When it comes to Corvette stories, T. Wayne Lankford has a doozy.
In Pennsylvania, Lankford grew up next door to the wife of Corvette Hall of Fame inductee Chip Miller, who came pulling up into her driveway one day in a 1969 Monaco Orange Corvette.
That was the beginning of Lankford’s long love affair “with the car, not Chip,” Wayne says now, laughing.
“It was 1968, and I was still in college,” he recounts. “I went out in the driveway and he asked if I wanted to take a ride.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Lankford would have taken the plunge to buy a Corvette right then and there, but being a college student, his financial picture wasn’t quite in focus yet.
That picture was much sharper by May of 1972, however, when Wayne stopped in a Langhorn, Pa., dealership, where he saw a Donnybrook Green 1970 Corvette.
“It was one of the salesman’s demo cars, but it was for sale and in mint condition,” he said. “It had about 4,000 miles on it and was in my price range, $4,895. I called Chip and he came and looked at it. We took it for a test drive. He said it was perfect, there was nothing wrong with it – so I made a deal. I put $5 down on the car to hold it for three days.”
It would become his first Corvette, one that he has held onto for nearly 50 years and one that he has now entrusted to the National Corvette Museum.
“My wife and I have family, but no one who would really appreciate the car,” Wayne explains. “We couldn’t see something that I bought so long ago, that was my first love, just be sold to someone. It’s all original.”
It likely will seem strange for the Corvette not to be in the garage. Ever since Wayne and his wife, Pattie, married in 1975, the Corvette has always been there.
“We both enjoyed the car and showed it with the Corvette Club of Delaware Valley at Bryner Chevrolet in Jenkintown,” he says. “Later we bought a house, which then gave us a lot more work to do. We ended up letting the car sit.”
An accident at home in 2006 caused the car to do more sitting, finally prompting Pattie to issue an ultimatum: “My wife said I either needed to restore it or sell it. So, I decided to restore it. It was the best decision I ever made!”
The couple and their good friend, Mark Snyder of Performance Car Factory, spent the next 11 months bringing the car back to life.
“It wasn’t a frame-off restoration, but just about everything was off the car,” Wayne says. “My wife always told me that there would never be any kind of automobile part in our kitchen. When we were restoring the ’70, Mark took the wiring harness off, all the wires, chrome and vacuum hoses, and Pattie was going to clean them and polish them up. She was working in the garage and sweating, but suddenly those parts came into the kitchen so that she was working in the air conditioning,” Wayne laughs. “She did a fantastic job, she really helped out.”
While their 1970 Corvette will be residing in a new home at the Museum in Bowling Green, don’t feel sorry for the Lankfords. They still have an Arctic White 2017 Grand Sport and a Lime Rock Green 2014 and say they’ll remain active in the hobby.
“[Pattie] was a great driver of the C3 and really chirped all four gears,” Wayne says. “We also went to Ron Fellows and did the performance drive together. We not only participate in activities with our club, CCDV, but also belong to the Tri State Corvette Club and go to their shows. I thought it was time to go ahead and donate the 1970, and what better institution than NCM.”
They’re planning a visit to check out their old ’70 in late spring or early next fall, “once everything’s over with COVID and at least we see the car. We’re glad it’s going to be there, taken care of, and people can appreciate it as we did.”
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