Over the course of 50 years, Jerry Lyndon’s obsession with Corvettes has resulted in his owning of over 100 Vettes of every generation. It all started back in 1967 when he bought his first Corvette at just 17 years of age and has essentially built his whole life around Corvettes since then. That Vette was a 1960 which, remarkably, he still owns, but that’s not the object of discussion for today. The one that caught our attention was a 1958 that he purchased back in 1985 and later sold off, never to be seen again. Or so he thought.
Jerry originally found the ’58 at a Corvette expo in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was just a body, but the price was right so he bought it and brought it home where it sat for a while waiting to find a purpose. Eventually, a friend of Jerry’s asked if he could buy it off of him for use as an SCCA race car he intended to build. Still lacking a distinct purpose for the C1, Jerry decided to let it go with no intention of seeing it again. As it turned out, his friend went through a divorce and was forced to sell the body off. Over the next 35 years a couple dozen other Vettes came in and out of Jerry’s possession, then another friend reached out asking if this ’58 body he was interested in was worth the asking price. “I told him yes,” recalls Jerry. “He went to buy, then backed out. Said he was over his desire to do anything with it. He asked if I wanted it and took me to it,” says Jerry. When they got to the car, it was under a canvas on a trailer and although it was just a fiberglass body, everything was there so he bought it.
When he got the Vette back to his home, his buddy Chuck came over to see the car and recognized it as the same ’58 Jerry had owned 35 years ago. Jerry was astonished. Even though the car was only five miles away, it never crossed his mind that after 35 years the ’58 sitting in front of him now could be the same one he’d owned once before. He promptly decided to call the Vette Second Time—no explanation needed on that one—and set his mind to actually building the Corvette this time.
Jerry’s plan going forward was to build something unique: “I had spent an entire life restoring Corvettes to original stock and just felt like it was time to build a super different Corvette, a one-off.” His scheme was to hide a complete C5 drivetrain and suspension underneath the C1 body. He spent the next three years working night and day, seven days a week on the Vette.
Before he could do much of anything though, he needed a frame and he needed just about the entirety of a C5 Corvette. Jerry’s longtime motto has always been, “if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen,” and apparently his little plan was meant to be. His son met a guy who happened to know a guy who bought a complete 2002 Corvette for a hot rod project that never happened. Its original owner was a multi-millionaire who bought the Vette brand new in 2002 and pulled the body off, intending to use everything underneath for a “money no object” custom project, but the gentleman passed away before any more progress was made. The car was sold off and sat in a warehouse until Jerry caught wind of it in 2012. Jerry told us the Vette was so new the tires still had the nipples on them!
Jerry planned to keep the C5 drivetrain completely stock, but that meant the C1 body and its frame underneath had to be stretched 5 inches. The search for a custom frame began. He called around a few places but as soon as he spoke the words “add 5 inches” he would mysteriously lose signal and the call would be dropped. Finally, he found Studley’s Independent Rods of Monroe, North Carolina, who connected him to a frame builder down in Florida. As with the other shops, Jerry was told he was crazy, but this time a custom C1 frame actually showed up at his home six weeks later.
It was finally time to get to work making his plan become a reality so Jerry started mocking up the drivetrain with the new chassis. To his relief, everything lined up perfectly—the 345-horse 5.7L LS1 and six-speed manual transaxle sat right where they needed to be with no modification needed to the torque tube.
Next on the list was getting the front and rear cradles from the 2002 Vette mounted to the chassis. As it turned out, that too worked out quite well and before long, the chassis was complete with C5 Corvette suspension, spindles, disc brakes; the whole nine yards. His wheels of choice weren’t C1 or C5, but C6. Jerry decided on a set of black Corvette ZR1 wheels measuring 18x10 up front and 19x11 out back. He had them wrapped in 285/35R18 and 295/30R19 Nitto rubber.
The custom frame made fitting the drivetrain and cradles somewhat of a piece of cake. Or at least made it look like a piece of cake compared to the amount of work Jerry spent modifying the C1 body. He started by stretching the fiberglass body 5 inches through the doors and the floor to match up with the chassis that would be underneath. Speaking of underneath, that torque tube is a little wider than your typical driveshaft so Jerry had to widen the trans tunnel.
Next, he grafted on the convertible top cover from a C5 with the adjoining waterfall that goes between the seats. Other body mods include the removal of the fresh air vent, lengthening of the spears in the side coves, squaring off the radius of the rear wheelwells and widening them 1 1/2 inches to fit the larger wheel and tire combo. Jerry still had the removable hard top to go along with his ’58 Vette so that was also stretched 5 inches to fit the newly lengthened body. The body modifications continue to the hood where Jerry grafted the bulk of a 1966 Corvette big-block stinger hood to the hood of his C1. Once the body was just how he liked it, he sprayed the car in PPG Jet Black paint.
The bold custom touches keep going right on into the cabin of Jerry’s Corvette where Bobby’s Auto Trim out of Troutman, North Carolina, meshed a little C1 with a little C5. The dash is out of the ’58 but various aspects of the 2002 car were worked in, such as the gauge cluster and stereo. The seats and door panels are all custom and wrapped in red Italian leather as is the custom steering wheel from Mike’s Custom Steering in Scottsville, Kentucky.
After purchasing and selling this Vette once before, it was the second time around that finally yielded the breath of new life it deserved. Three years after starting the project, Jerry brought it to its first show, one of the Original Super Chevy Shows, where the car was given the Outstanding Engineering Award. The next show was a Goodguys event where it won the Innovation Award. There’s a reason Jerry’s 1958 Corvette won those awards and that it’s here on the pages of Vette magazine—it’s a one-of-a-kind C1 that you just can’t ignore.
Photography by Stephen Kim