The annual corvettes at Carlisle show is one of the premier events for Corvette enthusiasts, offering fans a wide variety of activities that cater to almost any interest. Each year, the Carlisle (Pennsylvania) fairgrounds are filled with seminars, parades, car shows, burnout contests, Corvette engineers, and plenty of vendors so you can find that special part. All in all, it's a smorgasbord of fun that all Vette devotees should put on their "Bucket List." This year's edition showcased two special features: the Racers' Reunion and "Le Mans 50 Years Later."
Every five years, Kevin Mackay, owner of Corvette Repair in Valley Stream, New York, hosts a race-car reunion at Carlisle. Mackay is passionate about Corvette's motorsports heritage and is known for locating and restoring significant ex-racing Vettes. Mackay and Jim Gessner, of the Registry of Corvette Race Cars, teamed up this year to assemble an impressive group of drivers and race machines. The cars were displayed under a large tent so the fans could examine them during the weekend. The event started with a reception Friday night for the retired race drivers, crewmembers, and guests.
Mackay and his wife Christina surprised everyone by driving a fully restored '68 L88 Corvette into the party hall. The open-header L88 created quite a stir as everyone covered his or her ears to the thunder of the big-block. This car was owned and prepared by Doug Bergen and driven to many victories by Bob "Marietta" Johnson and Bob "Columbus" Johnson. Bergen and "Marietta" Bob were present at the unveiling of the L88, and the joy on their faces was obvious.
Gessner unveiled a '57 Corvette that competed at Sebring that same year. Eight vintage-Corvette experts, including Mackay, inspected the car and confirmed that it was the No. 3 factory-supported Hopkins Racing entry. Jim Jeffords, John Kilborn, and Dale Duncan drove it during the race, finishing Second in class after completing 168 laps. This special piece of Corvette-racing history is now owned by John Justo and is undergoing a complete restoration at Corvette Repair.
On Saturday, Mackay and Gessner hosted a panel discussion with a variety of famous Corvette racers in front of a large audience. The panel included Herb Kaplan, John Fitch, Doug Bergen, Marietta Johnson, Tony De Lorenzo, Jerry Thompson, and Lou Gigliotti. Many amazing racing stories were told with great humor and passion. Like many stories, they only grow richer and more vivid with each retelling. Our hats are off to Mackay and Gessner for assembling an excellent Racer's Reunion.
The theme of this year's show was "Le Mans 50 Years Later," and every race car on display was a veteran of a past 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The selection included the first Cunningham '60 Le Mans racer and progressed to the '09 C6.R that won its class last year. Carlisle Events impresario Lance Miller held a press conference in front of the Miller family's '60 Le Mans racer, to announce that the car will be returning to the French race this summer. Lance's father, the late Chip Miller, always wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the car's 1960 Le Mans class victory, and the Miller family is fulfilling his wish.
It will be quite a thrill to witness this car sitting on the grid 50 years after its victory. In the meantime, we'll bring you all the updates on this exciting project as they unfold.