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2015 NCRS Winter Regional Meet in Florida

John Pfanstiehl Mar 17, 2015
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The National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) Winter Regional Meet in Florida is one of the longest consecutive running Corvette events in the country. It’s rich in tradition and an annual favorite of the Corvette community for good reasons. Timing and location are prime motivators for many attendees. After the hectic holidays, this first major Corvette event of the year is a great time to return to the pleasures of the hobby. And who wouldn’t want to shake off the winter doldrums in the sun, warmth, and greenery of central Florida?

Southern hospitality and friendliness permeate this event. All the people you see providing directions and helping out are volunteers. It’s non-profit. There are no entrance fees. There are no parking fees for Corvettes. And there are no parking fees for brand X vehicles, with the possible exception of Saturday if the overflow area is needed.

Plus, this meet has lots to offer. Stunning restored vintage Corvettes converge from around the country for judging. Rare race cars, prototypes, and custom Corvettes make their appearance, some for the first time. Cars for sale in the Car Corral range from basket cases to finished restomods and everything in between—but without any bidder or seller commissions. Corvette owners can inspect and purchase new parts from upwards of 150 vendors and then stroll through the sprawling swap meet to hunt and bargain for used components. Saturday features three separate Corvette shows. In addition to the NCRS show, the National Council of Corvette Clubs (NCCC) has a sanctioned show along with Classic Corvettes of Orlando’s 10th Annual Wash and Shine Show. And the extensive Corvette parking area is a show in itself.

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NCRS’s Winter Regional Meet moved to Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, FL, for 2015, and the foreseeable future. Vintage airplanes and private aircraft landing and taking off make an exceptional backdrop for this popular annual Corvette meet.

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New for 2015, a large hangar provides a fully enclosed area for the NCRS judging. Inside, SUN ‘n FUN artwork on the walls adds a great background for cars. Walking around these pristine Corvettes conjures images of a very well stocked Chevrolet dealer showroom decades ago.

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The 1964 CERV II mid-engine Corvette, designed by Zora Arkus-Duntov, made a rare appearance. With four-wheel drive, four-wheel disc brakes, and four-wheel independent suspension, this 1,800-pound racer shot to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds and on to a top speed well over 200 mph.

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John Neas owns this SR-1, believed to be the only production-based ’56 Corvette that raced at Sebring. Note the large air scoops for the rear brakes and the small lamps added to the body to illuminate the numbers at night.

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This is the sole remaining “Proof of Concept” car for the 1990 ZR-1 project. It required many modifications to a standard C4 model on the path to fleshing out Corvette’s King of the Hill. The instrumentation on top of the Phase II LT5 dual overhead cam, 32-valve engine was used for noise and heat testing.

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Accurate restoration is at the heart of NCRS events. Five teams of specialized judges inspect each car for deviations from the “as manufactured” standard. After discussion, checking NCRS judging manuals, and consensus, a score is given that determines the level of certification. For the car’s owner it’s a time of reckoning on the years of restoration.

A big change occurred for the 2015 edition in that the event moved to an airfield. The previous site, Old Town in Kissimmee, lost its lease on adjacent areas needed for an event this size. With the news coming just six months before the event, organizers had to scramble to find a new venue with enough space. The Linder Regional airport in Lakeland is home to SUN ‘n FUN, a huge international Fly-in and Expo held every April. This new site for the NCRS Winter Regional Meet brings increased space for the vendors, the swap meet, the car corral, and adjoining secure trailer parking. Also new is covered space for the NCRS judged cars, utilizing an onsite aircraft hangar. Attendees will also find on-site RV and camping space and plenty of meeting space. Compared to Old Town, attendee parking is much improved with large parking areas reserved for Corvettes and nearby parking for all other vehicles. For 2016, organizers are looking to take advantage of the tarmac space by adding autocrossing and drag racing to the schedule.

The new location offers more possibilities for flights. For the first time, there are fly-in opportunities for small aircraft right at the meet at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (LAL). Orlando International Airport (MCO) always has plenty of flights and now Tampa International Airport (TPA) is even closer. That’s a welcomed addition. The Tampa airport is one of the nicer airports in the country and is a pleasant 39-mile drive to the meet.

