Over a quarter century ago, in the summer of 1976, Martyn L. Schorr founded a magazine known initially as VETTE Quarterly, which evolved into the publication you are reading today. It has been a long road, indeed.
Last December, Team VETTE looked at the developments of the magazine and the Corvette world as a whole from our first issue through the first ten years of print. We pick up here, in our concluding installment, in 1986 and watch as new life is bred into the automotive world. As we'll see, VETTE was there to cover it all-the good, the bad, and the sometimes ugly. America's Sports Car, while always setting the standards by which others were judged, reemerged as a true performance car with almost infinite possibilities as the kinks were worked out of computer-controlled engine management. This led up to the present, where Corvette enthusiasts enjoy unprecedented levels of comfort, performance, and quality. So, sit back and enjoy the ride as we take a drive down Memory Lane.
December 1985/January 1986 was labeled Vol. 9, No. 6. It had 84 pages including covers, 20 of which were color, and was published bi-monthly by CSK/ Stephen Schneider in South Hackensack, New Jersey. Magazine founder Marty Schorr held the title of Senior Editor, with Cliff Gromer simply called "Editor," Art Director Morgan Smith, and phantom Technical Editor Sal Zaino also on staff. Contributors included former racers Dick Guldstrand and John Greenwood, Jerry Heasley (who's still an active contributor), tech guru Roger Huntington, Bill Erdman (a future staffer), and Ralph Eckler. Regular columns were Inside by publisher Stephen Schneider, Corvetting by Cliff Gromer, Retrospect written by Mr. Schorr, Pricing by Jerry Heasley, Racing contributed by Greenwood, and Eckler wrote a Q&A column on his specialty, Fiberglassing. The layout of the early issues was reminiscent of a newspaper, with articles broken up and continued a paragraph or two at a time over numerous pages at times, making it somewhat confusing, not to mention that the articles were not always continued on the pages said.
The Dec./Jan. issue contained a chronicle of the '63 Z06's debut at SoCal's now-late Riverside International Raceway, as well as a history of aluminum Chevy cylinder heads. There were rumors of a super C4 to come, and this issue highlighted sketches of yet another mid-engine "next Vette," tentatively labeled as a '90 Grand Sport.
February/March (Vol. 10, No. 1) announced the return of a Corvette convertible for 1986, which would also be the '86 Indy 500 Pace Car. On the cover was one of the most over-the-top and grotesque custom Corvettes to ever "grace" these pages. Entitled "Captain Nemo," it took the form of a fully rebodied '71 coupe, with countless louvers, scoops and wings, pseudo jet engines stuck on the back, sidepipes and four exhaust tips in the tail, wheelie bars, flames...you get the idea. It made the Corvette Summer movie car look subtle. VETTE also reported that Corvette racers were destroying the Porsche 944 Turbo prototypes in SCCA Showroom Stock competition.
April/May looked at the sleek Corvette Indy concept car with a 2.65L, four-cam, 32-valve Chevy Indy racing engine, four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering. VETTE peeked into the GM proving grounds at factory prototype turbocharged V-8 and V-6 Corvettes. There was a guide to Corvette literature and a look at the LS-7 454 Corvette that never was. The June/July issue saw an increase to 27 color pages, with spreads on old big-block ads, Italian-style Corvette body kits, and Retrospect had a great piece on escalating prices and the late-'80s/early-'90s Corvette commodity phase.
In the September/October issue, VETTE gained two new staffers: Jim Koscs as Associate Editor, and Tony DeFeo replaced Sal Zaino as Technical Editor. Sal never once had a byline. There was also the first-ever Old versus New Shootout, with a '67 427 Tri-power matched against an '86 C4. October/November's Inside bragged that subscribers would now receive their magazines in a protective plastic wrap. Content included an '87 Corvette preview, and introduced RPO B2K, the factory-approved Callaway Twin-Turbo option which provided 345 horses for an extra $20G over base. This was the first major power option from GM since the '71 LS6.
VETTE started the year with a massive power-adders issue. Vol. 10, No. 6 (December 1986 / January 1987) featured a blown and squeezed '82 with 700-plus horsepower, and a blown, 850hp custom '63 done up GS-style. Other articles included installing a 150hp nitrous kit in an '85 coupe and a look at proper documentation of classic Corvettes. In the Why Bother category was a feature of a Bigfoot-type 4x4 C4.
