1963 Corvette - Harley Earl Styling Car

Mecum Auto Auction - Kissimmee, Florida - 2015 - Jan. 16-26 - Lot S134
ESTIMATE: $375,000 - $500,000

Mrs. Harley J. Earl's Corvette

As the founder of General Motors Styling and Design, Harley Earl left a monumental imprint on American automotive styling for decades. One of the rewards for his success was that, even long after his retirement in 1958, as a GM consultant, Earl could order any Corvette he desired, built to his personal specifications even if they required special paint, fabrication or options. Over the years, documented factory special Corvettes have taken their rightful places at the top of the vintage Corvette hierarchy, but one was known to have been built that always eluded detection, a Pink Pearl 1963 coupe Earl had specially built for his wife Sue.

From 1963 through 1965 Sue Earl and her Pink Pearl Corvette were a common sight around Palm Beach, Florida, where the Earls lived after Harley's retirement. The car was delivered to the Earls refinished in Pink Pearl to match their Pink Coral Palm Beach home. The stock drivetrain was maintained, comprising a 327/300 HP V-8 engine and Powerglide 2-speed automatic transmission, and the car was also fitted with power windows, power steering and brakes and air conditioning. It is known that modifications GM's Color and Style Department made to the car were performed under Special Order 10324, putting it in direct sequence with the famous Harley Earl Corvette convertible built under S.O. 10323.

Shortly after taking delivery, Harley Earl returned the car to General Motors in Detroit, where it was restyled with other new prototype features. The split window was removed and replaced with a 1964-67 style one piece rear glass (interestingly date coded July 1963). The inside rear view mirror was also upgraded to the wider Impala design to suit Sue Earl, and a 1964 B-pillar ventilation system added. It was then returned to the Earls' Palm Beach home and once again driven by Sue Earl. Later in 1964 the Pink Corvette received further upgrades from Chevrolet Engineering Division that included a dual circuit master cylinder, 4-wheel disc brakes with frame modifications, 1965 style undated knock-off wheels and new hood, front side fenders and grille, gauges, clock, radio and console – all likewise from the 1965 parts bin.

On November 22, 1965 the car was sold by West Palm Beach Chevrolet dealer Roger Dean to Mary Louise Gregory, also of Palm Beach, who paid $3,279 including license, title and taxes. Mrs. Gregory owned the car until March 10, 1970, when she sold it to Doris A. Rifenburgh from Herkimer, New York, who had a winter home in Pompano Beach, Florida.

In 1974 Mrs. Rifenburgh returned from Pompano Beach with the Sue Earl Corvette to her home in Herkimer, where the car remained until October, 1976. That is when Joe Cifarelli of neighboring New Hartford spotted the car while driving through town on business. On impulse he pulled into the circular driveway of the Rifenburgh residence, parked behind the Corvette and knocked on the door. In fewer than ten minutes, he had agreed with Mrs. Rifenburgh to buy the car, after which she wryly informed Joe that the car did not in fact run. Joe quickly diagnosed the problem as a broken set of ignition points. After a quick repair, he took possession of the Corvette and drove it home. Joe and his wife enjoyed the Corvette on a couple of outings, after which he placed it in storage and closed the door, creating a mystery that would last for the next 37 years.

In 2013, Joe Cifarelli had Corvette specialists Mike and Martin Denapole perform a thorough mechanical inspection and freshening to prepare the Pink Corvette for public display. Removing the driver's door inside panel, they found the Special Order number 10324 written in pencil on the paper vapor barrier, confirming the car's authenticity.

Today the Sue Earl Corvette coupe accurately displays 27,457 original miles as confirmed by its documentation. It remains, paradoxically, both unrestored and a restorer's delight, as every major original part of this rare Corvette is present from its 1965 state and its purchase by Mr. Cifarelli in 1976. At that point, in addition to its special paint, the car bore the following distinguishing features:

- 1965 front fender vents, front grille and stainless rocker trim
- 1964 roof B-pillar vents
- 1965 style undated finned aluminum knock-off wheels
- Unique "Stingray" rear deck badge
- Custom color matching Pink leather upholstery with White accents on 1964 seats and door panels
- A special complementary shade of carpeting, dash pads and dash frame
- Custom Pink interior trim pieces
- White plastic-rimmed steering wheel
- White 1963 dash panel and glovebox door insert
- 1963 instrument bezels with 1965 gauge faces
- 1965 center console and White seat belts
- Prototype rear end center section with front mount

Out of the public eye for 37 years, its whereabouts or even its existence unknown but to a very few until very recently, the Sue Earl Corvette was finally unveiled once more, an unrestored treasure complete with full owner history and documentation, including the bill of sale from Roger Dean Chevrolet stating the car "belonged to Chevrolet Motor Division Engineering Center." This one-of-a-kind factory creation's origins and history give it the lasting stature matched only by the very few other Corvettes that are directly integral to the Harley Earl legend.


- Mrs. Harley J. Earl's Pink Pearl Corvette
- Shop Order 10324, in direct sequence one number after Mr. Earl's 1963 styling car
- Unrestored with one repaint in the special Pink Pearl formula that Roger Dean Chevrolet obtained from General Motors
- Complete known ownership since new
- Current owner purchased the car in 1976
- Documented with a bill of sale from Roger Dean Chevrolet stating this car belonged to Chevrolet Division Engineering Center, letter from previous owner and warranty booklet
- Harley Earl returned to GM where it was restyled with 1965 features
- Dual circuit master cylinder and 4-wheel disc brakes with frame modifications
- Unique Stingray rear deck badge
- Custom Pink leather interior with White accents on the seats and door panels
- Special complimentary shade of carpet
- Custom Pink interior trim pieces
- White plastic-rimmed steering wheel
- White dash panel and glovebox door
- 1965 style gauge faces with 1963 bezels
- 1965 center console and White seat belts
- 27,457 original miles
- Air conditioning, knock-off wheels
- Power steering, brakes and windows