Here at Chicago Car Club we’re privileged to have the opportunity to experience ownership of an eclectic mix of classic and collectible vehicles. While we see a little bit of everything, every once in a while we’ll come across a car that’s undeniably special. A car that really makes you go, “Wowww”. Looking back at a great year in 2018, there is one car, and one home-run deal, in particular that stands above the rest. This is the story of our barn-find 1963 Split Window Corvette.
In early 2018 we got a call from a gentleman just outside Chicago who was looking to sell his car. He was moving out of state on short notice, and needed his late-80s Mercedes 560SL gone in a hurry. He described the car as having been a fairly clean driver-level car when put away in indoor storage a few years earlier, but off the road since. We had recently had a clean, low-mile 560SL and that car sold very well, so when we heard of a motivated seller with a 560SL we jumped at the opportunity. He was in a small, rural town just over an hour outside the city, so we hopped in our truck and went to take a look. When we arrived to the property, we immediately knew we were in for a treat. Behind the house were two huge pole barns, and that’s where he pointed us over to. We follow him into the first barn and there are dozens of cars lined up. The majority of them were hidden underneath covers, but it was pretty apparent that there wasn’t anything particularly special in there. No iconic silhouettes, certainly nothing that grabbed the eye. We took a quick look at the 560SL but it was clear that it was a far cry from road-worthy, and it wouldn’t make sense to bring it home with us. Bummer, but the seller did mention that the other pole barn on the property had even more cars in it, and everything in there was up for grabs as the property owner, a friend of his, was retiring and clearing house.
Again, dozens of cars lined up under covers. We were told to feel free to poke around and pull back covers, so we began browsing. The first few cars we took a closer look at were all rough, too rough. But after pulling back five or six covers and being let down, we spotted the iconic silhouette we had been hoping for. In a row of long-hood cars immediately recognizable as Corvettes, we could make out the unmistakable shape of a 60s C2, arguably the most desirable of all of the many iterations of Corvettes. Of course we kid, “what if it’s a Split…”, the Split-Window being the 1963-only body style, a gorgeous, rare, six-figure-dollars car. Resting a hand on the rear glass, over the car cover, and feeling the split rear window was a rush of excitement that will not soon be bested.
In later conversations with the owner, we came to find that the car hadn’t moved in thirty years! He had driven it into the barn for storage through the winter of ‘87, but time got away from him and the car stayed put. The car wasn’t particularly valuable until relatively recently, so the owner never really thought much of the fact that it sat laid up in a barn as the years rolled on. When we first spoke to the owner, which was over the phone, he wasn’t too keen on selling the car. “Maybe one day I’ll restore it, or maybe my daughter will want it.” In our minds, nothing is getting between us and rescuing this car. We told him, “Look, we’re ready to make a competitive offer, just hear us out.” When we told him what we wanted to pay for the car, which was far, far off from six figures, it sounded like the guy nearly fell out of his chair. He was absolutely floored by how valuable his car had become, especially after thirty years of neglect. “$$$$$, you mean, for the two of them?!” Uhhh…righttt, yes. Little did we know, there was a 15k-mile C3 Corvette that would be coming home with us too. Long story short, we were able to piece together a deal.
But the Split, what a spec. Red on red, 4-speed. Air conditioning, a rare option on such an early car. The level of preservation was pretty amazing, especially considering the sorry state of many of its barn-mates. Luckily the C2 Corvette’s body is made of fiberglass, so we didn’t have to worry about body rust. But of course from many years of sitting, the tires were totally flat and the brakes were locked up. We’d have to get creative in order to get this one home with us.
Once the deal was finalized and pickup time came, we came armed with both a flatbed and a truck and trailer. We winched the Split out of its resting place, dragging it across the barn floor. We got the car on the flatbed and into the daylight it went, for the first time in over thirty years.
Then the trailer transfer for the ride home, and look – a wheel freed up!
The car needed quite a bit of mechanical tending-to after its extended hibernation, not to mention a serious detailing. So we sent the car to an old friend, somewhat of a Corvette guru, and about a week later we had ourselves a fantastic, running and driving 63 Split.
A few days later, we get a call from a former client down in Florida. He’s about ready to sell his Ferrari 550 Maranello, and is curious if we’d be interested. He says, “Yeah, ever since deciding to sell, all my friends have been making trade offers. But there’s really only one car I’d ever trade for, and that’s a 4-speed Split Window Corvette.” We could hardly believe it. He could barely finish his sentence before I blurt out, “WE JUST GOT ONE, AND ITS BEEN IN A BARN FOR 30 YEARS!” Turns out, he’s a Corvette society judge, and travels the country going to shows. So to get a Split-Window that nobody within the Corvette community had seen was an enticing opportunity for him. And even better, he says red is hands-down his favorite color. This conversation took place on a Friday evening, and we agreed that we should both take the weekend to think about the terms of a trade, then regroup on Monday and iron out the details. The second I walk into the office on Monday morning, my phone rings. “I can’t stop thinking about that car. You handle shipping, and let’s make this happen.”
A few months later, and we still haven’t tired of the 6-speed, V12 550 Maranello. Not one bit. And to think, all this because of one rusty 80s Mercedes….
Written by: Jake DePierro