In the fall of 1962 the new 1963 Corvettes were beginning to appear in Chevrolet dealer showrooms. The 1963 models were the first Sting Ray offerings by Chevrolet. Richard Rago, a high school senior in Albany, Calif., was infatuated with the new Corvette.
His parents, Paul and Rose Rago, had promised him a new car upon his graduation, so in the autumn of 1962, right after the new Sting Rays had appeared, Rago and his father went to the Chevrolet dealership and ordered one equipped exactly like he wanted.
“I waited about eight months or longer for it to be delivered.” Rago recalls.
Papers that came with the car show that it was manufactured at a General Motors facility in St. Louis, Mo. As the springtime weather warmed Rago stopped by the Chevrolet dealership on a daily basis to check on the whereabouts of his Corvette. Once it arrived in late April he was informed that it would be ready for delivery the next day. The price Rago’s father paid for the graduation present was $4,598.76.
On April 29, 1963 Rago took delivery of his Riverside Red Corvette roadster. His first trip was to drive it home to show his mother. Then he drove off to take Kathy, his girlfriend who would later become his wife, for a ride in the new Corvette.
“My wife and I dated in this car since it was new,” Rago says. “It is 100 percent original, including original paint and all documentation since new, including window sticker, deposit check and final payment check for the car.”
Only a few months later Rago was enrolled in San Jose State and later at UC Berkeley. His Corvette was his daily driver during those years. With a degree as a civil engineer he landed a job in Oakland, which was great news until 1969 when his Corvette was stolen out of the employee parking lot. He raised such a ruckus about the lack of security that, he says, the company soon posted a guard in a guard shack that his fellow employees named “Rago’s Pagoda.”
He filed a police report and within a month the police notified him that his car had been recovered.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted it back,” Rago says before he saw his car in the impound lot. As it turned out, the car thief had broken a wing vent window to gain access to the cockpit and then damaged the ignition while hot-wiring the car. Beyond that, the only damage was a puncture in the vinyl seat upholstery.
The car thief only got a few blocks from the parking lot when the ignition points were fried, effectively disabling the original 327-cubic-inch V-8 engine in the car. Rago happily reclaimed his Corvette and quickly returned it to like new condition.
Since then he and his wife have traveled in their Corvette to Tijuana and with the addition of a trailer hitch have pulled a 16-foot ski boat to outings on nearby lakes.
“Throughout the years any parts that required replacing have either been repaired or new old stock parts used,” Rago says. Only typical parts that wear out have been replaced, such as the clutch, which has been replaced twice. The heads on the engine have never been removed, Rago says.
Whenever he refuels his Corvette he searches for the highest octane available and then adds a lead additive plus a fuel extender. So far, in the 81,750 miles he has driven his car that routine has worked well.
Rago and his wife have recently celebrated 40 years of wedded bliss, all of them accompanied by the Corvette. “This is truly a time capsule from 1963,” he says with pride. — by Vern Parker, Motor Matters
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Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009