1958 Corvette: Featuring Unique Designs

VERN PARKER
Motor Matters

Bill Kellenberger had a special affection for the 1958 Chevrolet Corvette, as it was the first model to have four headlights and small grille openings that flanked the center grille with its nine chrome-plated teeth. It had a base price of $3,631.

When Kellenberger retired as a commercial airline pilot he searched for, purchased, and became the happy owner of a red 1958 Corvette. Its previous owner had given the car a total restoration and had trailered it to car shows ever since. He then gave the car to his daughter, who had no garage space or interest in the Corvette. When he first saw the Corvette, “I liked what I saw,” Kellenberger recalls.

From disuse, the brakes were useless, so he had the 14-foot, 9-inch-long Corvette hauled home. “All I was going to do was a brake job,” Kellenberger says with a straight face.

“My intention was to go through the brakes and then drive it and enjoy it as-is,” he claims. That’s his story and he’s sticking with it. After putting the 2,793-pound car up on jack stands, he sent the brake cylinders off to be rebuilt. “While I was waiting, I thought I might as well detail the engine compartment,” he says.

That proved to be a difficult task with the engine in place. After pulling the engine, he easily cleaned and detailed the engine bay. And as long as the engine was out of the car, he thought he might as well remove the valve covers to inspect the innards. “I found two of the 16 valves about to wipe out,” Kellenberger says. That’s when he discovered that the original 283-cubic-inch V-8 had been replaced with a more powerful 350-cubic-inch V-8 from 1969, so he rebuilt the engine.

At that point he noticed that the cockpit carpet was showing wear, so he replaced it. But that made the seats look shabby, so they had to be replaced. The door panels, in turn, were replaced, as were the kick panels. Of course, the new interior outshone the inside of the trunk, which also got new carpeting.

A hallmark of the 1958 Corvettes, Kellenberger says, is a pair of chrome spears running from either side of the rear license plate up the length of the trunk lid. In the Corvette’s previous restoration, those chrome spears had been left off and the holes in the fiberglass were filled in. Kellenberger located replacement spears and mounted them on the trunk lid. They looked great, but with the additional weight, the trunk lid wouldn’t stay open. He solved that dilemma with a second set of springs. Most of the parts he needed came from a Michigan supplier.

Next came the underside of the car, which Kellenberger cleaned and painted. And as long as he was down there, he installed a stainless-steel exhaust system so he wouldn’t be troubled again with that task. “That exhaust talks to me,” he says. “It’s music to my ears.”

After installing a Hurst shifter, Kellenberger reports, “It’s a totally different car. It’s a sweetheart.” He’s quite confident of his Corvette whenever he settles behind the three-spoke steering wheel and looks out over the 160-mph speedometer and long engine hood. It will take him wherever he wants to go in comfort and style on its 102-inch wheelbase. “It rides as good as any car,” Kellenberger says after replacing the original bias-ply tires with radials.

A hallmark of the 1958 Corvettes is a pair of chrome spears running from either side of the rear license plate up the length of the trunk lid.