This ‘59 Corvette is a Father and Son’s Labor of Love
June 23, 1959 was a very important day for one Michigan native. That was the day that Clayton Wells, an administrative director, decided to trade in his ’54 Chevrolet 210 sedan and exchange it for a new 1959 Corvette, complete with 283ci V8, three-speed gearbox, and Positraction rear. What a decision that would be.
On July 20 he would receive that Frost Blue Corvette, and it might as well have been love at first sight. Clayton drove it everywhere—on trips, for work, around town, and even outfitted it with mud tires and metal studs to get through snow and ice. It was the best of daily transport until it was retired to the family barn in 1972, awaiting a restoration that would not come. This is a common theme among many classic car stories. At some point there just isn’t enough time, energy, or money left, and it’s time to pass it on. Carolinians Jerry and Mark Curtis were lucky to be the ones who received the ‘Vette, by way of a rather unique source. Here’s part of their story.
In 2006 a close friend of the Curtis family had purchased a low-mileage C4 Corvette, and in taking delivery of the car the transport driver mentioned his dad had an old ‘59 sitting in a barn. That driver? Carlton Wells, son of Clayton. In the following weeks pictures were mailed back and forth, a trove of documentation was revealed—everything and anything you could imagine—and it wasn’t long before the Curtis family had caught the ’59 bug and bought the car with plans on restoring it to National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) specifications. Luckily the car was all-original, and in August 2006 it was delivered to the family home. Due to garage space issues, the restoration process wouldn’t begin until 2010, but when it did, Jerry and Mark took every precaution in disassembling the Corvette, saving every last nut and bolt they could.
The restoration process revealed that the car was assembled on July 12, 1959, and upon close investigation the car still had its original starter motor, generator, fuel pump, and carburetor—all of which were restored to like-new condition. The frame was disassembled into 50 pieces, then dipped, cleaned, and painted by a family friend. Another friend and Corvette expert provided all the engine work, while at the same time the body was stripped, soda blasted, and repainted. No breaks or stress cracks to be seen here. It became a true family affair for Jerry and Mark, and eventually Mark’s cousin Mike became an integral third member of the team. Speaking to the originality of this car, very few reproduction parts were used in the restoration process. If it had to be replaced, a new-old-stock part was at the top of the list…no matter how hard to find. This became a real issue when sourcing a carpet, which had a—gasp—15 month delay after the Belgian company stopped making it. Those original nuts and bolts they saved? They were blasted with glass beading, refinished, and plated in cadmium and black phosphate.
With the interior complete, the car was cranked over for the first time and a sigh of relief was felt by all. Everything seemed to be in order. It was not long before the ‘Vette would make its all important NCRS debut in Charlotte. “Dad and I have spent many Saturdays in the garage working on the car, and it is a labor of love that has a lot of sentimental value in it,” says Mark. “We have worked together in a family business for 29 years but this restoration has made the family bond even stronger.” “We both owe a debt of gratitude to our lovely wives, Joyce and Jacqueline, for their love and support in this restoration.”
So did the Corvette earn its NCRS Top Flight score? Yes, on April 23, 2015, and it’s not hard to see why. But more importantly, the event marked the first time that Clayton Wells and his wife Mary Jo could see their Corvette since it left the family barn nearly 10 years prior. Mark says it was an experience both families were lucky to have, and one that continues to live on in the life of this reborn American classic. Many thanks to Mark for sharing his Chevy Corvette story. If you’ve got a classic car tale to tell, drop us a line!