The VETTE staff changed again in February/March (Vol. 11, No. 1), as Tony DeFeo moved into a second associate editor position and Bill Erdman became tech editor. The magazine included an excellent piece by Roger Huntington on why the '66 L-72 427 was done in by hood design, as well as a report that Bakeracing's Showroom Stock Corvettes were 1986 SCCA/Escort Endurance champs.
John Greenwood wrote his final Racing column, about a wild night in his '64 Vette on Woodward Avenue, in April/May. Highlights included a thorough ID guide to high-performance small-block aluminum heads, and a five-page look at "the best Corvette yet"-Dick Guldstrand's creation, the Grand Sport 80. Coverage of the 1986 Corvette Nationals at Indianapolis posed the question, "Is it the next Bloomington Gold?" Apparently not, but a photo captured Zora Arkus-Duntov slicing a giant Chevrolet 75th Anniversary cake.
June/July was the "Z" issue. It looked at "Zora's Racers": the '70-72 LT1-powered ZR1s and the '71 ZR2 with its LS6 454, plus the '63 Z06, and an introduction to the new "Z" speed-rated tires. Greenwood's column was replaced with Handling by Dick Guldstrand; Cliff Gromer got a first look at Corvette Group's new Active Suspension Project car; and American Sunroof's concept Vette C4, with a nose that's strikingly like the to-be C5, was featured.
August/September had a first-a "Silver Salute" that showcased the last solid-axle car, the '62. Over the rest of the year, Jim Koscs move up to managing editor, and VETTE did a long-term evaluation of an '87 convertible that was very positive. The editorial emphasis on extreme custom Vettes with weird bodies, blowers, turbos, and/or nitrous gradually receded to a 50:50 split with NCRS-type cars.
A year of transition for VETTE. As of Vol. 11, No. 6, Vette would be published eight times annually. Columns were in flux, as Guldstrand's Handling went away, Readers' Rides returned, and Heasley's Pricing became Collecting. The collector car market, including Corvettes, saw prices escalate out of reach for mere mortals. VETTE gave readers a sneak preview of the 200-plus mph LT5 Super Vette that GM was really working on, plus coverage of the Monterey Historic Automobile Races at Laguna Seca, where Mr. Duntov piloted a '56 vintage racer-probably his last-ever laps behind the wheel on a track.
In March, the magazine expanded to 86 pages with even more color, and a new guy, D. Randy Riggs, joined the gang as feature editor. The issue features a look at Corvettes going GTP racing, and Vette collecting was seen as an alternative to stock market investing, compounding an era of high prices and garage queens. In April VETTE grew to 90 pages, and Jim Koscs bid farewell. Highlights include a '67 L88 resto racer, Chevrolet's '54 Vette/Nomad "sport wagon" show car, and the introduction of Corvette Challenge racing. By May, both associate editors were gone, and former copy editor Jeff Bauer became Assistant Editor. Six pages were given to an ultra-rare '69 ZL1 aluminum big-block coupe, and a '63 Z06 vintage racer was featured.
Major changes were brewing in July. Marty Schorr was retitled Founding Editor, Cliff Gromer remained Editor, but D. Randy Riggs moved up to Senior Editor and Peter Easton moved in as Managing Editor. The volume "cycle" was re-adjusted, so July was Vol. 12, No. 5. The first Reader Survey appeared in VETTE, but someone forgot to edit it when picking it up from sister publication High Performance Mopar. While proposing to form a VETTE Enthusiast Advisory Panel, the survey said, "manufacturers of aftermarket Mopar parts and accessories" will contact the members-oops! Other features included a shootout between a new Corvette ragtop and its archrival, the Porsche 944 Turbo, and Cliff Gromer's not-so-hard-hitting but humorous test drive of a C4 pedal car.
September gave a Silver Salute to the first mid-year, the '63 Sting Ray, and featured the SR-2 Sebring Challenger race car. GM insiders supplied the first driving reports and spy photos of the '89 ZR-1. October revolved around the new ZR-1's aluminum block, 32-valve LT5 powertrain, and in December, the old regime was gone. Cliff Gromer was replaced by D. Randy Riggs as Editor-in-Chief, Sue Elliot came on board as Managing Editor, bringing the refreshing perspective of a female enthusiast to the editorial staff for the first time since Sharon Rosinger departed in 1982. The new crew put together a piece on how to earn NCRS Top Flight certification and an article on the installation of a Carroll Supercharger kit for '85 to '89 Vettes-the first such kit on the market.
New Editor-in-Chief Riggs added Front Lines for mail from the readers, in Jan. '89 (Vol. 13, No. 1). Another new section was Reminiscing, a predecessor to Me & My Vette. Following the changes in 1988, three new associate editors enlisted in January. The issue included a tribute to designer Bill Mitchell, the man largely responsible for styling the '63 Corvette among many other things, who had died September 12, 1988. Don Fuller penned the intriguing saga of Dick Guldstrand's No. 9 '67 L88 racer and its near-victory at Le Mans.
VETTE went monthly as of March 1989 (Vol. 13, No. 2), which spotlighted the Callaway Sledgehammer, a legitimate 254.76-mph street car. Additionally, Don Keefe remembered the first "split-window"-the '56 Olds Golden Rocket show car, and the first complete Club Directory was printed. In April, VETTE looked at the new '89 Vette, with its new RPO FX3 Selective Ride Control and ZF six-speed, as well as delivering the first of five informative articles on numbers-matching for mid-years. May featured a restored '69 L71 ordered by the late singer Roy Orbison, and offered a retrospective on the RPO L88 package. Dave Walters, who still writes our Q&A column, had his byline appear for the first time (with Ralph Eckler) on said column in June.
As of July, CSK Publishing moved from Hackensack, New Jersey to nearby Saddlebrook. VETTE claimed that its new proofreader Jim Campisano and new art director Matthew Blitz created a more readable, magazine-type layout. Chevy allowed D. Randy Riggs and other automotive journalists the first opportunity to drive the new ZR-1-in France! August marked the beginning of a very special series of stories written by the Godfather of the Corvette himself, Zora. In a now-annual Silver Salute, VETTE honored the '64 models-the cars that made the split-window a classic. In October, Duntov wrote about the '63 Corvette's suspension design, which Nissan's 300ZX was now incorporating. November focused on Bloomington Gold, and December recalled the 10 Most Outrageous Corvettes of all time, including the CERVs I and II, the Callaway Sledgehammer, a couple of our "favorite" customs of the past, and a mid-year covered entirely with pennies.
January (Vol. 14, No. 1) saw another shifting of staff and job titles. Associate Editor Steve Collison became Senior Editor, Sue Elliot moved to Executive Editor, Campisano moved up to be an Associate Editor, and Peter Easton returned as Managing Editor. January was dedicated "In Memory of Roger Huntington," and featured the on-track reunion of Dr. Dick Thompson (the Flying Dentist) and the Sting Ray racer he piloted 30 years before. Furthermore, D. Randy tested the new ZR-1, on track and on the street, for his first real-life driving impression of the most advanced Corvette built yet.
March looked at the details of the newest mandatory safety device, the airbag, and VETTE was there in April with a small-time privateer racing team that took a Corvette to the Trans-Am GT1 national championship. In May, GM unveiled the CERV III concept car, with a mid-ships, 650hp twin-turbocharged LT5. June featured the last '53 Corvette built, number 300 of 300. The big news, though, was that Morrison Engineering's LT5 and L98 Corvettes set 12 International and three World Land Speed Endurance (class) records with absolutely stock drivetrains. The big one was the 24-hour record, which they set at 175.885 mph average, smashing the old mark by 14 mph!
In August, the '65 Corvette was "Silver Saluted" and the "ZR-32," a '32 street rod roadster, powered by a complete DOHC LT5/ ZR-1 drivetrain, was featured. In September, SLP built a one-off ZR-1 with a 700-R4 automatic that was sure to grab some attention. Zora's stories continued in October, which also included a truly ugly soft-bumper Shark limousine entitled the "Batmobile." VETTE looked at another factory engineering toy in November: the 1990 ZR2 prototype with a Tuned Port Injected 454. And as of December, VETTE covers carried the tagline, "The World's Leading Corvette Enthusiast Publication."
January 1991 (Vol. 15, No. 1) was VETTE's 15th Anniversary Issue. Feature Editor Jim Campisano became the first staffer to do an anniversary retrospective of the magazine's evolution. In February, an anonymous cop reminisced about once running from the law in his ZR-2-spec '71 Vette, when he played with a full-size 440 Dodge highway patrol car. March highlighted the Lingenfelter 383ci '87 coupe that ran 0-60 in 3.5 seconds, looked at the 23 Special Equipment Option (SEO) R9G World-Challenge race-prepped Corvettes, and Corvettes won both the driver's and the manufacturer's SCCA World Challenge championships. April marked the return of an April Fool's issue, and in Driver's Seat, Riggs was thankful for the collapse of high-priced Corvette collecting and speculation. April also profiled the '91 Twin-Turbo (the last year of RPO B2K) and Callaway's new Twin-Turbo Speedster. In May there was a how-to on restoring your wheels with $15 and some elbow grease.
June was something special-the first-ever Ladies Issue, and the ZR1 proved its durability by finishing 4th and 6th in the 1991 24 Hours at Daytona. July recalled the limited-edition 1980 ACI Duntov Turbo, the Corvette that Zora later hated. August had not only the Silver Salute to the '66, but also a how-to installation of a Chisenhall air conditioning system on any older Vette. In September, Indy 500 winner and Cart champion Rick Mears and Larry Schinoda teamed up to create a unique Williams and Marlboro ZR-1. October brought the first driving impressions of the new-for-'92, 300hp, LT1-powered Vette, while Zora continued describing the performance changes for the '56 Corvette, and VETTE compared a '72 ZR-1 with its explosive performance to a fully-loaded '91 ZR-1. Both were hailed as winners. Things got quite interesting in December, as VETTE featured a '69 roadster that was claimed to be one of seven, not two, ZL-1 aluminum 427 Corvettes. What's more, owner John Maher claimed to have bought it new with a Turbo 400 automatic!
No change in direction for 1992. In February, Associate Editor James Resnick put a '91 L98 through the paces at Bobby Rahal's TrackTime High Performance Driving School. D. Randy evaluated the '92 LT1 coupe in real world, everyday conditions and liked the performance, revised FX3 ride control, and styling, but was still critical of interior design, and had some gripes about fit, finish, and rude noises. March 1992 was the last issue to feature Marty Schorr's column Retrospect. While his name would remain in the staff box as Founding Editor until the end of VETTE's CSK days, it would be Schorr's last appearance until December 2001. Kim Baker was added as new Motorsports Editor. One of March's most significant articles was the story of Ed Cole, acknowledged as "the Father of the Small-Block," and how Chevy's magnificent V-8 was created. The other was a compilation of the seven most underrated Corvettes of all time and why they were significant despite common belief. June featured a useful text on what the NCRS performance verification process is like, and how to pass it. July reaches the thickest that VETTE has ever been, at 100 pages including covers. Articles of note included an interview with Corvette Development Manager/Corvette racer/Corvette fanatic John Heinricy, and Jim Campisano's report on Chevrolet's 600ci, 665hp 12-cylinder C4 testbed. August brought, again, the annual Silver Salute, this year to a genuine icon: the '67 Sting Ray, and September contained the Annual Salute to Corvette Ladies. In October, we had a preliminary report on '93 Corvettes, and highlighted the 1,000,000th Corvette to roll down the assembly line. It was an Arctic White convertible, and the Godfather of the Corvette himself drove it out of the Bowling Green plant on July 2, 1992. The big news in November was that Touring Instrument Services, Inc. could now provide for all Corvette clock needs-from rebuilding the original clock or replacing it with a NOS/ factory-reconditioned unit, to converting it to quartz movement-for any model year.
Vol. 17, No. 1 (the January 1993 issue) celebrated 40 years of the Corvette by looking back at some of the car's memorable most points over the past four decades, while Corvette insiders like Dave McLellan and John Cafaro assessed the meaning, influence, and future of the Vette. That issue also introduced the run-flat tire. In March, VETTE gave a positive evaluation to the 1993 LT1 40th Anniversary Edition coupe, and Zora Arkus-Duntov told the story of changing the early Corvette's image to represent more power. In April, contributor Hib Halverson announced, in Part 9 of his "Project Big Block From Hell," that the series was halfway complete, and readers were given a survey to evaluate the magazine in terms of readership interests. In May, we announced that General Motors had offered Dave McLellan early retirement, and he grabbed the opportunity for a rest. In McLellan's place, Dave Hill would guide the Corvette into the next century as just its third Chief Engineer.
June offered a handy cheat sheet for playing the numbers game with Corvette carburetors, and featured Motion Performance's Joel Rosen and his own personal 1970 Phase III GT. The August issue featured the third annual Salute to Corvette Ladies, with a special three-page article on the "First Lady of the Corvette," Elfi Duntov, in addition to eight pages of female VETTE readers and their rides. 1993 was the first of five years that Bloomington Gold would be held at Springfield, Illinois, as opposed to Bloomington. Despite far-better facilities in Springfield, popular sentiment stayed with Bloomington, and the Gold would return home in 1998. In the November, the Corvette versus the World Shootout continued, this time pitting the venerable LT1 against Toyota's new Supra Turbo. As usual, the VETTE crew cannot come to any definitive conclusion other than both are good sports cars with their own qualities. December included such treasures as Duntov's late-1954 letter to the GM powers-that-be that saved the Corvette.
This is a year of extremes. The magazine is packed with aftermarket tuner C4's and their radically rebodied Corvettes, with high-horse motors and astronomical price tags in the six-figures. John Greenwood's G350sc is on the cover of the January 1994 (Vol. 18, No. 1) issue. It is followed the next month by the Jaguar-inspired styling of the Lister Corvette. June's cover car, a Callaway speedster with 403 turbo-charged horsepower, represents the end of Callaway's B2K factory turbo option. June also took a peek at revisions to RPO Z07, the adjustable suspension package, which was slowly catching on. July's over-the-top modified Corvette was a ZR-1 limousine with an eight-foot-plus stretch job. August included the Annual Corvette Ladies Salute, and a second Lister Corvette appears both in the book and on the cover within six months. VETTE's Motorsports Editor, Kim Baker, won the unlimited class of the Nevada 100 Open Road in his 750hp '93 ZR1. He averaged 179 mph, which won him the championship, but not the course record he wanted. November tried to guess what the C5 Corvette would look like, but the sketches missed the mark. With the benefit of hindsight, the drawings more closely resemble a slightly stylized '99 Camaro Z28 than a C5. Oh, well. In December, VETTE came back to reality and presented a look at the 405-horse '95 ZR-1.
The National Corvette Museum, after many years of gestation, finally opened its doors to a tremendous public turnout. When all was said and done, more than 4,000 Corvettes took part in caravans to Bowling Green, and the NCM logged more than 100,000 visitors in its inaugural weekend. Two weeks after the Corvette Museum's debut, Mid America Designs celebrates its 20th birthday with a weekend show, and festivities attract some 600 Corvette faithful. In March (Vol. 19, No. 3), VETTE honored the '71 Shark with a Silver Salute, and Dick Guldstrand introduced his LT5-powered GS90 supercar. In April, D. Randy Riggs and Dr. M.F. Dobbins took an in-depth look at restoration labels and decals for mid-years, and a Corvette would again pace the Indy 500 in 1995. May contained only one tech article-a piece on distributor caps, but contained the annual Price Guide and Zora's 85th birthday party. June featured Cops and their Corvettes, while in July James Resnick followed the Callaway LM racers' maiden voyage in American racing as they almost finished the 24 Hours at Daytona. D. Randy attended the Bragg-Smith Advanced Driving School in the August issue, where he explored both his and the school's Z07-equipped Corvettes' capabilities. August also marked the debut of a new but uninspiring logo, and the tagline changed to "America's Favorite Corvette Magazine." The October issue unveiled the final rendition of the C4 platform, whose one-year-only heart will be the 330hp LT4 in all six-speed cars. Special edition cars commemorating the occasion included the '96 Grand Sport and the Collector's Edition. November contained the introductory installment of "Project Code Red," a badly dilapidated '85 coupe that VETTE would restore, bit by bit, over the next couple of years. Code Red was the first-ever VETTE Magazine giveaway project car.
This proved to be a milestone year for VETTE Magazine and the Corvette community as a whole, for better and for worse. The March issue, Vol. 20, No. 3, headlined the latest and greatest from Reeves Callaway-an astounding 783-horse, twin-turbo, DOHC LT5 that propelled a ZR-1 to 10-second quarter-miles. In April Doug Rippie Motorsports performed a coilover suspension conversion on a C4, and the Silver Anniversary of the '71 Corvette was saluted.
May 1996 was D. Randy Riggs last issue as Editor-in-Chief. After a total of 95 issues, 89 as Editor-in-Chief, D. Randy resigned to pursue other opportunities in photojournalism, and to write a Corvette book "completely unlike any you've ever seen." Richard Lentinello, who claimed in his first Driver's Seat that VETTE's new motto was "To be driven," replaced Riggs. June also introduced a new series called "Power Tuning," and featured a story on the legendary Gulf Oil road racing Corvettes.
In the July issue (Vol. 20, No. 7), the Corvette world mourned the loss of Zora Arkus-Duntov. If not for Zora, the Corvette would not have survived past 1955 nor developed its illustrious racing pedigree, and who knows where American sports cars as a whole would be today without him. D. Randy Riggs returned for a special Driver's Seat farewell, which opened with:
"The true friend of every man or woman who ever had a sparkle in their eye for a Corvette is gone. Zora Arkus-Duntov, the Corvette's Godfather, died of natural causes on Sunday, April 21, 1996. He was 86 years young and, to the end, boasted an energetic zest for life and living-as well as an innate mechanical curiosity and genius that propelled him from innovation to invention, time and time again."
Riggs, who considered Zora a personal friend, contributed a three-page article highlighting the life of the legend, as well. The crew at VETTE also offered a special edition tribute entitled Duntov: The Man Behind the Corvette. We're sure a copy of that tribute is now worth considerably more than its $3.99 cover price.
October 1996 included a tech piece on modifying a stock-appearing 327 for more power and endurance. We believe it was the first appearance of contributor Ron Ceridono, now the Technical Editor for Street Rodder, and he still owns the '63 featured in the how-to article. In the November issue, VETTE premiered the C5's new heartbeat: the 345hp, all-aluminum GEN-III LS1 small-block. As of the December issue, automotive journalists were still being kept in the dark about specifics on the upcoming, all-new C5, and would be for another two months.
The modern era of Corvette performance was upon us, with computer-controlled motors fully integrated into the hobby. The cast and crew at VETTE kicked off the year with a special TPI issue that included a TPI Buyers' Guide, an explanation and evaluation of Tuned Port Injection systems and their components, and two L98-equipped vintage Vettes, including a '65 soft top and a high-tech '57. February looked backwards, remembering the No. 4 Corvette piloted by Dave Heinz/Bob Johnson in 1972-the first Corvette to ever finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was also the only Corvette to do so until the factory-backed C5-R effort in 2000. VETTE was also there for Corvette's induction into the Route 66 Rendezvous' "Cruisin' Hall of Fame," and Abraham Bergian wrote a short how-to on replacing the carburetor on a Chevy small-block with TPI. Through February 1997, Marty Schorr was listed as Founding Editor, but his name was dropped from the staff box beginning in March.
The highlight of March was the unveiling of the long-awaited C5. Twelve color pages detailed the completely re-engineered '97 Corvette, including drivetrain, chassis, and dimensional specifications, performance data, comparisons with the competition, and evaluations of the latest and greatest plasticar. With the creation of the C5, GM has indisputably made the Corvette into a world-class sports car.
In Vol. 21, No. 6, K. Scott Teeters spotlighted the first Corvette, the '53, in the first installment of his Corvette Designer Series. As of August 1997, Senior Editor Jim Campisano, who began as a proofreader for VETTE in July 1989, goes to the Dark Side as he becomes Editor-In-Chief of sister publication Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords. September's issue included a special for fans of small-scale plastic Chevys, with a list of all known 1/24th- and 1/25th-scale Corvette model kits to date. October featured VETTE's very first aftermarket C5 hop-up: B&B Performance's Tri-Flo cat-back exhaust. December wrapped up the year with an intriguing interview of Larry Shinoda and four pages of tech on LT5 mods. Looking back from 2001, we are surprised by the unimpressive baseline dyno readings Richard Holdener got on the stock guinea pig ZR-1. The 375hp-minimum rated LT5 only put 305.5 ponies to the wheels, which is barely over a stock LS1, and 30hp less than we got on a '01 Z06 press car, rated at 385hp.
Major changes were again afoot in 1998. CSK Publishing, who had put out VETTE since 1979, was bought by K-III Communications and merged into their growing niche-publication empire. January's Vol. 22, No. 1 was the first issue to reflect the new ownership, and it brought a whole lotta confusion. The front-cover barcode reads "A K-III Publication," but it is not reflected at all in the editorial. The staff box remains "CSK," but it lists McMullen Argus art directors. To make matters even more muddled, the staff box shows this issue as Vol. 11, No. 1, and the circulation info at the bottom is for Bracket Racing USA. Otherwise, January was business as usual, with tech articles on replacing the steering linkage pivot ball in solid-axle cars and how to rebuild a Borg-Warner T10 gearbox.
With the February issue (Vol. 22, No. 2), things settled into place a little more neatly. The staff box now read McMullen Argus Publishing, Inc., and the bar code represents PRIMEDIA, the subsidiary of K-III that included McMullen Argus. All references to CSK were dropped and VETTE got a new logo-the one that is still being used today. Editorial content included an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the engineering process that brought us the C5, and a look at the 1998 Indy 500 Pace Car, the fourth one since 1978. March announced that Code Red, the project/giveaway '85 coupe was, after two years of tech articles, finished and won by Frank Suareo of Perry, Georgia.
In April, readers were introduced to the revolutionary new Active Handling System, RPO JL4, that became available midway through 1998 production. This sophisticated array of electronics and sensors greatly improved control in extreme handling situations by selectively applying individual brakes. May included the last consecutive annual Price Guide until 2000. The June cover car was a twin-turbocharged '64 coupe with an owner-designed custom EFI system, which also got a four-page spread inside. July marked the first edition of The Vette Files, a new two-page department dedicated to showcasing readers' rides, the first to do such regularly. September unveiled the '99 hardtop-the first fixed roof Corvette since 1967 and the latest to be hyped as the "Best Corvette Ever," a very popular term to throw around-and a glossy technical look at the LT1's Opti-Spark distributor that conveniently omitted any mention of the "Opti's" regular failures. October's highlight was an eight-page comparison of the attributes of all five generations. As of Vol. 22, No. 11 (Nov. '98), VETTE moved to the West Coast from the Jersey offices, and Bill Moore took over the reins, with his Associate Editor, Mike Blake. Lentinello stayed on temporarily as Editor-at-Large. The 26th Bloomington Gold returned to Bloomington after a five-year stint in Springfield. In December, Bill covered the UK's first-ever NCRS Flight judging.
The first half of 1999 continued in the same direction with Bill Moore at the rudder. C5's were the predominant topic, coverage of a wide variety of shows and events replaced most in-depth technical articles, and "Westways"-style touring articles ran rampant. Currents in the March issue (Vol. 23, No. 3) included the first mention of the factory-engineered C5-R racing effort, which was to compete in select endurance races beginning in the '99 season with the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. March also saw the first installment of Mr. Moore's multiple-part series, "Driven," a chronicle of his cross-country trek in a host of C5 Corvettes. In April, Richard Prince devoted 10 pages to an in-depth discussion of the new C5-R racing team, and was given six pages to rehash Callaway's construction of a Supernatural 490 ZR-1 from the first part of the decade. April even features a kit car '59 Corvette.
As of June 1999, Vol. 23, No. 6, Bob Wallace became the most recent editor in the driver's seat of VETTE. This marked the beginning of Team VETTE, consisting of Editorial Assistant John Nelson who came on board in May, Assistant Editor P.J. Rentie in July, and Art Director Cortney Williams since April. The new approach was summarized in the July Driver's Seat:
"Welcome to the 'new' VETTE Magazine. It will take a few issues for us at Team VETTE to get all of our proverbial ducks in a row, but I feel like we're off to a good start. I feel that this issue's cover is indicative of our new direction-Richard Prince's photo has some punch, there's some action and, for a change, there's a vintage Corvette. It reflects a little of what I want to bring back to VETTE-a wide variety of Corvettes, and some passion."
