CORVETTE SUMMER: This caravan packs a lot of horsepower
60 Corvette enthusiasts from across Ontario hit the road for Kentucky celebration
The National Corvette Museum is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend, and 65 of the make’s greatest enthusiasts from all over Ontario have already made their way to Bowling Green, Ky., to take part in the celebrations.
The group gathered in Mississauga last Sunday morning to form a caravan that wound its way through Southern Ontario, Michigan, and Indiana before entering Kentucky on Wednesday morning and joining more than 7,000 others from across North America.
The giant gathering of the cars and their enthusiasts takes place every five years.
Four days of activities were planned for participants, including museum tours, vendor displays, road trips, seminars and workshops on Corvette-related topics, and hot laps on the new motorsport park that opened across the street from the museum this week.
Representatives from Corvette Racing were on hand. So was the No. 3 Corvette C7.R that competes in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, along with the team’s crew chief. Plus other team members to help Corvette owners get the most out of their cherished vehicles.
The museum’s sinkhole is also on display, as are the vehicles that were retrieved from it. The event provides a fleeting opportunity to view the damaged cars before they are sent off to be either restored or scrapped.
Ron Tremblay and Sue Woodland, a husband-and-wife team from Newmarket, served as captains for this year’s Ontario caravan. They saw it as an opportunity to raise awareness for local Corvette clubs and owners while simultaneously helping to generate revenue for the National Corvette Museum.
“This is a big fundraiser for the museum,” Tremblay explains. “Everything there is done on contributions.”
Kirk Dobbs is from Pembroke, and is the president of the Valley Vettes Corvette Club, a group that brought a number of participants to last week’s caravan. Dobbs enjoys the attention that inevitably comes from being part of a large group of Corvettes traveling together.
“It’s way cool going down the road with 50, 60 cars all in a row,” he explains. “We buy look-at-me cars, and when we drive in groups we get more of that and people come and talk to us about it.”
Dobbs owns four Corvettes. The one he chose to drive to Bowling Green is a 2007 Z06 with a dramatic paint job and customized from the ground up. He’s had a Targa top installed, the interior redone in high-end Italian leather, the car lowered and the tires upsized. He took the car to North Carolina to have it tuned by the engineers at a shop that builds engines for pro race cars.
“We stopped when we hit 705 horsepower,” Dobbs explains. “That was beyond my target anyway.”
Dobbs admits that while many enthusiasts like to personalize their cars, he has taken modifications to an extreme. For him, that’s part of the fun.
“When we go to these things where there are thousands and thousands of Corvettes, it’s hard to stand out,” he says. “You have to do something radical.”
Steve Anderson of Newmarket is not a club member and heard about the event through a friend. But his love affair with his Corvette L48 goes back to 1977, when he bought it new and became the only owner it has ever had.
“My parents went nuts,” Anderson recalls. “They thought I was crazy. I had no job and I was still in university. They were telling me I should have bought something else.
“Their cars have long since gone to the scrap heap, so I’m looking pretty good right now.”
Sadly, it has had several misadventures. It was T-boned three months after it was bought and spent a month being repaired. Then, 20 years later the original battery finally died, and while the car was awaiting a replacement a hapless teenager tried to steal it.
“He chipped around the door, the roof, the ignition,” Anderson explains. “He was trying to figure out why he couldn’t get it to start. The dead battery was my saving grace.”
At that point, Anderson sent the car for a more thorough restoration, including a new darker blue paint job to replace the original light blue metallic. But for all the car has been through, one of his favourite memories in it was one of the very first.
“The very first weekend I got it, I took it to Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” he recalls. “That was a really nice trip.”
The Corvette’s connection with the Speedway is indelible, having served as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 12 times. A small number of replicas is sold after each event, and one of those cars joined last Sunday’s caravan: a 2007 model owned by Calvin and Judy Ward of Minden.
“I was looking for a Corvette and something different,” Calvin explains of his purchase decision. “It came from Calgary, from a dealership there, and I had it shipped.
“It means freedom. We spend so much time on the road, and when we go on events like this we just get away on our own. It’s perfect for us.”
After spending two years planning the event, what Tremblay and Woodland were looking forward to most was the opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones.
“We like going to this anniversary event because it’s where we started going to the museum and every time it’s the same people who come back,” Tremblay explains.
“These friendships don’t start up again, they just continue. That’s what’s nice about it. You get to meet different people and hear different stories, and the car only brings us together.”
“And we have that central point down in Kentucky where we can gather.”