This is a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette that was ordered new by J.L. Joplin, a wealthy Texas rancher, in a comfortable GT configuration which includes a 250 bhp V8, air conditioning, an AM/FM radio, a 2-speed automatic transmission, and the rare “Tanker” option giving the car 36 gallons of fuel when brimmed.

The reason Joplin ordered the car in this rare specification is so that he could drive in air conditioned, music-filled comfort from his home in Houston to his ranch in Kerrville, over three hours way, and then back again without needing to stop for gas.

Fast Facts – The Chevrolet Corvette “Tanker”

  • The second generation Chevrolet Corvette, commonly referred to as the C2, was released in 1963 and sold until 1967. It featured an entirely new body and chassis design, independent front and rear suspension, wind tunnel-tuned aerodynamics, and performance to take on the best from Europe.
  • The engines were carried over from the earlier C1 Corvette, they included the 327 cubic inch V8 in four states of tune producing 250 bhp, 300 bhp, 340 bhp, and 360 bhp respectively. A 427 cubic inch big block V8 from 1966 onwards making upwards of 425 bhp.
  • Customers could order from a slew of options including brake upgrades, power steering, air conditioning, manual or automatic transmissions, and AM/FM radios.
  • One of the rarer options was the “Big Tank” or “Tanker” which was only available on the coupe, as there was insufficient room in the convertible. This larger tank was intended for endurance racing and it measured in at 36 gallons, vastly more than the standard 20 gallon tank.

The Chevrolet Corvette C2

When it was released in 1963 the second generation Corvette represented a paradigm shift over its predecessor. It was fitted with a much stronger chassis, a lighter weight wind tunnel-tested body, four wheel independent suspension, and performance to rival the greats from across the Atlantic.

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Image DescriptionThe styling of the Sting Ray Corvette was a significant departure from the earlier C1 model, it vastly out-performed the earlier model too.

Known as the C2 Corvette, the design was based partly on Bill Mitchell’s earlier Sting Ray concept car, and on the Q-Corvette. Interestingly the car could have been released as a mid-engined design, the “Godfather of the Corvette” Zora Arkus-Duntov was fascinated with mid-engine designs and a Corvette with an engine in the back was given some serious consideration.

Ultimately Arkus-Duntov and his team of GM engineers decided to stick with a front-engine layout but to completely reengineer the car with a view to taking it racing. The original steel chassis design was upgraded significantly and made far stronger and more rigid, this made it heavier but thinner fiberglass body panels were used to help mitigate this.

The live axle rear end of the C1 Corvette was replaced with a new independent rear suspension that made use of an unusual transverse leaf spring, a feature that would remain on Corvettes for decades until the release of the C8 Corvette in 2020.

Larger drum brakes were fitted front and back with the option to upgrade the further to Al-Fin brake drums and power brakes were an optional extra. Power steering was also offered as an option, along with a number of different choices for the differential including a variety of ratios and Positraction (a limited-slip differential).

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Image DescriptionThis car was ordered with what was essentially the base model engine, a 250 bhp at 4,400 rpm 327 cubic inch V8.

Although it was originally developed as a coupe for better aerodynamics and body rigidity a convertible version was also offered, neither the coupe or the roadster had an opening trunk lid however so owners were forced to load luggage or groceries into the trunk area through the passenger compartment behind the fold-down seat backs.

Initially the C2 Corvette was only offered with a single engine displacement, the ubiquitous 327 cubic inch V8, though buyers could choose their level of tune starting at 250 bhp and moving up to 300 bhp, 340 bhp, and 360 bhp. From 1966 onwards the big block 427 became an option, producing over 425 bhp.

The C3 Corvette would appear for 1968, replacing the C2, and it’s new styling consisting of sweeping curves would prove popular, but the C2 remains one of the most popular Corvette designs ever made and now typically sells for more than a similarly optioned C3 (or later) model.

The Chevrolet Corvette “Tanker” Coupe Shown Here

Sometimes when buying a new performance car the owner isn’t particularly interesting in all-out speed, but rather setting a car up as a perfect grand tourer for lengthy cross-country journeys.

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Image DescriptionHere you can see the vast 36 gallon “Big Tank,” it contained internal baffles to prevent sloshing as the sideways movement of that volume of fuel could seriously affect handling.

Given that his primary residence was in Houston and his ranch was over in Kerrville past both Austin and San Antonio this car’s first owner, J.L. Joplin, needed a vehicle with long legs and plenty of creature comforts.

As noted in the introduction he carefully optioned his new 1963 Corvette with a slew of upgrades to make his drives more comfortable. He preferred (slightly) better fuel economy for more range and so he went for the 250 bhp 327 V8 and paired it with the 2-speed PowerGlide automatic transmission and an extra tall Positraction 3.08 rear end for highway use.

He also ticked the boxes on the order form for an AM/FM radio, knock-off wheels, the N03 “Big Tank,” and deluxe air conditioning – making this car one of just two Tankers with factory A/C fitted.

He had the car finished in Riverside Red over Red vinyl trim and even though it only got 14 mpg he was able to make it from Houston to Kerrville and back on a single 36 gallon tank of gas.

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Image DescriptionThe styling of the inside of the car kept much of the Jet Age styling of the 1950s, and it would influence the interior design of the forthcoming C3 Corvette.

Joplin used the car for a number of years before selling it in 1967. Interestingly the car would be seen in 1981 by Zora Arkus-Duntov, almost two decades after it had first been ordered.

Amazingly Arkus-Duntov remembered the car as he had to personally approve each “Tanker” order, and this car was so unique it stuck with him. There’s now a picture of him with the car on file.

The car has now been on static display for many years and will require a recommissioning before any driving is attempted. It’s due to roll across the auction block with Bonhams on the 2nd of March at the Amelia Island auction with a price guide of $120,000 – $180,000 USD and no reserve.

If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

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Images courtesy of Bonhams

Published by Ben Branch -