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Wet Vettes at the Petersen

A Dousing Doesn't Stop the Festivities on Corvette Day

Bob Wallace Aug 25, 2003

Southern California is supposed to be a car enthusiast's paradise--relatively temperate climate year round, clear (or sometimes obscured by smog) skies--it's the perfect region for the enjoyment of sports cars, convertibles, motorcycles, just about anything motorized that gets people excited. What rain we do get, which is measured in inches rather the feet per year, is normally long gone by May.

So what was with the torrential downpour that inundated several hundred miles of the southern and central California coastal plain on Friday May 2nd and Saturday the 3rd? Big deal, the wussies on the west coast got wet. Poor babies. Well, it was a big deal in one respect; not too many people want to participate in a car show during a heavy rain, and that's exactly what was hammering the region on the very day that Corvette Day at the Petersen, a one-time-only, once-in-a-lifetime, 50th Anniversary celebration and show, was slated to go on, rain or shine, at the famed Petersen Automotive Museum.

The date, May 3, was also a big deal, steeped in symbolism and significance. If you write it down in numerals, 5-3-03, you get (with just a wee stretch of the imagination) five-three to oh-three, or '53 to '03. Things like that may seem silly to outsiders; we're all true believers, it's 50 grand and glorious years for America's Sports Car, and if the calendar offers a chance to have a little fun with the numbers, we'd say, Cool!

Special features of Corvette Day included the almost obligatory display of an example of every model year of Corvette produced. There was also a Museum exhibition of famous one-off, production, custom, and racing Corvettes.

In spite of some truly atrocious weather, over 300 Corvettes of all vintages made it to the show, and over 2,000 visitors passed through the Petersen's turnstiles on 5-3-03 to savor the Vettes. Fortunately, the Petersen has a multi-level, enclosed parking structure with more than enough space to display every entrant's Corvette under cover, as well as provide an undercover area for a barbecue, tables and seating for the participants' lunch.

Although some local freeways were moderately flooded, and there'd been enough overnight rainfall to leave quite a bit of standing water in some parts of the lowest level of the parking garage, no one who had made the trek seemed to mind. After all, this was a once in a lifetime event, and a privilege to be a part of it!


Visitors during Corvette Day at the Petersen were greeted by a dazzling array of Vettes. Just outside the main entrance (in the background) were classic Corvette racers...

...all three of the Italian-bodied late-'50's Scaglietti Corvettes...

...and several C5 "tuner" cars, including one of racing legend Dick Guldstrand's 50th Anniversary Z06s. That's the maestro standing by his latest creation.

Meanwhile, within the Petersen Museum's exhibit areas were a number of incredible Corvettes on extended display. They included the likes of Reeves Callaway's famous Sledgehammer, a 254.76 mph, street-legal twin turbo C4 that first appeared on VETTE's March 1989 issue...

...and Lane Goldstein's 8.5 second '90 ZR-1 that is propelled by a naturally-aspirated LT5. That's a copy of our April 2001 feature on the easel.

Just around the corner (literally) from those two phenomenally fast C4s was an AAT Commemorative Edition C5 convertible, which looked right at home with a '50s/'60s-style restaurant backdrop.

The crowds wouldn't stay away from these two fabulous old racers long enough toget an unobstructed photo. That's a real Greenwood wide-body, the Spirit of New Mexico '74 on the left, and Vic Edelbrock's beautifully restored (and regularly raced!) ex-Mickey Thompson '63 Z06 to the right. The cars were displayed in a mirrored alcove with wild neon lighting to add a little extra visual excitement.

How's this for a contrast in styles? Otis Chandler's Callaway C12 Speedster offers a stunning counterpoint to the pair of ex-Briggs Cunningham solid-axle LeMans racers.

Watt a shocker! We didn't know that GM built an electric Corvette in 1974. Seriously, "DADS VET" looked great.

These little cruisers have crafted quite a legacy. This '55 was an extremely nice example of the first V-8 Corvettes.

They're finally here! This is one of the first production street versions of the incredible Z06-based Mosler MT900.

Fifty-one years of Corvettes? GM brought out a pre-production '04 Commemorative Edition Z06 for the day.

A Rick Mears Edition Shinoda Corvette is a rare sight to see. This early 90's example looked great.


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