This isn’t a typo: ’63 Corvette roadster at 565,000 miles, and counting

This isn’t a typo: ’63 Corvette roadster at 565,000 miles, and counting

Steve Stone bought the car new when he was 18 and is still racking up the miles

At 18, Steve Stone was determined to buy a new 1963 Chevrolet Corvette. He convinced his parents to let him order the car in October 1962, soon after he saw the restyled bodywork. He even got his dad to co-sign the loan note. 

But Stone wasn’t only determined to acquire the car. He was determined to drive it. Make that drive, as in “let’s take this car and make it do what it was intended to do.” 

In his car’s first year on the road, Stone racked up 33,575 miles with the 340 horsepower, 4-speed roadster, using up the 24,000-mile warranty in eight months. 

There may be purists who will not care much for the baby moons and side pipes, but Steve Stone’s ’63 Vette is a serious traveling machine and looks the part | Marshal Farthing photos

Stone has never looked back as he’s tallied more than 565,000 miles on the black roadster, visiting every state in the U.S. and all the Canadian provinces. 

And the saga hasn’t ended yet.

Taking delivery of a car in February in Iowa is no small accomplishment, but Stone was undeterred. He sold a ’56 Chevy to buy the Vette, which sported 4:11 gears, manual steering and brakes, and those little skinny bias ply tires that were still being offered from the factory. It wasn’t something you’d normally use to navigate an Iowa winter.

Preventive maintenance and is high on the list for Steve Stone and each traveling season the Vette is carefully prepared for the new miles ahead. He added dual MSD ignition system to better insure there are no issues when he is traveling far from potential repair shops

When asked how he managed to rack up those miles in that first 12 months, Stone says simply, “The guys I knew bought cars to drive ‘em, not keep ‘em,” so it wasn’t unusual for the Cedar Rapids car community to drive everywhere and do everything. Stone describes trips within a 50-60 mile radius of Cedar Rapids for all kinds of get togethers with fellow enthusiasts, including a newly organized Corvette club made up primarily of Collins Radio (now Rockwell-Collins) employees.

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“We’d provide cars to pace races at the local Hawkeye Downs race track, which at that time was still dirt, and even drove to a tracks some 60 miles away to lead dirt-track races on a regular basis.” 

The group also put together events like an autocross in a pasture and multiple trips to nearby Iowa City when half-a-dozen Vette owners would group together to just cruise for the fun of it.

But those years were also marked by the Vietnam War and the drafting of young men for military service.  Stone was called by the U.S. Army in May 1965. He was prepared to be sent to Vietnam and placed the Vette up for sale, but two things happened that has made an impact on his life to this day: He wasn’t sent to Vietnam as part of his Army experience and the Vette didn’t sell.

The Vette is all business, but looks good doing it. Stone added functional hood louvers to provide a bit more air for the engine compartment. And, yes, the hideaway headlights still work just fine

So, for 55+ years ,Stone has owned the black roadster — and no other Vette — during that time. He got married, raised four sons, divorced, remarried, had two jobs, and currently has been married 29 years to a woman he says shares his love for the Vette and has been a constant companion for much of the mileage which now equals going to the moon and back and taking an additional three trips around the earth’s equator.

In conversation you can tell Stone has enjoyed each and every mile of his Corvette adventure. 

“Yes, the car has had it’s share of issues,” he explains. “It’s been painted four times because the front end has been damaged in four separate accidents over the years. Each time I had the car repainted and it’s now on its fourth engine.” 

Stone says he kept the original engine (180,000 on that one) and has it tucked away, he’s not been afraid to add touches to further enhance performance or simply because he liked them.

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The first thing you notice are the black “steelies” and black wall tires with baby moon hubcaps that somehow fit road-warrior personality of this high mile traveler. Stone says he added some performance in the 1970s — disc brakes, headers and the black side exhaust when he was into drag racing and autocrossing, but he admits he’s gotten away from those activities today. He even had the faux hood louvers in the hood made into functional louvers to help with engine cooling.

Sidepipes were added back in the ’70s, eliminating the hassle of mufflers located under the car and making it easier for Stone to open the exhaust when he gets the opportunity

“I’ve experienced maintenance issues most anyone has with cars, but I did have to learn how to adjust solid lifters, change points and plugs and how to deal with the old style canister oil filters.” 

Stone also learned how to replace drum brakes before the car was converted to disks and he handled most of the mechanical issues during those early years, though he said he did manage to get warranty work done for a leaky water pump and faulty ignition in that first 8 months before the warranty lapsed.

Currently, he runs a more contemporary 350cid engine pumping 400 horsepower with tall gears that get him around 18 miles per gallon. 

“As gas changed I found the high-compression engines just couldn’t do what I needed, and I finally landed on this combination,” he explains. 

Stone also added a pair of aftermarket ignition systems (one acts as a back-up, so he isn’t caught somewhere with ignition problems) and he’s a huge proponent of preventative maintenance.

