Chip Miller and Bill Miller had the vision to begin Corvettes at Carlisle 22 years ago. Their sound leadership helped to make this event grow into the premier Corvette show of the year, and 2003 was no exception. "The '53 Reunion" was the theme of this year's show to honor Corvette's 50th birthday, and only 300 Corvettes were built that first production year. Carlisle honored Corvette history by displaying 53 of these cars at the show. On Saturday, all 53 cars were lined up in single file that stretched almost a quarter-mile! It was an amazing sight and a wonderful 50th-birthday tribute to our favorite sports car. Carlisle also celebrated Corvette's past at the "Chip's Choice" display. This display highlighted cars from Chip Miller's personal collection which included Corvettes from the first three generations-'53-82. A total of 11 cars were displayed, including his newest purchase, the C5-R factory Corvette-chassis No. 004. The display also included a one-of-a-kind Corvette pedal car, designed in 1953 by Harley Earl, head of GM styling. The show also featured a '53 and a '03 50th Anniversary Corvette constructed out of cardboard by teenager David Rusthoven. Completing the display was the world's oldest Corvette, the EX-122, which was the prototype displayed at the 1953 Motorama show in New York.
Carlisle hosted 58,300 people and packed 2,452 Corvettes on their 82-acre fairgrounds during the weekend. One of the unique features of this show is the Mid America Fun Display event. Corvette owners were invited to enter the fun display for a chance to have their car win a Celebrity Pick award. Celebrity judges were selected from the Corvette hobby and asked to pick their favorite Corvette from over 2,000 entries! It was a great way to celebrate the health of the Corvette hobby.
If you needed parts or a whole Corvette, this show was the place to shop. With over 30 acres filled with 1,273 vendors, it was easy to find what you wanted for your Corvette. We saw high-quality parts for every year the car was built. A large for-sale corral was filled with Corvettes awaiting new owners. We overheard many buyers making deals for the car of their dreams. Mecum Auctions also sold about 70 percent of the Corvettes that went through their auction.
Among the many interesting Corvettes on the show field was an '86 ZR-1 prototype. This car was found in a pile of crushed '86, '87, and '90 prototype ZR-1s in an English junkyard. Its English owner spent many years bringing this rare car back to life. Its Phase 1 motor was started for the first time in public on Saturday at Carlisle. Another unique car was a '75 Greenwood wide-body race car. This car was clocked at almost 240 mph on the back straight at the Daytona International Speedway in 1975!
The National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) displayed 20 Corvettes representing each of the Societies' judging groups. Noland Adams, author and leading authority on Corvette restoration and solid-axle Corvettes, presented free informative seminars. The C5 Registry held a banquet for their members Friday night. Corvette Plant Manager Will Cooksey was the featured speaker. He presented many interesting facts about the Bowling Green Assembly plant. Corvette engineers from Detroit and the Corvette Plant in Bowling Green joined Dave Hill, Corvette Chief Engineer, to answer questions and presented a future peak at the yet-to-be-released '04 Corvette. The Corvette parade on Saturday night filled the downtown streets of Carlisle with hundreds of Corvettes. Thousands joined in the fun with a free band, street dancing, and restaurant-row activities. Suzanne McElhinney of Dracut, Massachusetts, was the lucky winner of this year's giveaway Corvette. Sponsored by Corvette Mike, the giveaway was a '91 black-on-black Corvette coupe with automatic transmission. Michelle Sjolinder of Centreville, Virginia, won the Carlisle Beauty Contest. There were plenty of other activities on the fairgrounds all weekend, including dyno testing, the Women's Oasis, the Corvette Fashion Show, and Kids' Corvettes at Carlisle. Overall, Corvettes at Carlisle fulfilled its promise to provide attendees with a tour through Corvettes past, present, and future. We know everyone is looking forward to attending Carlisle 2004!