On the Road with ’63 Black Corvette with 500,000+ Miles
Original Owner Takes Vette to 48 States, 9 Canadian Provinces
How does Steve Stone do it? That is how does he keep a 1963 convertible Corvette with 511, 000 miles on the road and rarely have a big mechanical issue during his extensive travels? Steve bought the car for $5K when he was 18 years old. With a little help from his dad who co-signed for the loan, Steve began his 50-year journey with his beloved Vette. And it’s clearly his baby. So that means he takes good care of her.
“It’s the only one that I ever wanted,” says Steve. “I believe that you can count on one hand the original owners who have owned their Vette 50 years or more, and that have more than a half million miles on their Vette.”
But Steve says it’s not a big deal to make sure that the car is ready to tackle his big road trips every year. And this car is absolutely driven extensively each year, as long as there’s no salt on the ground. Metal-eating salt, Steve says, will never come into contact with his baby again. Many years ago, salt rusted the car’s frame, which had to be replaced.
(For the record, this Vette is on its fourth engine—although Steve held onto the car’s first engine. He’s replaced the upholstery twice, and the exterior has been repainted four times. Plus, the front end has been fixed four times as a result of car wrecks.)
It Started With a ’63 Vette
Before we get into Steve’s car tips that have keep this baby on the road for 50 years, let’s go back to the beginning. 1963. The first year Steve owned the car, he put 33,575 miles on it, simply driving around Iowa where he grew up. In the second year, he put on 30,000 miles. He was then drafted by the military. Unable to sell the car, he held onto it. When his two-year stint with the military was over, Steve was back to driving his Vette, eventually making it to all 48 lower states and 9 provinces in Canada. Some years he drove it 7,100 miles or 6,000 miles; other years not as much. Now, Steve and his wife, Marilyn, usually plan their yearly travels around attending car shows. For certain trips when they need storage, they hook up a utility trailer.
One of the key benefits of traveling across the country in this car is the ability to meet the locals. “I view myself as a Vette ambassador of sorts,” Steve said. “ I visit with anyone and everyone who wants to visit about my Vette, cars, travels and anything else they care to discuss. I’ve had people share their more private topics such as cancer, military service and divorce. No matter where the contacts are made, I will stop and take the time to visit. People are always taking photos, videos and giving us the thumbs up,” he said.
One of his favorite memories is giving his grandmother a ride. That’s because she had also ridden in a stagecoach in Dillon, MT in the early 1900’s. “I would bet no other Vette owner has a similar experience, having a passenger travel in an estimated 6-horse power stage coach and a 340 HP Vette,” Steve said.
So back to the maintenance tips. He spends about $1,000 a year to keep the car running. He has a trusted mechanic who does preventive maintenance every winter. He brings some spare parts with him on trips. Changes the oil and filter every 3,000 miles, maybe pushes it to 4,000 miles during trips but never to 5,000 miles. Uses good quality multi-weight oil and also Sta-bil fuel additive in winter. Starts it up regularly during winter when he’s not driving it. That’s it. “It’s not rocket science,” Steve says.
With all that loving care, what’s the car worth now? “Some say 50K, others say 100K, but it’s not for sale,” says Steve. He’s decided that the car will eventually go to the youngest of his four sons, who promises to keep on driving it.
Steve’s Vette was featured at four shows in 2013: Spring Jefferson, WI; Bloomington Gold, Champaign, IL; Back to the Bricks, Flint, MI (watch video); and Corvettes at Carlisle. For his first trip in 2014, Steve will be heading to a car show April 19 in Singer, WI.