The National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) was founded in the mid-‘70s for the purpose of verifying the authenticity of a factory built Corvette. Unfortunately, documentation on early Corvettes is sketchy. The NCRS has done exhaustive research to confirm the correct standards that a Corvette must meet to be judged factory correct. The driving purpose of this effort is to preserve the way Corvettes appeared as they left the Saint Louis or Bowling Green Assembly Plant. The NCRS created regional chapters around the U.S. to allow trained judges to inspect and certify Corvettes against that standard. If they meet the requirements the owners are presented with a coveted Top Flight award at the evening banquet.
We recently visited one of these events in Detroit. Werner Meier is the chairman of the Michigan NCRS Chapter (www.michiganncrs.org). He’s assisted by Tom Dingman, the incoming Judging Chairman, and Patrick Hulst, coordinator of the meet. The Michigan Chapter has close to 250 members and it began in the early-’80s. Each summer they host their annual meeting at Les Stanford Chevrolet (www.corvetteking.com) in Dearborn. Les Stanford is one of the top Corvette dealers in the U.S.
The four-day event began at the Dearborn Inn on June 7th and ended at the Milford Proving Ground on June 10th. The schedule was full of exciting stops that kept members and guests busy from morning to night. On Friday afternoon, the group went to the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The Center stores over 500 significant cars and rotates about 140 cars into the display area on a routine basis. Every car is operational and many are loaned out to various museums and events year round. The Center is not open to the public, but private tours can be arranged. David Hill, retired Corvette Chief Engineer, and Kirk Bennion were on hand to mingle and answer questions. Every generation Corvette and many Corvette concept cars were on display. We saw the Manta Ray, 2009 Stingray Concept, 1973 Aerovette and the 1959 Stingray Racer sitting on the center floor. These special Corvettes did not have any barricades surrounding them so it was easy to get close to GM’s crown jewels. Next, the group headed to Brighton, Michigan, for a reception at the Lingenfelter car collection. Our host, Ken Lingenfelter, was on hand to guide visitors through his immense collection and answer questions. Over 60 Corvettes are displayed and they represent every generation that has been produced. The assortment houses other brands, but our favorite sports car was the highlight of the visit. Fabulous Restorations displayed their replica L88 Owens Corning race car at Lingenfelter’s. When owner George Haddad fired up the L88 to move it outside, the crowd gathered around the awesome sound of the L88 engine’s raw horsepower.
NCRS judging took place on Friday and Saturday at the Les Stanford annex. Almost 40 Corvettes were inspected outside and under a large white, carpeted tent. Three categories were available for owners: Top Flight, Second Flight and Sportsman. Twenty-four Corvettes received Top Flight and three received Second Flight. Sportsman category awards were given if owners successfully drove their cars to the event for three consecutive days. Saturday night awards were presented to the owners during a banquet that was held at Les Stanford Chevrolet. Ed Welburn, retired GM Global Vice President of Design, was the guest speaker. Ed shared how his passion for Corvettes began at a young age and how he involved the Global Design team in generating ideas for the seventh-generation Corvette. Kirk Bennion (Corvette Exterior Design Manager) and his team’s C7 drawings in Detroit were selected for the final C7 design.
The next morning, the NCRS met at the Bakers of Milford restaurant. After breakfast the Corvettes were lined up in the parking lot for the 3.6-mile drive to the Milford Proving Grounds. Fortunately, a police escort was arranged and almost 50 Corvettes rumbled down a busy two lane highway to the entrance. All of the cars were directed to park in the visitor lot in front of Building 104. We met in the lobby for a security briefing from our security host James Krumback. Two designated photo areas were arranged and the rest of the property was off limit for photos. We were guided by two black SUVs, one in front and one in back as we streamed out of the parking lot for our tour. It took about three hours and we received a detailed booklet to show us the key points of this expansive facility. We had two photo opportunities, one on the banked ride and handling 3.8-mile oval and the second on the 4.5-mile oval track. This is the same track that Jay Leno drove the ZR1 prototype on and exceeded 200 mph. After our tour we exited and drove back to Bakers to end the event.
The NCRS Motor City Regional was well organized and provided Corvette enthusiasts with an opportunity to be with other owners. They were able to get their car judged, visit a great car collection, visit the GM Heritage Center and drive around the mysterious and magical Milford Proving Grounds. For a Corvette Junkie, it doesn’t get much better than that. We strongly advise attending next year’s event.
Photography by Walt Thurn