In 1963, GM sent a very early Corvette C3 chassis to Pininfarina to receive special coachwork. Although many cars were already using monocoque construction, the Corvette was still available as a bare chassis, a blank canvas for Pininfarina on which to work. Beyond that, its classic sports car layout and relatively short wheelbase were an excellent foundation for an exciting, clean-sheet design. The early 1960s at Pininfarina was an era that produced some of the company's finest designs, and after they had worked their magic on so many front-engine Ferraris, the Corvette offered the firm the perfect opportunity to create "an American proposal with European flavor." The chassis that GM shipped over was a top-of-the-line 360 hp "Fuelie" with four-speed, power brakes, AM/FM radio and defroster.
Young Tom Tjaarda, a Dutch designer who had grown up in Detroit, spearheaded the design. After being trained as an architect at the University of Michigan, Tjaarda went to work for Ghia in 1958 at the age of 24. Two years later, his fine eye for design landed him a job at Pininfarina. Throughout the next decade, Tjaarda was at the forefront of automotive design, and his portfolio includes the De Tomaso Pantera, Ferrari's 365 California Spider and Series I 330 GT, Fiat's 124 and an impressive array of one-off show cars and design studies. His designs exhibit the successful integration of various interests of his day - an emphasis on clean planar lines, elegant proportions and effective usage of minimal brightwork - all evidencing a deep understanding of automotive form that anticipated the direction of subsequent automotive design. He was the perfect candidate to produce a European Corvette.
The overall design is described by Pininfarina as: "The body style is based on the idea of maximum simplicity and functionality, and features a remarkable outline owing to the lightness of its sections. The limited use of chrome stresses sober elegance of design and harmony of the whole. The side panel features a sharp angle originating from the radiator grill, running along the fender, the side, and finally dying into the crest of the rear fender, giving the car a peculiar slender appearance."
When you see the Rondine alongside a standard 1963 Corvette, it is hard to believe that the two cars share the same chassis. The Corvette looks like an updated product of the 1950s, whereas the Rondine speaks to an interesting minimalism and restraint - hallmarks of 1960s design. The Rondine is sleek, refined and sophisticated - it lets its clear forms and crisp panels guide your eye around the car and does not overwhelm with detail and trim.
The car's interior, while similar in design to the standard Corvette, is finished in the typical Italian tradition. Every surface is covered in leather, unlike the Corvette, which never utilized the material. The dashboard, door panels, headliner and seats are all covered in smooth, elastic leather that gives the interior a clear, consistent finish and texture.
Once completed, it made its debut at the 1963 Paris Salon. It was dubbed "Rondine", which translates from the Italian as "swallow", a reference to the rear end's celebrated swallow-tail arrangement that minimized the visibility of the car's tail due to projecting rear fenders. This form was so successful that it continued to be implemented on a number of later Pininfarina show cars and was successfully integrated into the design of the Fiat 124.
Once the show was completed, the car was taken back to Pininfarina. At first the car was displayed with a cut off roof line and a backward slanting rear window. The next year the car was given a large wrap-around rear window, making the roof line more fluent. The Rondine remained at Pininfarina's for the next 45 years, rarely being shown and rarely being used. During that time, it covered approximately 3,000 miles and was never painted, never reupholstered and never altered in any way, except for the rear window.
In 2008, for the first time, the car was offered for sale. After 45 years, Michael Schudroff became the very first private owner.
Source: Gooding & Co., COACHBUILD.com FORUM & WWW.
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