Washingon D.C.'s secret rotting Sting Ray Corvette

A nosy neighbor to a blighted Washington, D.C., townhome snapped a picture of a "rusted out old shell of a car" on bricks in its back yard. It turns out to be a highly-collectable 1963 Chevrolet Corvette — sort of.

The real estate boom never really left the District of Columbia; people here often make a career from over-inflating their value. Now that there's the slightest hint of pop in the local economy, the insanity tide has risen again with old neighborhoods re-gentrified to near-luxury status, but it's an uneven progression that's left the well-off and the hard-up living cheek to jowl.

All of which explains how a partially boarded-up townhouse got nominated for a D.C. neighborhood blog's "Horses Ass" award. There's nothing quite as aggravating to new D.C. homeowners as a blighted building owned by someone who doesn't seem to share their obsession with property values. As the poster complains about the overgrown yard, collapsing portico and boarded windows, he throws in a gripe with a photo of an old car on blocks in the back yard — one with a distinctive split-rear window, the hallmark of a 1963 Corvette.

General Motors only built 10,594 split window "Sting Ray" coupes, and the styling flourish hindered visibility enough that not only was it removed for 1964, many coupe owners later changed it themselves — thanks to GM using fiberglass bodies for the first time. Fully restored versions regularly sell for about $55,000, but even the body shells can be worth several thousand dollars to enthusiasts. What's it doing here?

The griper's photo didn't really show enough detail about the car, so I drove down and took my own picture. That's where the story gets weird.

Washingon D.C.'s secret rotting Sting Ray CorvetteS

This car has the rear window of a 1963 Corvette all right — but every other part of its body comes from some other year. I shared the photo with the experts at Corvette Forum, and the consensus was that it's possibly an original 1963 Corvette — based on the door frame and the rear drum brakes — but that the front, sides and tail lights all hail from some other year. (The rust on a plastic body likely came from the metal beams above the car.)

As one member said: "I see a 63 splitty with a (Corvette) 68/69 front clip, 67/68 Camaro tail lights, GS flares, and a butt load of money to just make it drivable."

I tried to reach the owner of the house, but haven't been successful so far, and how and why this 'Vette came to rest like this remains a mystery. The building will eventually be renovated in line with its granite-countertop neighbors; it's too valuable to get destroyed. Saving the 'Vette would be far harder work with no chance of a monetary return — but it will need a patron who believes some things have value beyond money.

H/T to Franken-Subie!