- A 1963 Chevrolet Corvette owned by automotive design legend Harley Earl will be up for auction October 10-12.
- The Corvette was a gift to Earl in recognition of his years of service as GM's innovative design chief.
- Early estimates were placed at $1.5 million-$2 million, but the car's unique history may drive bidding higher.
CHICAGO — Automotive design legend Harley Earl's personal 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray convertible will be up for bids at Mecum's Chicago auction, which runs October 10-12.
Original estimates of the car's value were placed at $1.5 million-$2 million. But since a 1967 'Vette, with racing history and the rare L-88 package (only 20 were made in '67) sold for $3.2 at a Mecum auction earlier this month, speculation has it that the earlier estimate may be a bit low.
With so many Corvettes on the road, it's rare for even the most desirable models to reach those lofty figures at auction. But unique examples have been known to exceed the $1 million mark. And although Earl's car may not set a new record, it is likely to get close.
The vintage Corvette hits the auction block at a time when interest in the redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is high.
GM's first design chief, Earl began his career with the company in 1928. During more than 30 years on the job he was the force behind numerous groundbreaking innovations, including clay modeling, the curved windshield, the concept car and annual model changes.
Earl is also acclaimed for his key role in the development of the Corvette. After World War II, inspired by the increasing number of European sports cars being driven on American roads and tracks, he became convinced that the U.S. needed a sports car of its own. With his backing at GM, the 1953 Corvette debuted at the New York Motorama in January of that year and went into production six months later.
The auction car was presented to Earl in recognition of his many years of service and his role in bringing the Corvette to life. He drove it as his personal car and also used it as the parade car at the 1965 Daytona 500, where he served as grand marshal.
Although clearly a 1963 model based on its serial number, the car has been updated with a number of components from 1965, including disc brakes, hood, control knobs and some exterior trim. It also received some custom treatment, such as extra instruments installed in the glovebox panel, special leather seats and door panels and unique cast-brass emblems.
Most striking, however, is the outrageous exhaust system, with four pipes that exit through the front fenders on each side, cascade downward and curve into side-mounted mufflers, each with two outlets. According to Mecum, only four Corvettes were ever built with this exhaust treatment.
Earl only kept the car for a couple years, after which it made its way through several owners. Over the course of time, the Corvette's pedigree was lost. But Joe Clark, who bought it in 1981, discovered a hand-written number code inside a door panel. His research re-established the car's provenance.
After undergoing a complete restoration, and having been displayed at a number of events in the ensuing years, the Earl Corvette last sold for $980,000 in 2010.
Edmunds says: With collector-car prices on the rise again after several years of stagnation, it will be interesting to see how much Harley Earl's Corvette brings at auction.