by Rick Tavel
As most Corvette aficionados know, all first generation Corvettes were convertibles. When the second generation Corvette arrived in 1963 the coupe was introduced. The now legendary split window coupe was an instant hit. The ‘split? in the window was dropped the following year, though. But for the 1963 model year 10,594 coupes were sold, just 325 fewer than the convertible. For the balance of the generational run the coupe’s sales fell off, selling about 8500 cars for each of the remaining years, while the convertible staged a solid comeback selling between 14K and 18K a year. Convertibles accounted for 61% of the production (72,318 convertibles were sold) and the coupe sold 39% (45,546 cars) for the entire generation.
Certainly the novelty of the coupe accounted for almost even sales with the convertible. But price and specific model advertising exposure also played a part. For the first year of C2 production the new coupe style cost a whopping $1 more than the convertible which cost $4037. Then, each subsequent year GM bumped up the coupe’s base price. From 1964 through 1967 the hardtop averaged $225 more than the open car and while that may not seem significant, it equals a six percent premium and may have played a part in the convertible’s strong sales comeback.
Finally, the least important factor that may have helped drive coupe sales was the balance of each body style’s advertising exposure, heavily weighted to the coupe during 1963. Being a new body style, heavy exposure to the hardtop would be expected but for the 1964 MY the advertising exposure was still weighted, though not as heavily, to the coupe and sales fell off almost 2200 units while convertible sales jumped by approximately the same amount. Beginning with 1965 both coupe and convertible appeared to get almost equal exposure in the ads.
The three color ads show the emphasis GM placed on moving the Corvette from the pure sports/performance car category to a more upscale image. The convertible ad clearly speaks to the luxury image while the ?instant celebrity? ad sends a strong message conveying more of a personal glamour image. Performance advertising was not abandoned during the first two years but most performance Corvette ads were black and white. In 1965, Corvette advertising transitioned to a heavier performance emphasis to support both the suspension and engine upgrades offered during the final years of the C2 production run.