"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, Wow! What a ride!" That is what 44-year-old famed marathon runner Dean Karnazez in a recent issue of Wired magazine had to say, and, frankly, a mantra we should all apply to our lives. While Dan Tucker from Little Rock, Arkansas, may not have run any grueling, body-torturing, muscle-searing endurance races, his '66 Candy Apple Red Corvette roadster sure has.
Even amid an influx of angry letters and heated e-mails from preservationists and collectors, Corvette Fever has unwaveringly stood fast to its postition of driving one's Corvette. Simply put-it's a car, and cars need to be driven.
Since the mid-'70s, Dan has driven his gorgeous Sting ray with gleeful relish and a heavy right foot. Once a standard four-speed, 327-powered roadster, after 30 years of wrenching, daily driving, sprawling road trips, local cruises, and more wrenching by Dan, it has racked up more mileage than many commercial trucks. The joy of ownership, this 66-year-old kid-at-heart opines, is that the Corvette is 100-percent his, having turned almost every screw and tightened nearly every bolt himself.
Steve Haynes, a cousin to Dan, is the proprietor of Steve's Speed Shop in Little Rock. In 1976, he was preparing to propose to his long-time girlfriend and needed to scrounge up enough money for an engagement ring. Coincidentally, a regular patron to his business had a tab that had steadily accrued over the years and opted to exchange the pink slip of his '66 Corvette for absolution of his debt. Though Steve was tempted to hang onto the Vette for a future in drag racing, he sold Dan the Corvette for $3,000, which gave him the money he needed to buy a ring.
Noting the different courses their lives have taken, Dan says, "Now [Steve] has a wife and three kids, and I have the car." Dan's garage also houses a beautiful '69 RS/SS 396 Camaro and his father's '55 Nomad wagon, a vehicle his dad had purchased new and used as his transportation when he was a traveling salesman during the Eisenhower administration. When his father passed away in 1974, Dan took the keys and made a conscious effort to keep the '55 sound, solid, and running, just how his father would have wanted it. While the ponycar and the shoebox Chevy are kept under cover, the '66 is anything but.
Though not a "Vette Rod" by recent definitions of the term, Dan's midyear roadster has been through several different incarnations. Skeptical of anyone working on his '66, Dan has made it a point over the last 30 years to conduct the majority of modifications and repair work himself, relying on the assistance of specialized professionals only when necessary. With the help of his friend Jack Thomas, Dan has transformed this run-of-the-mill drop-top into an endurance runner. The Corvette's most recent engine combination is an overbored, stroked 385 small-block built by "Stump," Rebel Rebuilders' owner.