Leading Indicators - Idle Chatter

Jay Heath Dec 15, 2013 0 Comment(s)
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One of the main challenges of writing about Corvettes for a living lies in maintaining one’s objectivity in the face of a nonstop onslaught of automotive awesomeness. After all, this isn’t Lada Owners Quarterly, but rather an enthusiast-oriented publication focused exclusively on one of the most storied and celebrated marques in the history of the automobile. Is a 638hp ZR1 any less remarkable because it’s completely stock? Believe it or not, in the rarefied world of magazine-worthy Corvettes, it can sometimes seem that way.

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Fortunately events tend to come along every so often that provide a mental course correction, a meaningful reference point on the state of the hobby and the diverse group of cars it comprises. I’m fortunate enough to have experienced two of these “eureka moments” in the past month, and my outlook on Corvettes past, present, and future is the better for it.

The first came at the 2014 Stingray press intro in Monterey, California, which I write about in detail starting on page 22. You’ll have to read the story for the full scoop, but for now suffice it to say that the car exceeded my expectations in every area, in some cases by an astonishing margin.

Only two weeks later, I found myself in bucolic Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for the annual Corvettes at Carlisle show. While the event always ranks among the year’s most noteworthy, the ’13 edition proved exceptional for a number of reasons.

As of noon on Saturday, roughly 2,700 Corvettes had passed through the gates of the Carlisle Fairgrounds, making this year’s show the largest since C@C’s inception in 1982. Whether you choose to attribute those numbers to a resurgent economy, Vette fans’ desire to finally see the new Stingray in person, or, like me, both, the record-breaking tally is an encouraging sign.

Even discounting the presence of the latest Vette (early-production examples of which were practically everywhere), Carlisle 2013 served up a bonanza of Corvette coolness drawn from every previous generation of the brand.

In recognition of its 50th anniversary, the 1963 Sting Ray received special attention at this year’s event, with 63 pristine examples of this seminal model on display in a dedicated area of the show field. In addition to this august group were a number of historically significant ’63s, including the Pininfarina-styled, steel-bodied Rondine concept and the mind-blowingly insane “Asteroid” Corvette, built by SoCal customizing legend George Barris. Look for feature articles on both of these notable one-offs in the months ahead.

C4 devotees complain often (and rightly) about the lack of attention and respect their favored generation receives in Corvette circles, but Carlisle proved a striking exception to that rule. The always-excellent ZR1 Net Registry display was filled to bursting with prime specimens of the original Corvette supercar, including a ’91 Lingenfelter-tuned Z owned by Watergate- figure-turned-radio-personality G. Gordon Liddy (who was on site Friday and Saturday for autographs). The Grand Sport registry also turned out in force, with dozens of club members showing off their distinctively painted ’96 coupes and convertibles.

But perhaps the most exciting C4 development came with no advance warning, when Carlisle Events co-owner Lance Miller’s Callaway LM Agusta racer rolled off a transport truck near the fairgrounds entrance. Though the car’s engine tuning is still being sorted out, Miller told me he hopes to be vintage racing this onetime Le Mans GT2 pole-sitter in the not-too-distant future. Keep your fingers crossed for a Sebring ’14 debut.

Factor in the welcome absence of any meteorological unpleasantness, and one could make a compelling case for ranking C@C ’13 atop the list of the best Corvette shows in recent memory, if not ever. If Carlisle is to be viewed as a bellwether of the overall health of the hobby—as I believe it should be—it’s a never been a more exciting time to be an owner or fan of Chevy’s flagship sports car.

Objectivity restored.

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