15th Mar 2023
Wednesday One-Off: 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Rondine Coupe
by Collecting Cars
The Chevrolet Corvette has become one of the most iconic American sports cars, and not only that, but it is now the world’s longest-running, continuously produced passenger car (celebrating 70 years in 2023). Now in its eighth generation, the model has broken new ground with the release of its first mid-engined model, and even the all-electric Corvette E-Ray set for release in 2024.
Beyond its impressive lineage, the Corvette boasts a history of striking design, which has evolved throughout the decades while retaining the typically angular and aggressive styling. Other third-party designers have used the Corvette as a basis for their own creations, clothing robust Chevrolet running gear in bespoke bodywork. However, the subject of this week’s Wednesday One-Off was different. The 1963 Corvette Rondine Coupe was a concept car directly commissioned by Chevrolet, with the legendary Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina charged with reinventing the iconic model.
In 1963 Chevrolet revealed its radically redesigned C2-generation Corvette, which featured striking new styling, and the option of a new fastback coupe model. In what seems like a counterintuitive decision when marketing a new model, Chevrolet contracted Pininfarina to create a separate bespoke body for the C2, to be revealed at the 1963 Paris Motor Show.
The Rondine Coupe retained the Corvette’s naturally aspirated 327-cubic inch (5.4-litre) ‘small block’ V8, which delivered 360bhp to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. Inside, the cabin remained unchanged from the donor car, but the outside was transformed into an elegant European-influenced sports car.
Designed by Tom Tjaarda, the Rondine Coupe featured a longer and sleeker silhouette than the standard C2 Corvette. This was complemented by minimal exterior trim, and a beautifully flowing waistline that seamlessly expanded from the slanted nose cone out along the body, before flicking upwards to define the rear haunches, and the ‘swallowtail’ rear end.
While the Rondine Coupe still featured nods to the Corvette – most notably the split front and rear bumpers – the nose cone now included a prominent horizontal grille with quad headlights partially hidden under hooded ‘eyebrows’. The cabin benefitted from improved visibility, largely courtesy of the wide but elegantly curved rear screen, and the back of the body tapered down into crisp features that incorporated slim horizontal rear lights.
Whatever Chevrolet’s ultimate intention was when commissioning this car, the Rondine Coupe remained a one-off following its debut at the 1963 Paris Motor Show. The car returned to Turin to become a permanent fixture at Pininfarina’s museum until 2008, when it came onto the market at auction. With the hammer falling at $1.6 million, the Rondine Coupe moved into the hands of a private US collector, and has since made regular appearances at the country's most prestigious concours events.
Despite its one-off status, the Corvette Rondine Coupe represents a glimpse at an alternate history, in which Chevrolet could have shifted from its all-American output to a model that offered its buyers a compelling blend of US muscle and elegant European design.
Photo credits: Chevrolet and Grey Jarem for Classic American.