Road Rules! Ray Landis has Covered a Lot of Ground in This ’58 Corvette
Words by Ray Landis
The Goodguys Road Rules series moved me to finally sit down and share my story of my ’58 Corvette that I’ve driven over 500,000 miles. It’s been quite a journey that has spanned nearly 50 years.
I live in Wadsworth, Ohio, a little town not far from Akron. I’m still living in the “starter house” my wife and I bought a little over 53 years ago. Unfortunately, my wife Lana passed away a little over a year ago, but I’m so thankful for the memories we created together – including the many road trips around the country in our Corvette.
I’ll start back in 1973, when I needed a car to drive for work as a service tech for IBM (my first role at the company was servicing typewriters, if you can believe that!). At that time in Ohio, salt was used heavily in the winter on the roads. That meant if you drove your car every day, every two years or so you either bought a new car or you had the quarter panels and rocker panels replaced because of rust.
I decided that I’d buy an old Corvette, fix it up, and then over the years it would still maintain its “new car” look because it was fiberglass. I shopped around for a ’58-’62 Corvette fixer-upper because those models had just the right size trunk to carry the tools and parts I needed daily.
Well, the Corvette that became available was more than a fixer-upper; it was a basket-case. No engine or transmission, most chrome and bumpers missing, lots and lots of parts in boxes, but the price was right ($800 in 1973) and I was just sure I could do what was needed to get ‘er on the road.
Long story short, I worked every evening, every weekend, and finally put ‘er on the road in early 1974. That first version of the Corvette was treated to a fresh short block 283c.i. V8 and three-speed manual transmission. I had the car sandblasted (never do that again) and painted Ford Lincoln Silver with grey cove inserts.
The Corvette was a daily driver during my entire 37-year career at IBM. Winter, spring, summer, and fall, I’d hop in it and go to work. There were many mornings before we had a carport when I’d scrape a foot of snow off the ’Vette before leaving. During my final 10-to-15-years at IBM, I spent a lot of time at the company facility near Boulder, Colorado, and would drive the Corvette there and back. Lana and I even took a few side vacations on some of those return trips.
Over the years the car was painted three more times, most recently in 2011 (that’s it – no more paint jobs). Around 1990 I replaced the rusting frame with one from a ’62 Corvette, and in 2006 I replaced the frame and engine with a frame built by Billy Dawson of Corvette Correction out of Seguin, Texas. Along with the new frame he installed an LS1 engine and 4L65E transmission. WOW! What a treat to now have power steering, disc brakes, and an engine that started instantly when turning the key. All of that was done at the 413,452-mile mark on the odometer.
Lana and I had taken a number of trips in the Corvette in those first 35 years, but we really started to hit the road after I retired in 2010. We drove it in all the lower 48 states, most of them several times. We drove Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. We went from Washington to San Diego on Highway 1 and 101. We’ve been from Maine to Key West, and from Vancouver to Montreal, Canada. We also enjoyed the Goodguys Hall of Fame Road Tour in 2015, traveling from Colorado to Bowling Green, Kentucky. We rarely missed the Goodguys Nationals in Columbus.
Of all the road trips, driving Route 66 and the trip down the Pacific Coast were two of the highlights, in part because of all the international contacts we made along the way. There were people from all over the world traveling Route 66 just because they’d read or heard about it. Same goes for the California coast – a lot of foreign tourists in rental Mustang convertibles. It just made you feel good that they were coming to America to see these sights. The ’Vette would frequently spur conversation and people were always just floored when I let them sit in it.
In all those miles, the Corvette has given me very few mechanical problems on the road. I was never afraid to just jump in it and take off wherever we were going. The simplicity of the early drivetrain was easy to maintain, while the modern aftermarket chassis and LS1 have given me surprisingly few problems in the 100,000-plus miles I’ve logged since installing them.
My goal when I bought this Corvette was something I could drive forever, but I had no anticipation of driving it more than 500,000 miles. I certainly couldn’t have predicted all the memories Lana and I would make on the road. I now have two grandkids who are driving age, and it’s my hope that someday one of them might hop in and enjoy some of the open road adventures I’ve had the good fortune to experience.
Sidebar: Perfect Traveling Partner
One of the greatest parts of the road trips in the Corvette was having my wife Lana by my side. She was always up for an adventure – automotive or otherwise – and we made a lot of memories traveling around. Lana did plenty of driving on those trips, too!
In the fall of 2016, I bought Lana a new 2017 Corvette as an early surprise for our 50th wedding anniversary. That new ’Vette quickly racked up road miles, going from coast to coast and to Canada within a year.
Lana succumbed to lung cancer in late 2019; it was a surprise diagnosis since she never smoked. I truly miss her, but the memories we shared of traveling together in both cars are a blessing to me.