line was #00003, and it was used as a design check.”

1963 Corvette convertible VIN
Bruce Richardson

Adding weight to Adams’ findings, Galloway’s book discusses the differences between #00003 and production 1963 Sting Rays. Some (but not all) of #00003’s unique features include:

  • The front fender upper to the lower panel bonding strip on the inside of the front fenders behind the Fuel Injection emblem is a hand lay-up part and does not have a ‘jog’ to clear the emblem studs as all jobs that follow do.
  • The headlight mechanisms are sand-cast and appear to be manually machined; scribe lines made by the machinist are visible.
  • The door outer panels have a cutout at the top rear … The stainless-steel trim bead along the top of the door trim panel does not extend the full length of the door trim.
  • The windshield reveal moldings were handmade, as there is evidence of hammer marks and welds on the backside. They fit noticeably better than production moldings.
  • The car (originally) had holes in the body for power windows and a right-side rearview mirror, which were filled with factory bonding adhesive (not bondo).
  • The luggage compartment rear carpet under the rear deck was salt and pepper, like 1962 models, while the rest of the carpet was red.
1963 Corvette convertible passenger interior
Bruce Richardson

Considering what similar Corvettes have sold for in recent years, it’s safe to say that #00003 is worth six figures—maybe even seven. Why does that matter? Because even before Brian’s fatal heart attack, he was thinking about what would become of his Corvette, since his wife Lee, son Ian, and daughter Shannon don’t share his passion.

Now Bruce and Lainey are in the process of selling the historic C2 on behalf of the family.

“We haven’t decided where and when,” Bruce says. “We’re considering Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, or maybe Mecum Kissimmee (both scheduled for January 2023). And everybody seems to be selling cars on Bring a Trailer these days, so that’s an option, too. We’re still trying to figure it out.”

Knowing the Richardsons, they’ll make a smart choice, just like Brian did in 1975.

Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark us.

Click below for more about
Read next Up next: The return of the Fiat 500e, Toyota shows a small electric SUV, so long Acura NSX


    I’m glad to read that the remaining brother is working thoughtfully to sell this car for the betterment of “the family”, who don’t share the owner’s passion. Too often there is just a rush to collect “the bucks” after someone passes, without regard for what would have been the wishes of the owner. I read this article to say that there is a lot of respect and regard for that, and not just “how much can we get?”…
    It’s a special car, and I suppose that it’ll end up in a special place (without 22” wheels!). Let’s not be hasty to condemn someone who makes a flippant remark on this site – mainly ’cause I make them here all the time! 😋

    My friend just forwarded me this article- and I thought I was looking AT MY CAR! I bought my
    Fuel Injected Sting Ray earlier- in June of 1972, from my late father’s friend Forest Hibbetts of La Jolla, CA
    for $700. It was during the big gasoline shortage. I was only 18, and had to sell all my favorite childhood possessions in order to pay him for it- and that took two weeks to raise.
    Mr. Hibbetts wanted the 1st F.I. String Ray to come to San Diego- and did not care if it was
    a convertible or a coupe. As stated- L-84 is the Fuel Injected option. The serial number of my
    Rochester Injection unit is 0084! It was estimated to have left the factory about Oct. 1st, 1962.
    It also has a set of 5 original Kelsey-Hayes KNOCK OFF Wheels- also with the 2-bar K-O Spinners.
    ( NOT re-issues wheels- that look very different )
    It is a 2 top convertible. My car will not be sold while I am alive- it was my very first car! ODDLY-
    two years before- my father bought a 1962 NSU SPORT PRINZ to give to me- but we never got it running.
    That was a 2 cylinder / four stroke engine. I believe Brian’s NSU Prinz was A TWIN, as well. ( What are the
    odds of owning these two vehicles? )
    I also knew the late Mr. Nolan Adams- and was sorry to just read here that he has passed. Good luck
    with the auction!

    My friends mother worked for DMV in Sacramento Ca. back in about 1965 and he had a black 1962 409 4 speed Impala. His mother noticed the plates being issued were at MAD 400 so she watched and was able to snag MAD409 to replace his lost plates??????

    Unfortunately, Mom Richardson committed a misdemeanor when she ran the car on the DMV system. California state law has always required that employees have a need and a right to know any information that they collect on a state law enforcement system, and the DMV system is included in the CLETS – California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. Collecting information on a vehicle so that her son could buy his favorite car is not considered a valid “need” for the information. I’m not sure what DMV’s practices were in the 1970s, but in today’s environment, she would have been fired and escorted out of the building by security that same day. She probably would not be arrested, but it is possible that she could have been arrested. It makes for a nice story, but it is prudent to know the nature of how and why this confidential law enforcement information is held in strict confidence.

