A couple weeks back we featured SuperChevy’s story on a 1963 Corvette with a Test Lab 61 tag on the frame. What we didn’t tell you at that time was that we’ve known about this car for many years. You see, this car has been in Mrs. Motor City Bureau’s family since the 1980’s. If fact, prior June of this year, the last time your author saw the car it was covered in dust and a cat was living on the passenger seat.
Now the car is all cleaned up, roadworthy, and owner Brad Cook is hot on the trail of the car’s history. This is where you can potentially help Brad complete the story of his car as we don’t really know what happened between late 1962 went it was born and 1986 when he brought it.
To recap, here’s what we do know: It’s the 101st Corvette built in 1963, assembled September 11th, 1962. The NCRS Shipping Data Report tells us that it was delivered Dealer Code 0 in Zone 0 i.e. the General Motors Tech Center in Warren, MI. While the engine numbers don’t match, the components’ date codes fit with the build date of the car. The engine block was cast on May 11th, 1962 and it was assembled on September 7th, 1962. The engine stamp pad has an RB suffix which indicates a passenger car (not Corvette) engine. The intake manifold has a X in the casting and is dated August 27th, 1962. That X indicates that it’s an experimental part. The cylinder heads are dated August 3rd, 1962. Other unique engine features include a 6-quart oil pan, 8-inch harmonic balancer, fuelie cylinder heads, a 340hp AFB carb, the late dual point distributor, and solid lifters. It has 4 speed transmission and a 4.56 rear end outback. The car is blue inside and out. Other than some well-done rear fender flares, it’s external appearance is undeterminable from a stock 1963 Corvette. And, of course, there’s that copper “Test Lab 61” tag attached to the frame behind the left rear tire which began all this intrigue in the first place. We won’t go into detail here, but the car also sports many other common early 1963-only features as well.
Cook purchased the car in Grand Rapids, MI in 1986 after selling a 1972 LT-1 Corvette and a 1965 El Camino. A title search revealed at least 3 previous owners. After finding that mystery tag on the frame, the bigger search was on. Based on guidance from the Corvette community, including the late Noland Adams, the car was essentially left alone until the last year. Only critical items were replaced to preserve the car’s heritage and get it back on the road.
Flash forward to June of 2018 where he showed the car publicly for the first time ever at the NCRS Motor City Regional. The car was presented for American Heritage Award consideration but ended up not making the cut due to the unknown history. While many knowledgeable C2 people had theories there, no one had any concrete information on what Test Lab 61 did or what the car may have been used for during its tenure at GM. Since the NCRS Regional Brad has reached out to the GM Heritage Center and personally searched through GM files looking for more information on his car. Alas, information on Test Lab 61 and his car has been harder to come by than information on Area 51.
The working theory around CorvetteBlogger’s Motor City Bureau is that this car was used for some sort of powertrain testing and born with a 340hp motor. We maintain that the engine currently in the car with all its high-horsepower bits is the engine that was in it when it ultimately GM. The tidy alignment of engine casting and build dates relative to the vehicle build date must be more than coincidence. Factor in the cleanliness of the rear fender flare installation, they clearly were not installed by Bubba in his driveway, and we think we’re looking at a powertrain test car here. Maybe even some sort of racing development vehicle.
So, this is where we and Brad Cook need your help. Do you know what Test Lab 61 was at GM? Did you work there? Do you remember this car? Do you have a recommendation on where to look for more information on VIN 101? If so, please drop a line to [email protected] and we’ll get your info over to the owner. Maybe we can help solve the mystery of this unique Sting Ray!