1964 Corvette specially built for Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen's wife
To many Corvette lovers, the midyears are the real gems. Among them, those that are specially-optioned and those with a distinctive history are even more prized.
Even more highly treasured are the ones that combine the best of both...and more. Like the Pink Pearl '64 Corvette Sting Ray you see here. This one was specially-built by Chevrolet, with much input from its Engineering and Styling teams. Then-Chevy General Manager Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen ordered it up in the spring of 1964 for his wife, Florence.
This car is as much of a gem today as it was when Florence Knudsen first saw it, so says its current owner, Chevy dealer and noted Corvette collector Bob McDorman. "They can't believe it," he says of Corvette lovers who do a double-take when they lay eyes on it. "At first, they think that someone hot-rodded or customized it themselves. If I'm around, I tell them the story behind it-that it was built this way by Chevrolet."
Right away, you can tell it's not a production '64. Six taillights instead of four, the domed hood, and the Pink Pearl paint are the most obvious signs, as is the pink-and-cranberry interior, and the '65-style front fender louvers and rocker panel trim.
Under the hood is a 396-inch near-production version of what our brother-in-law mag, Hot Rod magazine, called "Chevy's Mystery V-8," when they saw it at Daytona in early 1963. Unlike the production 396 that graced the Corvette option list during the latter part of the '65 model run, this one has hydraulic instead of solid lifters. The transmission is a Powerglide, likely the first one ever bolted to a Mark IV big-block that wasn't a Chevy Engineering test mule, and the only one ever fitted by Chevrolet to a 396-powered Sting Ray.
To accommodate the 396, more than a few one-off and prototype parts were fabricated by Chevy's engineers as part of the project, which received the "GPV-61" project designation (and whose specially-made items carry the "0-" part numbers of an engineering special). Those include a front crossmember modified to clear the big-block's harmonic balancer, a modified right inner fender (again, for clearance), specially-fabricated front springs to handle the extra weight of the 396 over the production 327, a specially-fabricated radiator, and handmade fiberglass fan shroud.
Along with that new-generation powerplant, the Pink Pearl Sting Ray also got the next generation in stopping power. Four-wheel disc brakes with a dual master cylinder-items which became standard for 1965-were fitted.
Chevy Styling's paint shop outdid themselves with this one, spraying on a special shade of Pink Pearl that matched the dcor of the Knudsen's winter home in Florida. The sidewall trim on the tires was also "pinkified." Inside, the pink theme carried over to the seats and door panels, which were upholstered in pink and cranberry-hued leather. The seat belt buckles have Mrs. Knudsen's initials on them, and other one-off items inside the cabin include the 5,500-rpm tach. That's along with the AM/FM radio with power antenna, air conditioning, teak tilt-and-telescope steering wheel-and virtually every other option that was available with the 396 when it became a Corvette option.
Text & photo's: Corvette Fever