The new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray may look like a hypermodern supercar, but the Stingray name is an homage to Corvettes of the past. We wanted to explore that past, so we went and found the original -- a 1963 Corvette Sting Ray coupe, the first year of the second-generation Corvette (C2) with the iconic split rear window. With its unmistakable styling and exquisite cabin, the split-window Sting Ray just might be the most desirable Corvette ever built. But is it cooler than the massively improved C7 Corvette of today? What if you could have only one? We went for a drive to find out.

Behind the Wheel

Sitting inside the '63 Sting Ray is like you're sitting in a museum. This was back when humans assembled cars, not robots. You can feel the craftsmen at work when you twist the knobs and flip the switches. The gauges are like vintage watches, and if something looks like metal, you can bet it's the real thing. With the possible exception of the original Corvette C1, this is the nicest Corvette interior ever made.

In the 2014 Stingray, the robots have clearly taken over, but it's a vastly improved cabin compared to the last few Corvettes. The materials are up to snuff, the colors are pleasing, and the technology's there as well, with a big central touchscreen and a configurable gauge cluster. If you drive a Porsche 911 and then get into one of these, it's not going to be a huge letdown. That's a big step forward for America's sports car.

Pedal to the Metal

When you give the '63 Sting Ray the spurs, the sound of the 300-horsepower, 327-cu-inch small-block V8 will take your breath away. It's the sound of pure, unvarnished American muscle. This car was the pride of the nation, and you can hear why every time you open the throttle.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the old Sting Ray isn't especially fast by modern standards. The new car, on the other hand, is very, very fast. It features a bigger V8 (at 376 cu inches) with an amazing 455 hp thanks to tricks such as direct fuel injection and continuously variable valve timing. It may not make the primal noises of the '63, but no one's going to complain about the bark from those quad tailpipe cannons. The C7 Corvette is, quite simply, one of the fastest cars in the world.

Style for a Price

Styling's always a matter of taste, but when looking at the vehicles side by side, it's hard not to vote for the older car. Think about the land yachts that most people were driving back in 1963, and imagine this car roaring past them in a cloud of tire smoke. The Sting Ray's curves are timeless with perfect proportions. It's a gull-wing Mercedes with American attitude. The new car has a distinct presence, no doubt, but the old one is a performance car and a work of art.

As for the matter of price, if you want a well-kept '63 Sting Ray in your garage, prepare to fork over $80 grand or more. If you're on good terms with your Chevy dealer, a 2014 Stingray could be yours for $50,000 to $55,000. It comes with a warranty, too, whereas the old car just comes with parts that need to be fixed.

The Verdict

Ideally, the way to go for this decision is to get one of each. But if we had to choose a car to drive, we'd be hard-pressed to pick the '63 despite its unsurpassed beauty. When a car's more than 5 decades old, there's just a whole lot that's been improved upon in the intervening years. The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette is the culmination of all those decades of experience, and the result is one of the finest sports cars ever made.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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