You could probably identify it a mile away just from the entourage of starry-eyed on-lookers. People flock and stare in wonderment where ever it goes. Sitting still or in motion, it doesn't matter-the reactions are always the same.
What's that down the road? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's not even a cape-wearing superhero in spandex. It's something far better-it's the Warren County Sheriff's Department C5 "Crimefighter" Corvette!
This remarkably effective public relations tool is used primarily to promote drug prevention among school children as part of the nationwide D.A.R.E. (Drug Awareness and Resistance Education) program, and Warren County's own "Reach for Your Dreams" drug and violence prevention curriculum that centers around the Corvette. The employment of a new Vette for Warren County, Kentucky's program seems only natural-not only is a Corvette one of the most distinct and awe-inspiring cars on the road, but Warren County just happens to contain a certain small town called Bowling Green, home of the Corvette Assembly Plant and the National Corvette Museum.
The Crimefighter Corvette has been an ever-evolving project, organized and sponsored by many individuals and corporations, but it has basically been the brainchild of its pilot and project director, Captain Joe Jakub. Joe has been a consummate friend of both the Corvette and the community. He is now a fully deputized law officer with Warren County, but from 1979 until his early retirement from GM, Joe worked as purchasing manager for the Corvette Assembly Plant, and even acted as a Development Manager on the National Corvette Museum for a short time during its founding. Joe has always been active in community service organizations as well, like The United Way and the Child Protection Board.
After participating in a community leadership program, Joe and his fellow program alumni implemented a project called "Crimestoppers", which brought Jakub into close association with the local law enforcement agencies. Joe was made an "auxiliary deputy" back in the '80s, while serving as president of the State Crimestoppers Association and Chairman of the local Crimestoppers board, and still working at the Corvette Plant. After retiring from GM, he was offered the new position of Crime Prevention Officer, so he went through full training and entered active service for Warren County.
Joe soon became involved and extremely interested in the D.A.R.E. program and drug prevention as a whole. Ideas for a Corvette D.A.R.E. car were soon running through his mind. Thanks in part to the many personal connections Joe established as a GM employee, the concept took off. The idea behind building "cool" cars for the D.A.R.E. program has been around for years and is very wide spread. The principle is to help break down barriers between kids and police officers, who can seem pretty intimidating, by giving them a comparatively universal discussion piece. Eight years ago, the Warren County Prevention Partnership sponsored a Camaro D.A.R.E. car.
In 2000, the Warren County Prevention Partnership, which consists of some 135 corporate partners across the U.S., provided them with a brand-new '00 Magnetic Red convertible for use. A lot of effort has gone into designing the "right" look and feel for the C5 to elicit interest, enthusiasm, and involvement from people who see it-children and adults alike. "Captain Joe," as he's known by the children he works with, admits he has had an edge up on creating this extraordinary car "because I'd already dealt with a lot of people in the past in my position with General Motors," but he credits Warren County Sheriff Jerry "Peanuts" Gaines, past president of the National Sheriff's Association and director of the W.C. Prevention Council, with making "it possible for the Crimefighter Corvette project to be what it is today." Since the Advisory Council includes other notable (and relatively powerful) names such as Joe Spielman, Vice President and General Manager of GM's Metal Fabricating Division and 2001 NCM Hall of Fame inductee, and the Corvette Plant's General Manager Wil Cooksey, Captain Joe was certain to get things done.
The '00 C5 remained stock for exactly no time at all. A prototype Nitrous Oxide Systems "bottled throttle" package was custom-installed on the Vette by Holley in their Bowling Green corporate engineering lab, and its breathing and sound have been upgraded with Borla intake and exhaust pieces.
An amazing job was done to squeeze all of a standard police car's radios, lights, radar, and other equipment into the tight confines of the C5. Joe had to be sure nothing was done sloppily on the Vette because of its extreme visibility in the public arena. Needless to say, he wasn't disappointed. Everything necessary to turn the C5 into a fully functional patrol car was installed in a very professional - and creative - manner so as not to compromise the car's comfort or appearance. "It is a working patrol car," says Jakub. "It works the street along with all its other stuff," making it the ultimate squad car. You'd be amazed by the number of people who blow by this thing even though it says 'SHERIFF' and has lights and all. I guess they don't expect a Corvette to be a police car." Makes sense to us-we'd expect to see red lights chasing after a Vette, but not in one!
The C5's appearance is always changing. Originally equipped with the exotic N73 factory magnesium rims, the Crimestopper Corvette currently rides on Alcoa chrome factory wheels wearing Goodyear runflats. Even with all the police gear installed inside the Vette, its interior still seemed too "normal" with its factory Sport seats. Thus, DJ's Upholstery in Bowling Green was recently turned loose to add some extra pizzazz to the cockpit.
Since its unveiling at the April 2000 C5 Birthday Bash at the National Corvette Museum before 1,300 enthusiasts, the convertible has received a couple of different custom paint schemes to encourage the desired interaction with the public. Clay Bilyeu of Clay's Auto Body is responsible for the paintwork the C5 displays. In fact, it is Clay's five-year-old son, Thomas, a poster child for the "Reach for Your Dreams" program, who is portrayed on the C5's hood, wrapped in an American flag. The paint design has been a collective effort between Clay, Captain Joe, and airbrush artist Lewis Solis.
From the time it entered service with the Sheriff's Department, the C5 has seen duty all across the nation, and received tons of recognition and accolades. Between local Warren County activities and making guest appearances just about everywhere in the nation, the Crimestopper Corvette and Captain Joe have put in over 60,000 miles of service. It immediately became the Kentucky State D.A.R.E. Car of the Year, and was then hailed as the 2001 International D.A.R.E. Car of the Year in Los Angeles. A bunch of famous groups and people have appeared with the Vette to make anti-drug videos, including the Navy's Blue Angels, AirForce's Thunderbird pilots, and the pop band In-Sync. The C5 even appeared in President George W. Bush's Inaugural Parade through Washington, D.C., where Joe drove it with Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon!
Most importantly, however, the Vette does its job breaking the tension between officer and student. "You can give me the toughest kid going," Captain Joe says, "and I guarantee you within 20 minutes to half an hour, me and him will be buddies because of that car." Think you can do better than Jakub? Go ahead and try-we D.A.R.E. you!