- Frame off restoration
- Numbers matching
- Fresh Ermine White paint
- Original 283cid / 230hp V8
- Powerglide 2-speed automatic
- Historical documentation
When cars are redesigned, it usually happens behind closed doors. A few spy photos may come out but the general public rarely gets to watch the evolution. While no one knew it at the time, the 1961 Corvette provided a glimpse into both the short term and long term future of the brand. Its ducktail rear hinted at things to come for the C2 Corvette while its four round taillights became a hallmark design cue still featured on 2012 models. Like most Vette designs, the 1961 model aged gracefully and examples like this pristine roadster look just as good as ever. The recipient of a frame-off restoration, this C1 features its original DG-code 283 V8, a Powerglide transmission and a period-correct look that will impress any Corvette enthusiast. If you love the later lines and live rear axle, take a closer look at this 1961 Corvette roadster.
To start with, the VIN decodes as:
1 – Year: 1961
08 – Body series: Corvette
67 – Body type: Convertible
S – Assembled in St. Louis, MO
101831 – Production sequence number. (Ran from 100001 – 110939)
The frame-off portion of the restoration dates back to the 1980's but you'd never know by looking at it. Diligently maintained, the car looks as good today as it did in the original completed restoration photos. To make sure the exterior remained as first-rate as the rest of the car, this Vette underwent a frame-up restoration in 2011. The result is a car that shows much like it probably did on the showroom floor. While two-tone paint was still on the Corvette option list in 1961, Ermine White does a great job of highlighting the vintage lines without any assistance. Despite being modern base/clear paint, the car looks right – not overly glossy like many restorations. Fit and finish is, by GM standards of the day, above average in every way with consistent gaps and doors that shut with very little effort.
Under the influence of designer Bill Mitchell, the 1961 Corvette looked significantly more modern than earlier models without sacrificing its identity. Up front, a horizontal-mesh finished in Argent Silver replaces the trademark vertical teeth while a split chrome bumper adds a little flash. Above, vertical script spells out Chevrolet beneath a cross flag emblem while, at either side of the grille, Ermine White headlight bezels modernize the headlight treatment. The side profile houses the C1's signature feature – the cove. Even in monochromatic paint, chrome trim ensured the feature stood out from the rest of the body. Up top, all the original brightwork is in place and showing well. The glass appears to be original with a 1961 Texas Department of Public Safety sticker still affixed to the passenger side of the windshield. A removable hardtop fits snug and looks great though most will prefer the top-off look. Out back, the downward swept ducktail rear end houses a large Corvette medallion on the decklid with the four round taillights just below. Another split chrome bumper rounds out the package.
Flip the hood forward and you'll find the original 283cid V8 dressed with a healthy list of period correct items. The block itself displays an engine I.D. stamp of F0912DG, which decodes as a 230hp 283 assembled on the twelfth of September in the Flint, Michigan assembly plant. Beside it, a 1101831 stamping corresponds to the serial number featured on a stainless plate on top of the steering column mast. Finally, a G280 (July 28th, 1960) date code reveals the block was cast just a little over month before the assembly date. Dressed as a 245hp model, the engine looks great and runs like a top. Under the chrome air cleaner, the mill has been upgraded to a dual carburetor setup that utilizes two Carter four-barrels affixed to a factory intake manifold. Atomized fuel is then distributed to factory cast iron heads which feature era-correct finned valve covers with “245” decals. At the rear, a correct Delco-Remy 1110891 distributor is hidden beneath an original looking chrome ignition shield. At the front of the engine, a Delco generator is the only engine driven accessory while a correct aluminum radiator with nicely aged factory decals keeps the setup cool. All hoses are reproduction GM pieces and many pieces feature 1960 date stamps, lending further authenticity to the bay. The set up breathes through cast iron manifolds that dump exhaust gases through true dual exhaust that exit at the rear.
While early Corvettes have a reputation as crude brutes, this one seems eager to please. Behind the 283, a proven Powerglide two-speed automatic transmission makes simple work out of highway cruising. The entire chassis is nicely detailed and the frame-off restoration process made sure that even hard-to-reach areas received proper finishes. A rear sway bar was added in 1960 that, in conjunction with the large front sway bar, offers surprisingly crisp handling. Four-wheel drum brakes were the only choice at the time and this car stays true to that configuration. While drum brakes get a bad rap in today's six-piston caliper world, these Corvette units are highly effective and provide plenty of stopping power for the relatively lightweight two-seater. Framed by the satin black X-frame chassis, the floors feature just the right amount of overspray for that desirable factory look. At the corners, correct 15-inch steel wheels wear correct wheel covers with Corvette-branded spinners. Wrapped in whitewall Firestone 6.70x15's, the look is timeless.
Between the doors, a nicely restored Jewell Blue interior takes inhabitants right back to 1961. The bucket seats offer fresh foam underneath and crisply detailed covers, making them comfortable and capable of earning the points at shows. At the sides, forward swept engine-turned pieces highlight the door panels and add a dazzling bit of brightwork to the interior. The large steering wheel is clearly inspired by race cars of the period, with lightening holes in the aluminum spokes. Behind it, a full array of gauges keep tabs on the 283, including a factory tachometer mounted front and center atop the steering column. Items such as lights and windshield wipers are controlled by attractive chrome pulls that match the early 1960s styling well. The 1961 model featured a narrower transmission tunnel than previous years. The extra space is accentuated by the lack of a center console, leaving the gear selector to fit in its own bright metal bezel that also incorporates the ashtray. Above the shifter, a center section holds controls for the reproduction Wonderbar radio that looks the part but draws signal from FM stations as well. A clock and controls for the climate control system are also housed in the same area. Behind the seats, a large open area resides where the convertible top would usually go. Further back, a the high-quality interior restoration is continued in the trunk where a correct spare tire and jack rest under a blue carpeted panel.
Documentation includes pictures of the restoration and assorted paperwork including registration cards, sale papers and a laminated dealer invoice. There are also a few unique pieces including sealed manuals for both the clock and original Wonder Bar radio and a service policy form for the Delco battery.
The transition Corvettes mark a unique point in Chevrolet history and, unlike many great pieces of history, are fun to own and drive. This 1961 roadster has all the right looks and will continue to appreciate for years to come. If you've ever thought about putting a C1 in your garage, this is a great opportunity to do just that.
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