This process, of course, worked great for dealing with the parts that were there. As for things that needed to be replaced...the name of the game was footwork. Harwood hit the big Corvette meets across the country, talking to anyone he thought might have even a clue to the whereabouts of any of the '55 items he needed. Through word of mouth and the telephone, he gradually found everything he needed. The one-year only heater cut-off valve was also found on Dodge trucks-that's where Harwood found his. The unique air cleaner? He ended up trading an engine for the correct piece. An original jack? It took 10 years to track one down. A correct vacuum advance? That took 11 years to find. A set of N.O.S. hubcaps were found at Carlisle one year. And how about a '55-only hood release, a cigarette lighter, and side curtains? The list was extensive, but like an automotive archeologist, Hopwood dug until he found the pieces he was looking for.
Over time, though, it all came together. Harwood did most of the work himself. He did enlist the help of a local man wearing a "Will Work For Food" sign to clean the greasy undercarriage-surprisingly, Harwood couldn't find him for a second day of work. Paint is another task he didn't want to tackle, and, unfortunately, problems with an unscrupulous shop owner caused Harwood to temporarily lose interest in the '55, though not in Corvettes. In fact, he bought a '62 racer and restored it to its original condition, and a 502-powered '71 for drag strip duty. In fact Harwood tells us he's "gone crazy," given that a 31,000-mile '65 and a '54 that's destined for a street rod treatment have joined his other three Vettes. He may not know why he bought that first one, but he sure knows what he likes!
Somewhere along the way, Harwood's wife Jackie joked that she'd like to ride in a '55 Corvette before she "passed on." That was the prodding Harwood needed to get the resto going again. Over the course of seven years he worked on reassembling the car, estimating it was about 80 percent done when he sent the car to Classic Restorations (located in Floyds Knobs) to be completed. Now planning on making it to February's NCRS Regional in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Harwood had the final touches applied when he flew in John Kennedy of House of Customs to stitch up the roadster's beige top and interior, which were finished barely a day before they had to leave Indiana for the meet.
Despite coming down with a slight case of manifold rust on the drive to the more humid South, Harwood's '55 was more than up to the test. All that research, documentation, and footwork added up to a 98 percent score and a Top Flight award in the car's coming out party. Harwood doesn't yet know if he'll go for any other awards. About his first Corvette and long-time project, he says, "It's awesome...it needs to be in a museum." And while we like to see Corvettes get driven, we agree in this case. All that digging and investigating brought one of the only 700 '55s built back to life, after all, and that's something worth preserving.