During the winter of 1986, Landis started-and completed-a complete body-off restoration. In short, he did everything himself, except for the engine rebuild, the windshield installation, and the new soft-top.
At this point, the '63 was already good enough to achieve a Second Flight award, but this wasn't good enough for Landis. He went back to work, and again barely missed in 1988. Most of that work was found in the details. When the set of replacement hubcaps he'd found didn't measure up, Landis hammered out the dents, then re-filed and polished them, a task that he figures took 100 hours to complete. After locating a seemingly endless supply of correct fasteners, Landis went the same route with the rocker panels, grille, and the center console. Every chrome piece was replaced or re-chromed, the carpet replaced, and the gauges re-done.
Things finally came together in 1989. Landis and the '63 scored a Top Flight in Bend, Oregon, and repeated that feat in 1990 in Joplin, Missouri. The duo climbed the next rung on the NCRS ladder by going for a Performance Verification award, though that distinction didn't come easily. "I couldn't get the car into 2nd or 3rd," Landis recalls. "And I had 15 minutes to fix it." After a quick vendor check failed to turn up a replacement for the keeper that had fallen off the shift linkage, Landis improvised with a piece of wire, the mid-year passed its test, and there was only one other NCRS award left to gain: a Duntov. That came in 1991, and Landis received the award from Zora himself.
It was a satisfying moment, but it was also bittersweet. As Landis tells it, "At that point, I was like a kid graduating from school." He had also bought a '65 driver to enjoy, making it hard to keep up the older car. "When a car reaches that level, it takes something to keep it there," Landis reasoned. "I couldn't bear to see the effort I'd made wasted." So, the '63 was sold, and though Landis saw the money he got for it as a reward for his hard work, the simple fact was that the car was gone.
It was, of course, being enjoyed by Gary Waddle, who says that he has to "pinch himself every now and then" to believe that he has the car he's wanted since he was eight years old. When Landis tracked down Waddle at the Eureka Springs meet, his enthusiasm over seeing his old car was evident. "He talks about it like it's his baby," Waddle laughs. Indeed, even though it had been three or four years since Landis had seen the '63, he recognized it immediately when he saw it at Eureka Springs. "I miss that car; it sure looked good when I saw it again." Which is exactly how you want to feel when you run into an old friend.
Editor's note: After this article was completed, Gary Waddle sold his '63 to the friend who originally checked out the car with him, Chuck Middleton, and bought a '66 big-block. Given that the two work together, we're sure Gary will visit the roadster regularly.