What car lover wouldn’t want to drive a Corvette?
Designed to catch the eye of just about any enthusiast, it has played a cultural role in society for almost 60 years. It has been the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 several times, and has a connection with the American space program.
And the magic continues, kept alive by a series of Corvette Clubs.
The nearest one is the Brampton Corvette Club, affiliated with the Eastern Region of the Canadian Council of Corvette Clubs (CCCC).
Members get together, not just to celebrate an automobile. They take part in shows, and club member Terry Webb from Guelph said they are involved in a lot of charitable projects.
Webb, Caledon resident Glenn Mauer and other Corvette enthusiasts spent part of a recent Friday driving Caledon Meals on Wheels volunteers on their delivery rounds. And the club holds shows, such as one in July, with proceeds going to the Special Olympics.
“It’s just a day for people to come and show their cars off,” Mauer said.
The charitable activities of the clubs are important too. Webb said member clubs raise close to $100,000 annually for various worthy causes. He said the result would be the same if each member put up $250, “but we have a lot more fun doing it.”
There have been six classes of Corvette since General Motors first brought out the model in ‘53. C1 ran from “53 to ‘62, C2 from ‘63 to ‘67, C3 from ‘68 to ‘82, C4 from ‘84 to ‘96, C5 from ‘97 to ‘04 and C6 from ‘05 to the present.
“Each of the C designs basically defined a body style change,” Mauer observed, adding the C7s will probably be out in 2014.
They also said to expect some commemoration to go with next year’s models, in honour of the 60th anniversary. “They will do something to set it apart,” Mauer said.
The Corvettes have been making history since they came out.
When Alan Shepard returned to earth after being the first American in space in 1961, General Motors President Ed Cole presented him with a brand new 1962 Corvette, starting a relationship between astronauts and Corvettes that has lasted ever since. A special lease deal was set up by Chevrolet dealer Jim Rathman (who won the 1960 Indianapolis 500) that saw cars going to the astronauts. Six of the seven Mercury astronauts chose Corvettes (General Motors reported John Glenn selected a station wagon).
Mauer said the tradition continues, with astronauts joining the program getting a Corvette.
“It’s excellent promotion for GM,” he said.
Yet the popularity of the model was not always assured. Indeed, he said it was almost discontinued early on.
“The first years for the Corvette were not banner years,” he commented.
The saviour of the car was an eight-cylinder engine. He said it started with six, then added two more.
“It took off,” he said. “From there, there’s been no looking back.”
So what’s the appeal of the Corvette?
“You can’t just isolate one reason for the appeal,” Mauer said. “It’s the flagship car for GM,” Webb declared, adding he has read the Corvette is the most recognized car in the world.
Mauer added it’s the unique North American sports car, right down to the fact it’s a two-seater, with no room in the back.
Webb added the Harley-Davidson is the American classic motorcycle. “The Corvette is the American classic four-wheel.”
As well, he said there’s sort of a mystique between Corvette owners. The drivers of Corvettes passing each other will often wave.
“It’s just a cool thing,” he said, “just a recognition.”
Mauer had a bit of trouble when it came to his pick of the best year for the Corvette, but he was able to narrow it down to one of the C3s. “I love the body styles,” he said, adding the cars had flared fenders in those days. “When they went to the C4s, they took a lot of that away.”
The C2s and C3s were also the time of the Sting Ray, or Stingray (one word) after 1967. Webb said he’s owned four Corvettes, all C3s and all Stingrays.
He was quick to add that’s all a matter of personal opinion.
“Different strokes for different folks,” he remarked. “You could survey 10 other people and get 10 different answers. That’s the cool thing about the hobby.”
He added in some cases, one’s favorite goes back to a memory. He recalled being 13 years old when he saw a ‘69 Corvette. “That was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen,” he said.
Written by Bill Rea