Road Trip: Cruising to an American Classic
The 2018 Corvettes of Carlisle show in Penn State
Carlisle, Pennsylvania – Home to the Corvettes at Carlisle for over 30 years – billed as being the largest and most fun-filled Corvette show in the world. The annual event features more than 5,000 Corvettes representing all generations of America’s classic sports car. As an avid Corvette enthusiast and owner, it was an absolute must that I make the 825-kilometre trek to the 2018 show.
My chariot of choice for the nine-and-a-half hour drive – the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe. Visually deceptive when it comes to a luxury SUV; Blacked out trim, emblems and wheels over dark grey metallic paint made our vehicle look more like a police interceptor than a luxury roller. Not necessarily a bad thing – most if not all traffic was more than accommodating when it came to vacating the left (passing) lane. And paired with the fact that I was communicating with a chase vehicle via walkie-talkie… you get the idea.
The five basic elements of automotive luxury are power, space, light, quiet and comfort, all of which our Tahoe had in spades. Once behind the wheel of our Tahoe, the luxury touches became more evident yet remained slightly subdued. Power? Yup! Touring through the Thousand Islands (just east of Kingston Ontario) and over the Alexandria Bay Port U.S. border crossing into New York state, was effortless.
The Tahoe’s Ecotech3 6.2L Direct Injection V8 mated to a 10-speed automatic devoured the roads mile after mile. Transitioning over rolling hills, valleys and across rivers, there was always enough power (and torque) to glide over and around any and all obstacles.
General Motors has been refining the large SUV recipe for quite some time, and it seems that the final dish is greater than the sum of the ingredients. Our Tahoe had the optional Magnetic Ride Control, enhanced reconfigurable driver information centre (8” screen), leather appointed full feature seats and head-up display (HUD), to ensure our journey to Carlisle was less like driving a vehicle and more like taking our luxury living room on a road trip.
We were always comfortable during our journey – the seats, with their ventilation function and the magnetic suspension coddled us over the harshest potholes (some of which were so large you’d think they had 2-bedrooms and a view)! With the windows up, the ride was virtually silent and was accentuated by the absolutely epic views surrounding us and on display through the almost seamless windows.
Navigating through the twists and turns of US-81 south, the Tahoe felt very planted and yielded minimal body roll. Driving a vehicle of this size was surprisingly fluid (as it was equipped with the optional 22 inch wheels), and delivered confidence in maneuverability during tight, low speed scenarios.
During our drive, we were able achieve 39 mpg (6.0L/100km) instant economy and an average of 27 mpg (8.7L/100km) during our nine hour highway blast. Impressive numbers considering this vehicle’s curb weight is approximately 5,355 lbs. These numbers were no doubt attained with the assistance of the SUV’s cylinder deactivation feature that allowed our Tahoe to switch into V4 mode every chance it had. The transition was quite seamless and to be perfectly honest, we never felt the switch from eight to four cylinders once.
Driving through Carlisle we started to see dozens of Corvettes from all generations littering the parking lots and roadways, as though this was the only car available for sale in the US market. We promptly made our way to the main gate and into the show to enjoy, as one person near us stated, “Corvette heaven!”
The enormity of the fairgrounds is truly unbelievable. To put it into perspective, the land area of about twenty football fields might compare. Everything from new parts, used parts, swap-meets, and new exhaust systems with on-the-spot installations are available. Burnout competition? Check! A meet-and-great with General Motors’ designers and marketing staff? Check! Food, merchandise and basically everything you need for your Corvette was available.
Perusing through the seemingly endless number of used parts available for purchase, we were able to meet some great people and share a few laughs. Dan, at Just Corvettes from St. Charles Missouri, was one of those connections we made. Once he learned we were Canadians (eh), he told us a great little tale about how some (other) Canadians, years ago stole his beer from the show. As he told it, “you know, they were the nicest thieves I’ve ever come across – they stole my Yuengling (locally brewed beer of choice) and replaced it with a six-pack of Molson Canadian!” Seems like a true story; Too polite not to be!
After some great story telling and chatting about cars, we proceeded to open intense negotiations over some used Corvette parts. This is the single greatest thing about the Carlisle show – you can get near-new parts for a fraction of their value in Canada, even after currency conversion and duty charges. I was able to get wheels, tires and rear quarter panels (all of which easily fit in the Tahoe) for seventy percent off their MSRP north of the border.
Car people in general, from my own experiences, are very open and inviting and are always willing to talk about cars (usually their own). Literally everyone we met at Corvettes at Carlisle was on another level. Whether it was the staff directing us to certain areas or events or sellers like Dan, telling us were to find the parts we were hunting for – even if he himself didn’t have them at his booth, made us feel like we were amongst friends.
Four days is not nearly enough time to consume all that is offered at this show. That being said, we showed up with a plan in terms of what we wanted to see and what we wanted to buy. There are a number of local establishments as well that should garner your attention if you find yourself in town. One said institution was Desperate Times – Brewery & Eatery, a local brew house that did not disappoint. Their signature beers were excellent and the food hit the spot every time. Awarded two bronze medals at the 2018 U.S. Open Beer Championships, Desperate Times is the real deal and not to be missed!
Cruising to Corvettes at Carlisle 2018 was a dream come true, especially considering we were able to drive one of GM’s best vehicles (the Tahoe) to a show all about their premier sports car! They say the journey is just as important as the destination. I completely agree with that sentiment only if the means of transportation are as capable and comfortable as our 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe. Comfortable, safe and powerful are the feelings that emanated from us every time we drove the Tahoe. Great journey, great people, and an absolutely remarkable show – what more could anyone really ask for?
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