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1958 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible - Sky High

When Joie Chitwood Said Jump, This '58 Corvette Said How High?

Kevin Shaw May 1, 2006
Corp_0605_03_z 1958_chevrolet_corvette_convertible_sky_high White_exterior_front_view 2/1

The word "relic" carries a negative connotation in the automotive world, when in all actuality, the working definition is something rather complimentary: an object of religious veneration; something cherished for its age or historic interest. When one refers to something as a relic it should be revered for its historical significance. So when we refer to Joie Chitwood's Snowcrest White '58 convertible as a working, functioning relic of Corvette his-tory, we mean it with the utmost respect and reverence. This Corvette, though only used for a single season of the Chit-wood Thrill Show, became one of the highlights of his daredevil stunts. So indelible was the mark made by the Corvette's fuel-injected V-8, lightweight fiberglass-bodied performance that Joie would utilize later Corvettes in subsequent years, most notably setting a World's Record for driving 5.6 miles on only two wheels!

Before Joie was jumping Cor-vettes, he was racing across the midwest states, beginning with dirt tracks in Winfield, Kansas, in 1934 before progressing to the Kurtis Kraft Formula One racing team in 1950. Between those years, he raced seven times in the Indianapolis 500, taking Fifth place on three different occasions.

Joie's reputation then brought him to Hollywood, where he would perform as a stunt driver and a consultant and coordinator. on several occasions, he took on minor acting roles, most notably in the Indy 500 film, To Please a Lady starring Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck. Joie then chose to retire from professional racing and host a stunt driving and daredevil auto show. His prowess and talent at wowing the crowds landed him the moniker-Hell Driver-since daredevil was too timid a description.

So wide-spread was Joie's fame that he was enlisted to perform at the Islip, New York Speedway for ABC's Wide World of Sports. Eleven years later, sixty-six-year-old Joie would set the World Record for the longest distance traveled while balanced on two wheels in an automobile.

The Joie Chitwood Thrill Show performs even today, now as the Joie Chitwood Thunder Show, and is run by his sons and grandson, Joie Chitwood III, vice president of business affairs for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Joie used this '58 roadster in his Thrill Show for only one year, making death-defying leaps over obstacles and off ramps with little to nothing altered on the Corvette. He relied upon the factory suspension components and stout underbody construction to survive the beating. There are not too many members of the NCRS today who would give their beautiful convertible the Dukes of Hazzard treatment, but at the time, both Joie and Chevrolet wanted to display how rugged and brawny these roadsters truly were.

When the Corvette was retired from the Chitwood Thrill Show, it was sold to Skip and Marianne Strong of Lansing, Michigan. Knowing the Chitwood Corvette was something significant, the Strongs kept the convertible in their cottage, reserving the car for occasional jaunts around their home and cruises. Skip wanted to maintain the factory car as pure as when he purchased it, as it came from the factory line altered enough. Joie needed this Corvette to be as built as he could get it, so it came with a 4.11 posi with 15-inch rims, both rare options. The 283 V-8 came with the mechanical fuel injection and signature dual exhaust, exiting out of the bumper and underneath the taillights. With just a hair over 18,000 miles on the odometer, Skip felt the engine didn't require a rebuild and let it be. Skip did conduct a restoration in the '90s that only required a year of his labor. He also contacted Joie's widow for permission to use the original Thrill Show logo on the doors.

Before Skip passed, the car was entered in several NCRS events, wowing the judges and members alike for his preservation of such a memorable piece of rolling history. The interior is as immaculate as the rest of the car with the factory radio-delete plate untouched. Little work was really required as the Strongs made a conscious effort to retain the Corvette in its original condition. Included in the deal was all the documentation for the car: original registration, title, and sales paperwork.

On its own, even were it not Chitwood's stunt mule, the car would be a show stopper, but adding in the car's heritage makes it all the more valuable. Marianne preserved the Corvette in its original condition, just as her late husband had left it. Unfortunately, shortly after this photo shoot, Marianne fell ill and passed away, leaving the '58 to her children.

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