Resurrected Treasure – Jim and MaryAnn Stewart’s Ruby Red 1958 Corvette
Jim Stewart has a message for all of us who have a forlorn project sitting in the corner of our shop: “You just gotta do it.” For several decades, this 1958 Corvette owned by Jim and his wife, MaryAnn, was one of those “I’m gonna fix it up someday” projects. Like so many, it had started out with a lot of promise.
Way back in 1981, a friend had let Jim know about the car, which was languishing outside in northeast Nebraska. Jim negotiated a purchase, becoming the Corvette’s third owner. It appeared to have been ordered for drag racing, coming from the factory with a four-speed and a 4.56:1-geared Positraction rearend. Both were pluses for Jim, who had done his own share of racing through the years.
“The car didn’t run worth a damn,” Jim said. “We drove the car home, drove it around for a while, and were going to put it back to original.”
Jim and his son started sanding on the body, which had originally been Daytona Blue with white coves. On the plus side, the Corvette was very complete, with all the small trim parts in place and both the hard and soft tops included. The downside was revealed when Jim went to restore the chassis. “When we lifted the body off of the frame, the frame buckled,” he said.
A phone call to the previous owner revealed that acid had been applied to the frame in an attempt to save weight for racing. Left untreated, it had managed instead to deteriorate and weaken the frame. This setback – plus all of other distractions life has to offer – relegated the car to the back of the shop. For the next couple of decades, it received minimal attention while Jim built and drove a succession of Tri-five Chevys and early Ford street rods.
A chance meeting in 2010 with Randy Loftquist of Dynamic Rides in Kearney, Nebraska, got Jim thinking about the old Corvette again. Jim saw the quality of the hot rods and custom vehicles Randy was building and figured he might be the right person to help resurrect the 1958 Corvette, which by this time was mostly a pile of parts. Randy came to Jim’s barn to check it out and agreed to take on the project on one condition: that Jim would come by the shop regularly to help, especially with sorting and cataloging parts.
Fortunately for Jim, his wife MaryAnn was on board with getting the Corvette done and the two shared the same philosophy on how to approach it: “If we’re going to do something, let’s go all out,” Jim said.
A new frame was a logical starting point and Jim quickly decided to upgrade from the original suspension technology. “You know, those old Corvettes drove like pig,” he said. He and Randy opted for a new chassis from Art Morrison, which gained them the benefits of a performance-based front suspension, coil-over shocks, rack-and-pinion steering, triangulated four-bar rear suspension, and Wilwood disc brakes. To get things rolling, Jim selected 18×8- and 18×10-inch Billet Specialties Dagger wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber.
Jim’s racing history meant he didn’t want to shortchange things in the power department. He opted for traditional-style small-bock power, but in the form of a 383c.i. crate engine with aluminum heads and FAST fuel injection and ignition. The headers came from Art Morrison and were connected to a custom exhaust with Porter mufflers. The package was completed using Concept One pullies, plated Corvette valve covers and air cleaner, and a 700R4 overdrive automatic transmission.
A variety of refinements and minor custom touches were made when the Dynamic Rides team restored the body. Modifications included tucked front bumpers and grille teeth, a filled fuel door, custom firewall and inner fenders, a modified pan, and modified rear bumpers with tapered sleeves inside the exhaust outlets, rather than separate pipes poking through. MaryAnn got to choose the colors and selected a brilliant PPG Envirobase Ruby Red Pearl with Mineral Gray coves. It’s complemented with show-worthy chrome plating by Ogden Chrome.
The two-seat cockpit was updated with care so to retain most of its original character. Wise Guys seats improve comfort and black leather upholstery by Karl Performance kept things simple. The dash was updated with a custom Corvette cluster from Classic Instruments, along with a Billet Specialties steering wheel and Lokar shifter.
Like so many projects of this nature, Jim and Randy surpassed their original intentions to simply build a nice-driving and good-looking classic ’Vette. “We didn’t plan to build a showpiece,” Randy said. The finished car came out much nicer than either of them expected and has picked up awards at just about every Goodguys event it has attended over the past several years.
While the awards and recognition are great, Jim said the relationships he and MaryAnn have developed with other enthusiasts have been even more rewarding. “When we started going to Goodguys events, we had a goal that we had to meet five new people at each event,” Jim said. “We’ve surpassed that and made a lot of good friends.”
There’s only one regret Jim has about the build, and that is not doing it sooner. “It’s too bad we didn’t do it 25-30 years ago,” he quipped. “It was easier to get in and out of back then!”
Photos by John Jackson