In its 37 years, this popular Corvette meet has brought enthusiasts to several great locations. The Cypress Gardens theme park had its Southern charm and beautiful scenery. Kissimmee’s Old Town, so close to Disney, was funky and fun and offered a few high adrenaline rides. Now at Lakeland airport, the NCRS Regional Winter Meet has found an exceptional new home with plenty of room to grow in the years to come.

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A portable lift helped show restorers and future judges to better see what details to look for. Restored Corvettes are not raised on a lift for NCRS judging, mechanical and chassis judges will get down on the ground and use a flashlight to inspect everything that’s visible to the eye.

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A restored engine like this 427 is a thing of beauty to an old Corvette enthusiast. NCRS judging requires removal of a few things such as the air cleaner, spare tire, and ignition shielding to inspect numbers and verify component authenticity.

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Advantages of attending this event include the ability to easily drop off or pick up parts for rebuilding and meet vendors in person. At the VanSteel (vansteel.com) booth, you can also inspect new designs, such as C2, C3, and C4 coilovers. VanSteel also goes to the Houston, Dallas, Bloomington, Carlisle, and Columbus shows.


Location, Location, Location

Getting there: The Lakeland Linder Airport location offers a lot to visitors and vendors alike. If you have a private plane, just fly-in. If not, two major airports, Tampa and Orlando, are about an hour away. By car, I-4 and a few miles of rural roads make for easy access, but enter 4175 Medulla Road, Lakeland, Florida, into GPS units to avoid routing to the wrong side of the airport. Once at the SUN ‘n FUN venue on the southwest side of the airport, parking is easy for all.

On site: Vintage planes, the Florida Air Museum, occasional private plane traffic, and a nature trail set this show apart. Food vendor offerings included Southern dishes like fresh fried catfish and clams with hush puppies and show staples like hot dogs for $2 and pulled pork sandwiches for $6.

Accommodations: Several hotels are 5-6 miles away and at least one offered shuttle service to the meet. Many national brand hotels are a little farther away and most of these offered discounted rates to attendees. Camping for RVs, trailers, and tents is just a short stroll to the meet. Hook-ups are available at some sites.

Nearby attractions: Disney, the other major Orlando entertainment attractions, and the immense Mecum collector car auction in Kissimmee are about 60 miles away, as are the Gulf of Mexico’s white sand beaches stretching from Clearwater to St. Petersburg. For anyone interested in architecture, a little known local treasure is on the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland: the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures anywhere in the world.

NCRS Winter Regional Meet
Linder Regional Airport
4175 Medulla Road,
Lakeland, FL 33811

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Over 100 vendors provide a wealth of opportunity for inspecting and shopping for Corvette parts and accessories. Call ahead and they may be able to bring the parts you need to the meet.

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The NCRS Winter Regional Meet is so established and large that it attracts many national Corvette suppliers. I’ll bet the Florida weather factors into that decision, too.

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A frequent visitor to the SUN ‘n FUN location is now Lance Miller, co-owner of Corvettes at Carlisle. Carlisle Event’s Zephyrhills show, auction, and swap meets are being moved in 2015 to the Lakeland airport location to accommodate growth. These annual collector car events are now rebranded Fall Florida AutoFest and Winter Florida AutoFest with the move.

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A variety of custom frames, suspensions, and performance crate engines are displayed. The show enables customers to talk to builders and inspect workmanship and quality.

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A shape of things to come? This C6 from Fabulous Restorations in Ft. Lauderdale sports a three-piece front splitter, a large power bulge in the hood for the Magnuson supercharger, air deflectors on the rocker panels, a functional roof scoop, and a diffuser beneath the rear bumper. Customers have already pressured owner George Haddad to install them on their cars and he’s considering whether to make them available nationwide.

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Cars for sale in the Car Corral ranged from $3,900 for a running C4 and other “drivers” to six-figure restomod and restored Corvettes. The diversity in years, makes, models, and condition is as great as the range in asking prices.

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