Seeing someone you haven't seen in awhile can be a tricky thing. If you're fortunate, the sight of a long lost friend brings back lots of great memories and the warm feeling that comes from seeing someone you've missed. If you're not so fortunate, these encounters can be ugly and awkward as you try to avoid that rude, overbearing person that you never really liked. When that "someone" is a Corvette, though, it's a pretty good bet that those feelings are favorable. And they certainly were when a meeting of this type happened at last November's Eureka Springs Corvette Weekend when Gary Waddle, Vic Landis, and the '63 roadster they've both owned had a family reunion of sorts.
Gary Waddle of Alexander, Arkansas, became hooked on fiberglass after a youthful ride in a '62, and knew he had to someday own a drop-top Corvette. It took awhile, but that dream did come true. Waddle started with a '95 coupe, a car that he knew he wanted the moment he saw it. And though he loved that car, he still lusted after a convertible, which led him to answer an ad for a '63. The ad ran in the paper for awhile, and Waddle finally decided to go have a look. And it happened again; he looked at the car, and knew he had to have it. "Everywhere you looked," Waddle recalls, "it looked like new. Instead of looking 38 years old, it looks like it just came from the dealer."
Waddle drives the '63 on "pretty" weekends, and enjoys the response he gets during these joy rides: "It amazes me-little kids, 7-8 years old, say 'cool car.' They think it's sharp." The ragtop also sees duty at car shows, which is how it came to be in the right place at the right time. About his meeting with Landis, Waddle says, "We met for the first time at Eureka Springs; we'd talked, but not met. He was happy to see the car, and made sure he tracked me down." The two had a cordial meeting, but it was the '63 that Landis was really happy to see.
Landis, a resident of Harrison, Arkansas, first met the red roadster at an auction in 1984. "I had a '59, which was stolen," he recalls. "I vowed I would own another one, but the '63 caught my eye. The fact that is was numbers matching meant nothing to me." For the measly sum of $10,500, Landis took the car home. What he had obtained was an unrestored, daily-driven Vette that purported to have 58-59 thousand miles on the clock. The ragtop was powered by the optional 300-horse 327 and backed by a four-speed. He also had an early production car (No. 301), built in the second week of September, which meant that it had under-seat depressions that may have been for storage, and also a few other parts that weren't found on later '63s.
Landis was in for a bit of a surprise, however, when he got into his new Vette and checked out its history. After doing his homework, Landis determined that the '63 actually had more like 250,000 miles on it. "It didn't show that kind of miles," he remembers, "and didn't look or drive like a high-mileage car." A big reason for that is probably the car's former owners. The Vette was the favorite ride for a doctor's wife in Chicago for eight years, and was then sold to a gentleman, also in Chicago, who proceeded to put somewhere around 200,000 miles on the car. He was fanatical about maintenance, and had virtually every service receipt, even for oil changes. The roadster then went to a Colorado Springs collector before eventually ending up in front of Vic Landis at auction.
"The car would have been an excellent driver," Landis recalls. By 1986, however, he was a member of the NCRS and knew full well what "matching numbers" meant. He decided to restore the Vette, and also liked the fact that tearing it down would give him the chance to learn more about the car. There was no NCRS chapter in Landis' hometown, so the group's judging manual served as his guide. When he had questions, Landis would call NCRS Master Judge Art Senn. But what it all came down to, as it usually does with these matters, is the hours of work that Landis put in on the Vette.