The Powerglide fitted to Ray Lewis’ car in lieu of the entry-level three-speed manual was a cost option only available on base and L75 engines, while by 1964 an optional all-synchro four-speed manual was available for all models, no longer just the more powerful L76 and L84 versions.
In truth, ‘our’ 300bhp car doesn’t suffer much for its slushbox: the manual isn’t the pudding-mixer you might expect, instead having a positive gate with little vagueness, but it doesn’t offer much feel and with such prodigious torque, even in base 250bhp trim, the ‘stick’ Sting Ray rarely calls on you to make a change.
Anyone who’s driven a first-gen Corvette will approach their first corner in a C2 with sweaty-palmed trepidation, but the ’Vette quickly proves itself a more reassuring steer, with considerably less free-play at the wheel than its predecessor and more feel as it weights up.
Rather than the original model’s steering box, the 1963 version was fitted with a more modern recirculating-ball arrangement, with tapered holes for each steering arm that allow owners to pick between 3.4 turns lock to lock and a quicker ratio with half a turn less.
The Chevrolet’s ‘double-hump’ dash is a development of the C1 style
This car’s powered set-up feels fast and responsive, though keep-fit fans may prefer the manual version, whose higher ratio at least lightens the wheel at parking speeds.
But the Sting Ray is undeniably at its best going in a straight line, where its bellowing V8 is allowed to do its work uninterrupted.
Plant the throttle and it blasts off the line, holding low gear until around 56mph when it really hits its stride.
That’s not to say it’s a one-trick pony – show it a bend and it’ll likely surprise you with its cornering ability and impressive grip – but while it’s certainly composed, it isn’t particularly civilised.
Both beg to be driven on sweeping roads like these
Rough surfaces or sudden changes in camber elicit plenty of bumps and clonks from an undercarriage that at times feels detached from the rest of the car, with a slight ‘walking’ sensation from the independent rear.
It performs much better on smooth American blacktop, where you can kick out the back end with a bit more confidence.
Keep leaning on it and the rear wheels break away with reassuring predictability, helped by an improved 48:52 front-to-rear weight distribution.