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Sunday, May 29, 2016

The World’s Only Right-Hand Drive 1963 Corvette Z06 is Still a Mystery

BOLD RIDE

Copyright © 2016 Bold Ride LLC.
 
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A one-of-a-kind Corvette is always attractive, but the fact that it’s an unsolved mystery makes it irresistible. There’s plenty of info on the only right-hand drive 1963 Z06 Sting Ray to make it tantalizingly exotic, but there’s just enough is still missing to make us all want to search the farthest corners of the internet.
 
The story starts with General Motors sending its brand new second-generation 1963 Corvette to Australia. The Sting Ray seemed to be a natural fit in a country that also loves big V8 engines. So for a show car, GM made sure its Aussie arm at Holden was given a coupe with the most potent and expensive option on the list.



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Checking the Z06 box in ’63 nearly added 50 percent to the base price of a Corvette. In theory, the cost was prohibitive so that only those who needed this race-ready package would put down the money, and regular drivers wouldn’t have it on the streets. The Z06 included a larger 36.5-gallon fuel tank for racing, upgraded Al-Fin brakes with added cooling, and an improved suspension, including stiffer springs, shocks, and front anti-roll bar. But what really made it the top Corvette was the fuel-injected 327 cubic-inch L84 V8 that was rated at 360 horsepower.
 
GM sent a Daytona Blue Z06 with dark blue interior and standard-size gas tank to Australia in time for the 1963 Sydney Motor Show. When this coupe went on display one major change had happened—it was right hand drive.



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Most of us already know that Sydney and St. Louis drive on opposite sides of the road, but there is a bit more to why this car needed to be converted. After all, places like the UK often take pride in driving classic American left-hand drive vehicles on their side of the Atlantic. Despite being founded by outlaws, Australia has a surprising amount of regulations on left-hand drive vehicles. So while Chevy sent over the most potent machine in its lineup, the factory position of the steering wheel might have made it seem more like just a novelty.

By 1964 the coupe was sold into private hands. It was kept in very original condition in Australia and seldom driven for over 45 years.



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Back in America, a perfect storm helped the Z06 earn legendary status. This expensive package was only offered for one year on the Sting Ray, and as a result there were only 199 made—less than one percent of total production. Also, 1963 was the only year for the split window coupes. This makes a C2 Z06 a six-figure crown jewel in many car collections.

So as these Z06s started climbing higher in value, having a one-of-a-kind car with an interesting pedigree became an irresistible prospect to Corvette fans. Just ask Terry Michaelis.

 The Corvette has been good to him. In fact, if you buy a car from his ProTeam Corvette, Michaelis asks for the right of first refusal when/if you go to sell it because he probably still sees value in it. So he eagerly snatched up the Australian Z06 when it came up for sale in 2011.



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Once it arrived at the ProTeam facility in Napoleon, Ohio, Michaelis found he had a true survivor. The coupe had traveled less than 22,800 miles in its lifetime; its original paint still had a high-gloss shine; and the all-important numbers-matching L84 V8 was in the engine bay.

But what makes this a true one-of-a-kind also gives it a bit of a quirky setup. While it might seem simple to produce a mirror image of the C2′s dual cowl dashboard, it’s not completely easy to make a right-hand drive ’63 Corvette.

 Besides having to re-route essential components like the steering and throttle, the interior has always favored the left side. So the pedal setup is a bit cramped, and the headlight dimmer button could only find a home mounted in the center of the foot well.

The car has remained in the same condition today. While it is for sale, it seems Michaelis is more content just to take this coupe on tour. In its first few years stateside this Z06 has won at places like Bloomington Gold as well as been displayed at the Amelia Island Concours and Concours of America at St. Johns.



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If this timeline seems somewhat incomplete, the people at ProTeam would agree. There are still a lot of rumors surrounding this coupe, and it doesn’t help that most of its history is half a world away. So there’s still a huge hunt for real evidence that includes:

—Was Holden showing off the car to gauge positional for limited sale?
—Are there photographs proving it was RHD at in Sydney and Melbourne?
—Was it given specialist parts while on display?
—The rear end has a dealer tag from R.C. Phillips Sportscar World. Did they broker the first sale or were they also part of conversion to right-hand drive?
—Did this car win Best of Show at the first Corvette Club show in Australia?


ProTeam actually has a list on their website of what they know and what needs to be confirmed. None of the questions are easy ones, but that’s part of the fun of a classic car mystery. Someone out there is holding onto a piece of this puzzle, and the fun part is sometimes the key could be hiding in your bookshelf.


Photos and Words: Myles Kornblatt for BoldRide