    Don’t be throwing dirt on this wonderful story. At least the DMV worker did something instead of sitting there and not caring if this job ever gets done.

    Not true in 1975. Anyone could request information on a vehicle’s owner for one dollar. The law was changed when an actress was murdered by a stalker. The Mom has passed and I am sure she did nothing wrong.

    If you are not sure what the practices were in 1970 then you should not speculate. My brother filled out DMV forms and paid the money to get the information. It was all legal to do that back then.

    Yes it was legal then, and there was a specific procedure how to get the information; but having one’s mom run the information on the DMV system was not part of the procedure. It was then a misdemeanor for an employee to run information without a legal need and right to know just as it is today. She committed a crime. I never speculated about the procedure back in the 1970s. I don’t know if she would have just been disciplined or fired. There was no speculation. I just stated that in today’s environment, she could have been fired. I worked in the California criminal justice system for 40 years so I know about what I speak.

    I have to say, that a NSU Prinz had two or four cylinder engines, all four stroke!
    And then there were of course the rotary engine in the Sport Prinz!
    Greetings from Denmark!

    This story reminds be of bad timing for me. My only chance of buying my friend’s 1964 fuelie which was running and complete was foiled by not having anywhere to store it. And of course not having a job. Hard to believe back in the late 1960’s they were just cars and this was a 1200 buck Corvette. I did find a 1963 fuel injection unit for $175 but never found a car to use it on. Not as special as the car in this story but it would have been to me.

    Honestly, who cares about a mom who did some looking into a car. Big deal. You have insider trading blatantly done in politicians family’s etc. I’m going to say good job Mom. You have 2 brothers and a family who cared about each other and became the caretakers of #3 63 Corvette. They decided that’s it’s in their best interest to let it go after all these years. I’d like to hope it goes to someone who appreciates the car and uses it but that’s me. To me, cars shouldn’t hang on walls although if it went to the Corvette museum it could be shared with all. Just my thoughts to a nice story. Best luck to the family.

    Usually I would agree with you and I am not a fan of trailer queens (all my cars, including three C3’s have always been driven either as everyday drivers or to the shows), but honestly, this car is too rare to risk being out on the street. If some nimrod blew a red light and t-boned it, a piece of automotive history would be lost.

    If it goes to auction I’m sure Nascar team owner Rick Hendrick would have interest. He has one of the most comprehensive Corvette collections/displays and this car with it’s significants would fit right in. Good luck to the family.

    Interesting story. I have a C7 Z06/07. It’s VIN ends in 00002. I believe that I am the second owner, which means I bought it from a GM dealer who never appeared in the title chain. I have a list of what was replaced before it was sold, which were the typical wear parts, tires, windshield wipers, for instance. l bought it with 12,000 miles on the odometer.

    I’m not exactly sure how to read a VIN, but it appears to carry Z51 numbers.

    I will be going to Bowling Green for the tour and to find out what I can on the car.

    If it was a high 6 or7 figure car, it would already be on the auction block.

    And even if that was the case it was pure dumb luck, not the expertise and foresight that the brothers exhibited.

    What a great looking car. As the recent past owner of a red-on-red 1966 convertible, I’m more than familiar with this type of car. Mine had almost every option except the higher HP engine. I sold it at a Mecum auction
    in March and still miss the car. However, it will soon be replaced by a new C8 convertible in torch red with a red and black interior.

    In 1972 I was 20 years old and bought my dream car, a ’63 split-window, for $1,500.! Ahh, the good-old days!
    (It’s long gone. Sold it to buy my first house, which appreciated more than the car has, lol).

    Brian and Bruce were good friends growing up. I remember us sitting around wondering where the earliest C-2 was located. Actually it was a dollar per search and they looked for the first ten coupes and first ten roadsters. I was at Brian’s house earlier this year for a car reunion. Tragic end to a great person. The Richardson brothers painted my 56 Corvette in my garage in 1975. I still have that Corvette. Corvette the Sensuous American published a story of both of our cars in 1982.

    So sad that this Vette will end up in some rich octogenarian’s garage, parked under a car cover, never to be seen nor driven again.
    That’s the reality of today’s ridiculous car ‘collectors’.
    The Bowling Green Corvette Museum should buy it so that others can enjoy this rare car.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *