The Winner's Circle

The Story Behind The Most Successful Corvette Race Team Ever

Patrick Knight Dec 12, 2006 0 Comment(s)
Corp_0701_06_z Winners_circle Misc_shots 1/14

V.V. Cooke Chevrolet, The Dealership

The dealership was established in 1930, operating with great success for two decades in two locations as it grew. A new state-of-the-art facility was designed and built for the '52 model year. The opening of this operation was announced to the public with a twelve-page supplement to the local newspaper and an eight-day celebration.

Mr. V.V. Cooke Sr. ran a very tight ship and in doing so garnered respect and dedication from his employees, which at one time in the '60s exceeded one hundred. His technicians were so well trained and proficient that performance-seeking customers came from all over Kentucky, as well as Indiana and Tennessee, for their expertise. An in-house apprentice program placed young mechanics with a seasoned veteran for 1-2 years upon arrival.

Corp_0701_07_z Winners_circle Cooke 2/14

Letter written by V.V. Cooke Jr. about the first '53 Corvette sold.

The sales department was second to none, as were all the members of the staff. In 1990, a list was comprised of over 75 automotive businesses spawned by previous mechanics, salesmen, and bodymen who had learned their automotive trade there.

As V.V. Cooke Sr. eased into retirement, V.V. Jr. took the reins in the '60s during the performance era. This fit V.V. Jr.'s interest perfectly, and the Corvette was his car of choice for his personal drivers. They were always modified and painted with a tasteful combination of red, white, and blue, which were also the chosen colors of the '63 and '69 Corvette race cars. At the close of the business in 1981, V.V. Jr.'s Corvette collection was an even dozen, one for each era and each body style. Advertisements for the performance business with his own winning B-production Corvette and oval track '69 Camaro clearly identified V.V. Cooke Chevrolet as the high-performance leader.

Corp_0701_08_z Winners_circle Grand_opening 3/14

Grand opening ad, circa 1951.

One Such Two-Page Ad Stated:
"Does our racing give us an edge? We think you'll agree that it does because it shows that our service department has the mechanical know-how and skill to compete successfully in the demanding world of high-performance racing. Because of the extra effort required, our parts people are probably better equipped with technical know-how on what parts your car needs for its best performance. Our racing reputation keeps our sales department on their toes with the knowledge and the experience to help you choose the right car for your specific needs. Ok, racing does develop skills and knowledge that make our mechanics top drawer, but the real 'edge' comes from the teamwork experienced throughout the company, keeping our cars winning.

"Allan Barker took the V.V. Cooke Chevrolet race Corvette to the top at the American road race of champions last Sunday at road Atlanta. This is the contest that settles all the arguments. Our car, with Allan at the wheel, has brought home the top honors in this class for three years in a row. No one has ever done this before. We not only beat all of the cars in our class (B-production) but we also clobbered 11 class A-production cars in the process. To tell the truth, we're so tickled at having won this very important event that we have declared this coming week 'Corvette Champion Week.' Our entire showroom will be devoted to these great cars. Right in the center, all shined up for the occasion, will be the winning car itself. Allan will be on hand at certain times to talk racing with anyone interested. One other thing: The red carpet is out for Corvette shoppers this week because we think we've got a big edge on knowledge, understanding and experience with these magnificent automobiles. To help spread enthusiasm around, we've made a substantial reduction in the price of all Corvettes now on hand for this week only. We've got the best selection of Corvettes in this area including coupes, convertibles, automatics and four speeds, some with air, stereo and electric windows."

V.V. Cooke Chevrolet, Seller Of The First Corvette In Kentucky

When the '53 Corvette came out, V.V. Cooke Chevrolet received the first one delivered in Kentucky. Upon arrival, V.V. Jr. was enthralled with its striking appearance and sports car appeal. The car was so unique that Chevrolet Motor Division sent in a service technician to go over the car with the dealership mechanic. With this formality out of the way, V.V. Jr. just had to try it out. What an afternoon that turned out to be!

Printed for you, with V.V. Jr.'s permission, is his personal description of that day's events and a photo of the eventual purchaser, Mr. Volz of Volz Chevrolet in Madison, Indiana, seated in his new Corvette at delivery time. It is still unclear as to whether Mr. Volz was informed of his Corvette's first days outing. This letter was presented in 1999 to Jim Mayden, who performed the body and paint work on the Corvette race cars, as well as V.V. Jr.'s personal Corvettes. Jim was a 20-year-employee of the company and now operates the Jim Mayden body shop in the same facility.

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

The personal collections of:
Robbie Albers
Allan & Donald Barker
David Beumer
V. V. Cooke Jr.
Patrick Knight
Jim Mayden

Sources

Corvette Repair
Valley Stream, NY

MORE PHOTOS

VIEW FULL GALLERY

COMMENTS

TO TOP