Steve Stone and his wife, Marilynn, spend a lot of time in the Vette’s cockpit which continues to sport the original dash with some minor ‘conveniences’ to make their travel just a bit more comfortable

Each winter the Vette gets a full review for potential repairs in anticipation of warm weather driving, and it rarely ventures out into snow-covered or salted roads any longer. 

“It has an oil change every 3,000 miles and is started regularly during the cold months just to insure everything is still working as it should.” 

He says he has a trusted mechanic help with maintenance and brings plenty of spare parts with him on his trips.

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The Vette’s soft top has been replaced twice. The dash and console remain stock and in excellent condition, and he’s added simple pleasures like a more modern sound system and cupholders.

He says he figures he spends $1,000 each year to keep the car in perfect condition, and when you visit him at any of the numerous shows he attends during the summer months, you can see he is adamant about keeping the Vette in tip top shape. The Vette has been to car shows across the country in Washington, New Jersey, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Utah, Montana and the province of Saskatchewan, Canada and has been featured at Spring Jefferson, Wisconsin; Bloomington Gold in Champaign, Illinois; and Back to the Bricks in Flint, Michigan.

As time has progressed, so have Stone’s interests and the ’63 Vette has adapted to the changes. Stone and his wife spend a lot of time camping, canoeing, and traveling to “See the USA in your Chevrolet” as he likes to describe it.

There probably aren’t a lot of camping outfitters that have a vintage Corvette pull up outside with a couple of canoes tagging along. | Steve Stone photo

The couple has become adept at packing not only backup items like a water pump, fuel pump, hoses and belts for the Vette, but “soft packing” all their clothes and sleeping needs and somehow getting it all into the tiny storage area of the convertible. It is quite a sight when they take along their canoe, which is carried on a trailer behind the Corvette, which brings even more curious bystanders when they stop for gas and rest breaks along their routes.

The couple doesn’t intend to stop traveling i so it’s likely you might see a black ’63 roadster most anywhere in the U.S. including hot lapping the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (yes, they’ve done that too.) 

Having witnessed various storms, forest fires, mountain lions, national parks and monuments, mountains, deserts, floods, museums, beaches, there’s not a lot the couple and the Vette haven’t experienced, Stone admits there’s still plenty to see and more miles to be traveled.

As an 18-year-old, Steve Stone preferred top-down driving to the now-famed split-window coupe

“People ask if I ever plan to sell it,” Stone says, “and I tell them no. It looks like it will probably pass on to my youngest son when we’re done with it. And that’s the way I want it.”

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Jim Volgarino
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  • Norman Spirit
    October 16, 2018, 9:41 PM

    Not really surprising. My Dad had bought a new ’66 big block with a lot of options which he traded in 1975. It had 285,000 miles on it. A ’63 with 600k has only been driven 12,000 miles a year average. Dad was doing closer to 30,000 and in all (Eastern) weather. I still wonder if the salesman told the next guy the odo had gone around twice already…

    REPLY
    • Jim Volgarino@Norman Spirit
      October 18, 2018, 8:11 AM

      You’re right Norman and there probably are some half million mile Vettes still navigating the roads, but Steve Stone’s legacy is having a car he bought new in 1963, driving it all he could while raising a family and now being determined to continue to get some pavement under those steelies and baby moons!

      REPLY
      • Norman Spirit@Jim Volgarino
        October 23, 2018, 3:40 PM

        The only reason Dad’s Corvette isn’t under my foot getting probably its millionth mile is that he traded it in ’75, even though I had told him I’d give him cash whatever the dealer offered him. I can guarantee you I’d be driving that rather than my 2016 C7.

        REPLY
  • Rick Kowalczykowski
    October 17, 2018, 8:13 PM

    If I’m ever up your way-would really like to do a photoshoot of your vette.
    My 61 Buick and I put as many miles on each year as possible-with the LS motor, it gets 2x mpg of the old nailhead, so twice as much driving now:)
    Keep on driving those wheels off as my buddy says!

    REPLY
  • Malcolm GRAHAM
    October 18, 2018, 3:26 AM

    I’m impressed. American classic cars (in USA) seem to be trailer queens. That someone actually drives one places is impressive. Why limit yourself to North America? Escape your winter sometime and spend as much or as little time as you like touring in New Zealand. I guarantee that NZ’s Corvette clubs will look after you with as much or as little support as you want.

    REPLY
  • Russ Saunders
    October 18, 2018, 5:10 AM

    This car has been my next door neighbor at many car shows over the past few years and I love it!! Listening to the stories and seeing the faces on people as they admire this beautiful car and envy the lifelong adventures is a blast! I sure hope to see them again next summer. What a great car. What a great story!

    REPLY
  • James McIntire
    October 18, 2018, 6:10 AM

    In an age when no one seems to really drive their classics anymore, but rather chooses to preserve it as a garage/trailer queen; I commend this man for still driving his car. It’s also always interesting to read stories of people that still have their first new vehicle after 30, 40, or 50+ years. That takes dedication and commitment to decide that you’re going to keep it no matter what it may cost to fix it.

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