CHICAGO-The fall edition of Chevy/Vettefest, held in Chicago over the weekend of November 23 and 24, is the final major Chevy show of the year. This year's show marked another finale: the end of Camaro production. Nearly 50,000 people streamed into the McCormick Place Exposition Center for a Camaro celebration they won't forget.
The last Camaro available to the public, the 4,774,165th Camaro built, was on display, owned by Marc & Jeniffer Gembinski of Imlay City, Michigan. Then came a large group of COPO Camaros. The Central Office Purchase Order (COPO) allowed savvy dealers to order Chevrolets with special performance equipment, and Fred Gibb Chevrolet in tiny La Harpe, Illinois, used the system to perfection. Headlining the display was the original Fred Gibb ZL-1 Camaro, one of 69 of the aluminum-engined monsters he had built. Mrs. Helen Gibb, wife of the late Chevy dealer, made a special appearance on Sunday afternoon. Berger Chevrolet in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was another dealer who worked the COPO system well, and a number of their Camaros, both vintage and modern, were displayed, including a number of awesome '02 ZL1 Camaros powered by the 650hp C5-R Corvette racing engine.
The first of Fred Gibb's COPO cars was the '68 "Mystery" Nova, and one of these rare gems was displayed, owned by Dennis Hartweg, of Pleasant Plains, Illinois. Just 50 of these cars, powered by the 375hp 396 Rat, were built. Other muscle Chevys included a one-of-a-kind '70 LS6 Chevelle that was special ordered from the factory with an unusual green paint. The original build sheet reads: "Solid color application using 92799846 Green acrylic lacquer on the body. Stripes are to be White." David P. Gilsmer of Chicago is the proud owner. The original '70 LS6 of Dean Ribach, Plymouth, Minnesota, is the only unrestored Chevelle ever to be Diamond Certified by the National Chevelle Owners Association and earned the Top Gun(tm) award for Best Original/Unrestored Chevrolet.
Original and restored automobiles were eligible for the famed Gold Spinner(tm) award if judged to be within 95 percent of factory-delivered condition, and 59 Chevys and Corvettes took home the award. Custom and race cars also filled the place, including Bob and Steve Delia's fine '37 Chevy Cabriolet street rod, the Top Gun(tm) winner for Best Custom Chevrolet. Crowds also gathered around the gorgeous vintage rail dragster owned and raced by Vincent Iganoffo of Wonder Lake, Illinois, which featured a Woody Gilmer chassis built in 1967. A total of 139 Bow Tie Boulevard(tm) plaques were handed out to custom and race Chevys of outstanding quality, while a handful of Top Gun(tm) Awards went to the best of the 'fest.
After closing out 2002 in fine fashion, the '03 show season opens with the spring edition of Chevy/Vettefest. The show returns to the McCormick Place Exposition Center in downtown Chicago the weekend of March 15th and 16th. For more information contact Mid America Promotions, 7322 S. Archer Road, Justice, Illinois 60458, (708) 563-4300, midamericapromotions.com.
Top Gun(tm) Awards Best Restored Corvette: '58 Corvette, Norris Stoute, La Fayette, LABest Restored Chevrolet: '70 Chevelle, Richard Peters, Clarendon Hills, ILBest Original/Unrestored Chevrolet: '70 Chevelle LS6, Dean Ribich, Plymouth,MNBest Original/Unrestored Corvette: '67 Corvette, John Ballard, Louisville, KYBest Custom Corvette: '63 Corvette, Bill McFarland, Palos Hills, ILBest Custom Chevrolet: '67 Nova wagon, Bill Jelinek, New Lenox, ILBest Custom Chevrolet: '37 Chevrolet, Bob Delia, Libertyville, ILBest Custom/Modified Truck: '71 Chevy 3/4 Ton, Mark Schobert, Yorkville, ILBest Competition Prepared: '64 Cheetah, John Mayer, Berwyn, IL