Detroit has seen its ups and downs over the years, but for car nuts-and Corvette fans in particular-there's nothing like the Motor City when it comes to attracting automotive heavyweights at a party.
Take Cauley Chevrolet's biennial Corvette Night, for example. The invitation-only affair is thrown for a couple-hundred local Corvette enthusiasts and customers, but the 2004 event's RSVP list included the '05 Vette's design chief Tom Peters and GM's recently retired motorsports honcho Herb Fishel.
In addition, dealer Jeff Cauley's relationship with the nearby Chevrolet HQ helped land at least a half-dozen '05 Corvettes for display and an up-close examination by attendees. This was months before the car officially went on sale.
Cauley, a racing enthusiast, car nut, and just plain nice guy, is a very visible member of the automotive community. He's a regular at races, auto shows, and other events. He also has turned Cauley Chevrolet into one of the United States' top Corvette-selling dealerships.
But it's the every-other-year Corvette Night that the local Corvette cognoscenti look forward to as a chance to dress up, grab a shrimp cocktail, and chat about everybody's favorite sports car. The various C6 examples on hand, including a rolling cutaway chassis and a disguised "beta" test car that was seen in innumerable spy photos, were, not surprisingly, crowded with people who wanted look, feel, and scrutinize the still-to-come new Vette.
Also on hand were dozens of vintage Vettes and a couple of Richard and Susan Berry's recently purchased Callaway vehicles. If the name isn't familiar, those of you who were glued to the SPEED Channel's coverage of the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction earlier this year will remember Richard as the enthusiastic bidder who stepped up and bought the three one-off Callaway company cars-including the famous Sledgehammer-for a total of more than $523,000 (before buyer's premiums). Yep, that guy.
The Berrys also owns two or three Specter GTR Corvettes, and, from what we understand, a stable of other exotics. Word is the family had something to do with creating the Yellow Pages years ago-apparently those fingers did the walking straight to the bank.
The evening also included a slide-show presentation by Tom Peters, who wowed the crowd assembled in the temporarily converted service department with C6 development photos taken inside the design studio (and you thought the free donuts in your dealer's service department was a big deal).
We finally caught up with Jeff Cauley as the last drops of wine were shaken from their bottles. A little harried-looking, but nonetheless happy, we asked him if this ninth Corvette Night had lived up to his expectations.
He drew an exasperated breath and told us, "It wears me out, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
And before we could squeeze in another question, someone grabbed his arm and he disappeared into the enthusiastic crowd.
We'll catch up with him again-in two years.