Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell Corvettes offered as single lot at Kissimmee auction

Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell Corvettes offered as single lot at Kissimmee auction

’63 coupe and ’64 convertible created by and for GM styling leaders

The 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray convertible built for Harley Earl and the ’64 Corvette Sting Ray coupe created for his successor, Bill Mitchell, will be offered as a single lot at Mecum Auctions’ Kissimmee, Florida, sale scheduled for January 3-13, 2019.

“This is a singularly historic offering of two of the most significant one-off Corvettes in the model’s history, owned and driven by the two most influential and fascinating figures of the automotive design industry,” Mecum Auctions said in revealing the consignment.

Earl reigned over General Motors styling department for decades before retiring in 1958 and turning over control to Mitchell. Produced under Shop Order 10323, a unique 1963 Corvette convertible was delivered to Earl’s Palm Beach, Florida, residence. He drove the car for two years, including at Daytona International Speedway when he was grand marshal for the 1965 Daytona 500. 

Earl not only was the grand marshal for that race but has been immortalized by the track, as The Harley J. Earl Trophy is presented to the winner of the 500-mile race each year.

Earl’s Corvette has many special features

Earl’s Corvette hinted at things to come

Earl’s special Corvette may be a 1963 model but it is equipped with features that were destined for the 1965 model year, including exterior emblems, interior switchgear and 4-wheel disc brakes. 

His car also features such non-production components as side-exit exhaust pipes. His is one of four such cars produced with that feature at GM. The others are the original 1961 Mako Shark concept car, a Chicago Auto Show Corvette and the 1963 Corvette created for GM president Bunkie Knudsen. 

 The Earl Corvette also wears Blue Metallic paint with a white stripe that previews the 1967 big-block Stinger motif. Seats are leather with white accent stripes and the door panels, which have brushed-metal accent panels with crossed-flag emblems, matching the seats. The instrument panel and glovebox are covered in white vinyl. 

Instead of the usual clock in the center of the dash, there’s an altimeter. The clock was moved to the glovebox panel and is supplemented by an accelerometer, vacuum-pressure gauge, oil temperature gauge and matching inside/outside temperature gauges.

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The car rides on 3-bar finned-aluminum knock-off wheels used for the 1964 model year and rides on Goodyear Speedway Blue Streak tires.

“Following normal procedure for factory test cars headed to private use, the Harley Earl Corvette’s original fuel-injected 327 ci small-block was replaced with a carbureted version, and air conditioning was added to offset the Florida heat,” Mecum Auctions notes.

Triple taillamp among the features on Mitchell’s coupe

Chromed components under the hood

The 1964 Mitchell Corvette coupe has triple taillamps on either side, a custom-manufactured die-cast front grille and matching dual front-fender vents. It also lacks the usual side-vent windows, a feature introduced as Astro Ventilation on the 1968-model-year Corvette.

Inside, the car has unique “chaser” lights set into the brushed-metal panels in the inner door panels, has leather dyed to match the body color, color-matching seat belts and a unique shifter set in an engraved brushed-aluminum plate.

The engine is a high-performance small-block V8 linked to a 3-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission (the gearbox not available in production Corvettes until 1968). Many of the engine components are polished aluminum or chromed.

The car, which rides on 72-spoke knock-off wire wheels with 3-bar spinners, also rides on Goodyear Speedway Blue Streak tires.

For many years, the Mitchell Corvette was part of the Bob McDorman Collection of special GM Design Corvettes.

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“These two unique Corvettes belong together by virtue of their common heritage and association with the two men who cemented styling and design as indispensable to the automobile industry,” Mecum Auctions notes in its description of the cars. 

“Both cars are genuine American treasures, monuments to their namesake’s respective styles; yet together they also represent the inseparability of their talents and the immense influence Harley J. Earl and William L. Mitchell asserted together on the automotive, and yes, popular cultures.”

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5 Comments

  • Carl Travis
    December 10, 2018, 3:12 PM

    Is there a minimum bid ?

    REPLY
    • Bill Shaper@Carl Travis
      December 11, 2018, 3:11 PM

      Wow, are those two Corvette hideous looking. What where the designers thinking of?

      REPLY
  • Chuck.. Kemmer
    December 10, 2018, 4:46 PM

    I worked for Mr McDorman for33 years Bob was a super guy to work for I was up and close to both of these Vettes and both are top shelf .Bob owned both for a few years then we’re sold off.Im sure they will be heading out to a good home enjoy.

    REPLY
  • Norman Spirit
    December 10, 2018, 6:03 PM

    Some very nice cars there. It’s a tribute to just how well Peter Brock/Larry Shinoda (follow your own legend..) designed the car that this gilding did no harm to the looks of either car. In fact, those XKSS style side pipes are nicer than the later optional ones, and probably transferred less heat into the passenger area. I love the Duesenberg style "cockpit" with an altimeter and other gauges. The sad thing is that there’s a 99% chance that the person purchasing them will never drive them regularly.

    REPLY
  • Michael Coit
    December 16, 2018, 11:59 AM

    I own the ’63 Bunkie Knudsen Corvette. Bunkie picked number #148 off of the production line and had it sent to the Chevrolet styling department where it was customized to his specifications, including a special exhaust system, similar to Earls and a beautifully chromed engine compartment housing a fuel injected 327 360HP engine and further year upgrades. It was then sent to Cadillac "Body by Fisher" where it was finished Cadillac Firemist Red. It was totally restored over 30 years ago and still presents beautifully….and runs great and sound is amazing. BTW, NOT FOR SALE!!

    REPLY

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