Change is good, at least most of the time. Change came in late April to one of The National Corvette Museum's most popular ongoing events: the C5 Birthday Bash. The 7th annual Bash would be the first to partially redirect attention from the C5 to the new kid in Bowling Green, the soon-to-be-released C6.
The Museum acknowledged this by renaming the event the C5/C6 Birthday Bash. Chevrolet acknowledged the Museum's growing importance and place in the Corvette community by conducting the first outdoor and open showing of the sixth-generation Vette at the Bash and by donating rides in "pilot-line" C6s for the Museum to raffle off to Bash registrants. Note I said "rides." As of April 22, not even members of the automotive media had driven C6s. That didn't deter the crowds (pegged at over 2,700 by the NCM staff), and the opportunity to go for a ride in a C6--chauffeured by a GM staffer--was highly sought after.
Along with giving the C5 faithful plenty of time to get acquainted with the C6, the Museum unveiled its new Engineering Display Area. The close and cordial relationship between Chevrolet, the Corvette team, and the Museum is immediately apparent in the new exhibit, with literally tons of display materials. To cap off this new area, the barriers to keep visitors and the exhibits separated are made up of C6 framerails, showing each stage of production from a length of round tubing to a final hydroformed, complete framerail. Other highlights of the new section include a C6 "beta" test car; interactive displays, including one that clarifies the operation of the Magnetic Selective Ride system; and a complete "interior cubing buck," a full-scale C6 cockpit and surrounding body areas consisting of individual section "models" for evaluating interior details, fit, finish, and color.
There were, of course, the always popular and always well-attended seminars, with a particular emphasis on all things C6. As expected, Corvette engineers and designers were exceedingly tightlipped about the upcoming C6 Z06. Most of the motorsports activities (drag racing and autocrosses) had to be cancelled due to unseasonable and, occasionally, very heavy rain. The rain did let up enough to allow the obligatory and always fun Celebrity Choice car show and the C6's outdoor unveiling and rides. As Chief Engineer Dave Hill said while looking at wet pavement and clearing skies during his introductory remarks, "God must like Corvettes!"
Chevrolet used the Birthday Bash to introduce a Corvette Accessories Program. Program Manager Vicki DeGrace had a pair of Precision Red C6s, a coupe and a convertible, decked out in various accessories that may be available directly from your local Chevrolet dealership within a matter of months. The accessories were all along the lines of custom wheels, body color, and color-keyed trim pieces, with no performance-oriented parts like custom exhausts or induction pieces. Ms. DeGrace and her team were conducting participant surveys to gauge the interest in and potential of roughly two-dozen accessory items that are currently under evaluation. Everyone who participated received a gift and an entry in a drawing for a retrofit C5 Magnetic Ride system (it'll only work on cars with the "old" F45 Selective Real Time Damping system). The new kit will be available through GM Performance Parts outlets at a yet-to-be-determined date.
Speaking of dates that are yet to be de termined...mark your calendars for late April 2005 and plan on being in Kentucky for the 8th annual Bash, now known as the C5/C6 Birthday Bash.