The new direction continued in August with four big-block features and the new Callaway C12 Supercar. The new editor also opened his mouth and inserted both feet by dissing C5's after one experience. It took a little time to wise up and to appreciate just how good they are, to which he admitted in the October Driver's Seat. The September issue brought with it more features and more tech; Edit or Bob bought his now-infamous "(not so) Great White" '76 L-48 automatic, and Richard F. Newton, the recently-departed editor of Corvette Fever, came on board as a contributor. Cortney Williams was replaced by Mariciel Basallo as Art Director in October; Bill Moore's "Driven" series concluded; and we featured a top-secret, insider leak at what would be the 385hp 2001 Z06. Golly, we were right!
November was themed "Fuelies!" and included a '61 big tank, a red split-window, and a converted '59. It also included the stories of the last two Corvettes built in the 1900s: the last convertible-driven 1,100 miles home from Bowling Green to Georgia with the top down, and the last 1999 Corvette-period-that shall remain forever brand new in the collection of Mid America's Mike Yager. December specials included the return of "Big John" Mazmanian's '91 drag Vette, and the first-ever Holiday Gift Guide.
January 2000, Vol. 24, No. 1, begins a new series of tech articles on early C4s, as "The Peej" bought an '84 project car, aka the "Blubonic Plague," and VETTE covered the National Corvette Museum's 5th Anniversary celebration. In February, GM Performance Parts released their new Ram Jet 350 EFI crate motor, with styling reminiscent of the old Rochester mechanical-injected 283 or 327, and stunning performance capabilities. April 2000 got silly with an April Foolish section, and May brought about the return of VETTE's much-requested annual Price Guide. June paid tribute to the King of the Hill on the ZR-1's 10th Anniversary; July featured The Tonight Show host Jay Leno and his lightly-modified '99 C5 coupe; and the theme for August revolved around spectacular competition Corvettes. September's highlight was the introduction of the '01 Corvettes, especially the new Z06. The Z06 proves to be the ultimate sports car the '99 hardtop was meant to be-and more! In October, the spotlight was aimed at factory rarities. November's do-it-yourselfer's 700-R4 transmission swap in a '72 Stingray stirrred up a lot of interest, and December included an enlightening interview with Corvette Plant Manager Wil Cooksey.
What a year! The C5-R racing team got the last of the kinks ironed out of the factory racers, and after a series of close finishes in the American Le Mans Series, VETTE was able to announce "VICTORY!" on the January cover, after a C5-R beat the Vipers at Texas Motor Speedway. Team VETTE also took on the Lazarus Project in January, a mid-year reconstruction that will test the limits of what is worth saving and what can be done with it. February is all about the C5-Rs again: first we learned that the Dale and Dale Jr. (Earnhardt) show from NASCAR would be joining the Corvette regulars at the 24 Hours at Daytona, then we got to celebrate another C5-R victory at Road Atlanta. May brought the 2001 Guide to Corvette Prices. While Team VETTE continued to deliver resto and performance tech, event coverage, and a mix of fantastic plastic, we enjoyed ticking off win after win for the C5-Rs, including Daytona, a repeat performance at Texas, and the biggest race of all, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This was sadly tempered by the tragic death of The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt, in a Winston Cup crash.
The summer of 2001 was kicked off with a droptop special in our July issue, followed by the return of an annual Corvette Car Club Directory in August and, after a couple year's hiatus, the 11th annual Corvette Ladies Salute, which included reminiscing with the First Lady of Corvette Racing, Betty Skelton. Team VETTE wrapped up its Silver Anniversary year with a first-ever Back-To-School special in October, a feature about Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean's '69 big-block coupe in November, and our own Silver Anniversary celebration in December-complete with a return visit from Founding Editor Marty Schorr.
2002 And Beyond
It's been a great 25 years. The future is ours. Thanks for riding with us, and buckle up--the fun is just beginning.