Earlier this year, Corvette enthusiasts from all over Australia travelled to the Gold Coast in Queensland to take part in the 19th Australian National Corvette Convention. The world's only island continent is roughly the size of the continental U.S. in geographical terms, but it has a population similar to that of the greater Los Angeles area. Consequently, Australia's Corvette clubs tend to be quite isolated from each other, and making it to the convention usually requires a trip of several hundred miles or more.
The convention is hosted on a rotating basis by six clubs from different states, and this year's event was put on by the Queensland Corvette Club. More than 150 cars and 290 people participated, with 19 enthusiasts travelling an astonishing 2,700 miles from the West Coast city of Perth to attend.
While a field of this size might be considered small by American standards, it must be noted that in addition to the long-distance drives required of most attendees, the total number of Corvettes in Australia is comparatively small. GM has never sold the car in Australia, and the company provides no after-sale support. All Corvettes arrive as personal imports, and all parts must be imported-usually at an exorbitant price.
Additionally, Australian regulations require that all cars fewer than 30 years old must be converted to right-hand drive. By the time a buyer has imported his Corvette, paid all the requisite fees and charges, and navigated his way through the lengthy and complex RHD-conversion process, the car will have cost him some three times its original sale price. He then owns a car local mechanics know nothing about and local parts retailers do not support. Because of these obstacles, Aussie Corvette clubbers tend to be hardcore enthusiasts who are extremely knowledgeable about their cars.
This year represented the 19th running of the Australian National Convention. The first was held in Melbourne in 1980 and drew approximately 65 cars. Some 200 members of the public were given rides in Corvettes for $2.50 each. The largest convention to date was held in Melbourne in 2004 and drew approximately 250 entrants. This event's popularity was due largely to its incorporation of a hot-lapping session at Holden's Lang Lang test track, a nearly two-mile-long, four-lane-wide banked oval used by the GM subsidiary for high-speed testing. The speed limit was nominally 110 mph, but some enthusiastic convention-goers recorded speeds of nearly 170 mph.
The 2007 convention also marked the first year of participation by the fledgling Australian chapter of the NCRS. A number of judges even flew in from the U.S. to train their Australian counterparts and assist in judging the NCRS cars.
The event kicked off Friday with a Hawaiian Pool Party that doubled as an informal meet-and-greet session. As noted previously, Australian Corvette Clubs tend to be divided by great distances-for example, 620 miles separate the Queensland Corvette Club in Brisbane and its closest neighbor club, NSW Corvettes Unlimited in Sydney-so many attendees only see each other at the show each year. Friday night provided a social event for these enthusiasts to get reacquainted, as well as an opportunity to make new friends.
Saturday saw a Show 'n' Shine held at Kurrawa Park, right next to the beach at Surfers Paradise. Unlike the NCRS judging held earlier in the week, the Show 'n' Shine cars were rated purely on presentation and appearance.
Australians have long been keen on modifying their Corvettes, particularly after having performed an RHD conversion that renders moot any arguments over originality. In fact, until the recent formation of the Australian NCRS Chapter, there has been relatively little interest in maintaining the cars in their factory-fresh configuration.
The Show 'n' Shine Vettes are separated into classes: cars with 0-3 modifications are classified as Standard, those with 4-8 modifications as Personalized, and those with 9 or more as Modified. The cars are then further divided into categories covering each generation of Corvette. The overall quality of the cars was of quite a high standard, with Barbara Kelly's gold '62 (VETTE, March '07) being named Vette of the Show.
After a Saturday night dinner held at the Sea World theme park, Sunday offered entrants a choice between a navigation run through the scenic Gold Coast Hinterland and a driving session (including drag racing and an autocross) at Willowbank Raceway. The nav run was won by Geoff and Sue Eaton, of New South Wales, in their red '78; the autocross by Tim Allard, from West Australia, in his yellow '89; and the drags by Paul Boschert, from the Australian Capital Territory, in his red '85.
Sunday night brought the meet's final event-a formal evening held at the Radisson Resort. Major trophies were presented, some short speeches were given, and a rock band played into the wee hours. With the '07 Australian National Corvette Convention in the books, Aussie Vette-o-philes were soon looking forward to next year's event, set to take place on Easter weekend in the southern port city of Adelaide.
Special thanks to principal event organizers Brad and Sandy Stumer, of the Queensland Corvette Club.