In addition to being one of the top Corvette shows held in the U.S. each year, Bloomington Gold has the unusual distinction of having moved five times since its inception in 1973. This year the event was relocated to the grounds of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, some 135 miles south of Chicago.
The university campus is huge and mostly free of students during the summer break, which made for easy access to parking for show attendees. The area is filled with hotels and restaurants, and accommodations were reasonably priced if booked in advance.
The main portion of the show took place outside the State Farm Center, a dome-shaped arena located on the university campus. The I-Hotel next door served as the event headquarters and housed the Great Hall exhibit. Upon entering the show grounds via South 1st Street, we were greeted by a covey of ’14 Stingrays. Tom Hill and staffers from the Bowling Green Assembly Plant were on hand to answer questions about the new Corvette. Spectators were allowed to sit in a Cyber Gray and a Crystal Red Metallic coupe, to try them on for size. The response was very positive.
Corvettes built in 1963 were honored this year in a Gold Year exhibit in front of the State Farm Center. The display involved a large number of first-year Sting Rays parked in a semicircle to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this iconic model. On the left of the entrance were two large vendor areas filled with virtually every Corvette part and accessory conceivable. On the right was the Chevy Ride & Drive exhibit, along with a Corvettes-only for-sale lot called the Gold Mine.
The certification area was located directly behind the dome, in a large grassy area. Here, Corvette owners could seek the various official endorsements granted by the Bloomington Gold organization. Gold certification, available for any Corvette built from 1953 to the present, is given to vehicles appearing as they might have following “typical factory production.” The goal here, according to BG’s own description, is “to attain historic perfection, not cosmetic perfection.”
Survivor certification, meanwhile, requires that a car be at least 50 percent unrestored and 20 model years old. In order to receive the elite Benchmark certification, a Corvette must have previously received Gold and Survivor status. A large number of judges were kept busy throughout the weekend, deciding which Corvettes would receive this coveted distinction. The two-day Mecum Corvette Auction, which we’ll take a closer look at next month, was held next to the certification field.
Show attendees could sign up for 22 Bloomington Gold workshops costing from $75 to $150 per class. Topics ranged from understanding fuel-tank sheets to how to disassemble a Corvette chassis. For those seeking more spirited fare, an autocross was held at nearby Parkhill Applied Technology Center for an entrance fee of $25.
New this year was the Gold Tour, which found Corvettes winding through the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve and crossing its historic covered bridge. It ended in downtown Champaign, where participants could enjoy browsing unique shops and dining at one of the many local restaurants.
In the end, the show was well attended, and reviews from attendees were largely positive. We’re certain BG President Guy Larsen will make some adjustments, but the event staff did a commendable job of executing the event in its new venue. Mark your calendars for next year’s show: You won’t be disappointed.
Cruising in Style: 2014 Chevy Impala
When GM offered us a ’14 Impala to use during the Bloomington show, we jumped at the chance to try out this newly redesigned cruiser. Our Blue Ray Metallic (called Night Race Blue on the C7) loaner was equipped with the 2LZ equipment package and powered by a 305hp 3.6L V-6. Coupled with a six-speed automatic, the engine provided plenty of pull when needed and cruised effortlessly on the highway. The electric power steering was on the light side at first, but the feel improved when we negotiated some rural switchbacks.
It’s clear this car spent some quality time in the wind tunnel. Cabin noise during our drive was minimal, with the distant drone of the optional 245/40R20 Bridgestone tires serving as the sole auditory indicator of forward momentum. The navigation system and backup camera are very similar to the C7’s, with a motorized touch screen that rises at the touch of a button to reveal a large, in-dash storage bin equipped with a USB port.
After covering a little more than 1,100 miles we came away impressed at the fuel efficiency of the big Imp, which rarely fell below 27 mpg in mostly highway driving. Factor in the array of built-in convenience and safety features—including a lane-departure warning system and heated/cooled seats—and the new Impala makes a compelling case as the ideal garage companion for your Corvette. —WT