In our last issue, we showed you how VETTE magazine's founding father, Marty Schorr, returned to the Corvette world with the purchase of a new C6 convertible. Schorr had been out of the hobby since selling his '67 big-block in 1999 and regretted his decision the minute he made the deal. Having him back in a Corvette where be belongs was good news to all of us here at VETTE.
Schorr also shared his impressions of the C6 and how it compared with the classic '67. The longtime auto enthusiast is one of the few guys on the planet with the experience and insight to accurately describe how the Corvette has evolved into the quintessential American sports car. Along with editing several high-performance car magazines before starting VETTE, Schorr was involved with the legendary Joel Rosen and his Motion Performance facility on Long Island, New York. Schorr even tested some of the wild, big-block Phase III Camaros and Corvettes that came out of Rosen's shop. Today, legitimate Baldwin-Motion supercars from the '60s are worth upward of half a million dollars.
Before he purchased his new C6, Schorr checked out several different dealerships. Like many prospective Corvette buyers, he was looking for more than a good deal; he was looking for a dealership staffed by Corvette specialists, both in the showroom and in the service department. Schorr also wanted to order special GM accessories for his Corvette, so it was important to him that the dealer understood precisely what he wanted and could handle the installation of the parts.
While there are thousands of aftermarket bits available for C6 Corvettes, Schorr wanted to use only genuine GM gear. "When you order a brand-new Corvette," he says, "you can go through the GM Accessory book, select the kind of stuff you want-ranging from complete dress-up parts to performance enhancements like exhaust systems-and order it with the car."
In the end, Schorr chose to buy his C6 from Ferman Chevrolet, in Tampa, Florida. Ferman is more than just a Corvette-friendly dealership. Each year, it sponsors "The Ultimate Corvette Party," a show that attracts more than 400 local Vettes, and the dealership is involved in a number of other Corvette-related activities. Tommy Farruggio, the dealership's Corvette specialist, shares Ferman's dedication to the hobby. Not only has Farruggio been a Corvette owner for years (he's owned '69, '73, '79, '81, '87, '98, '01, and '07 models), but he's also an active member of the local Corvette community and is heavily involved in area Corvette clubs.
"General Manager Eddie Gomez saw the increasing interest of Corvette owners in after- market accessories," says Farruggio. "We sell about 150 Corvettes a year, so Eddie felt it was a good fit for Ferman to get into the GM accessory market. [He also decided to] develop a specialty building on dealership property to handle Corvette sales and accessories, making Ferman a one-stop Corvette shop."
Farruggio had long recognized the need for Ferman to expand its Corvette business. Thanks to Ferman's progressive vision for the Corvette customer, management agreed to remodel an adjacent building (previously the home of a Harley-Davidson dealer) and name it "Ferman Chevrolet Corvette Center." Farruggio was put in charge of the facility.
In Schorr's opinion, the Ferman Corvette Center should be a model for other Chevrolet dealers. "If GM was really smart," he says, "they'd pay a lot of attention to what Tommy did at Ferman and emulate that. GM has been pushing its dealers to remodel stores to a higher standard. There are a lot of older dealerships, but to be competitive today, you have to have an appealing environment for customers to buy cars and have them serviced.
In many respects, Ferman's operation is akin to the famed Malcolm Konner Chevrolet dealership in Paramus, New Jersey, in the '80s. "Konner was one of the largest Corvette dealers in the country," Schorr says. "They dedicated the top floor of their building to Corvettes and treated Corvette sales very specially. There was a Corvette specialist in an office with an assistant, and those two handled all the Corvette sales for Konner. They had a Corvette 'boutique' and special service technicians." Today, dealers such as Kerbeck, also in New Jersey, and Bud's, in Ohio, are prime examples of those cashing in on the still-hot Corvette market.
Much of the success of Ferman's Corvette Center is the direct result of Tommy Farruggio's passion. "He understands that when you are a Corvette owner, you're part of a club," Schorr says, "an exclusive group, and a lifestyle grown from a racing heritage born of LeMans and Sebring and Daytona. It's been America's only sports car from 1953 till now, with its own magazines. That's a heritage you can't make up. You can't buy it."
Schorr chose to customize his new C6 with GM accessories and have Ferman install them before he took delivery. Many C6 owners want to make their Corvettes look distinctive but don't want to make radical changes to the car's appearance. They also don't want the hassle of finding someone to install aftermarket parts. "If you have GM accessories installed at the dealership before you take delivery," Schorr says, "they're covered by the GM 3-year/36,000-mile car warranty. You don't have to worry about parts breaking or being stuck with some cheap accessories. For me, it was a no-brainer."
According to Farruggio, there's another advantage to ordering GM accessories for your Corvette and having your dealer install them. "They can be ordered with your vehicle, so the cost is included in your monthly lease or loan payment and installed on your Corvette before you take delivery. If bought after delivery, the parts are still covered under the 12-month GM Accessory Warranty."
"With the Corvette Center and the GM Accessory program," Schorr continues, "Ferman provides computers in the showroom so you can print up a wish list for the accessories you're interested in. Or you can have Tommy take you on a full, detailed tour of the accessories available for your car."
We followed along as Farruggio and company installed stainless-steel grilles and sidescoops, body-colored door handles, a rear spoiler, engine covers, a converter-back exhaust system, and other accessories on Schorr's C6 prior to delivery. "All of the stuff was installed, and I drove home with a C6 that was customized to my taste," Schorr says of the conversion. "Even though Ferman is 50 miles from my house, I have no problem driving up for an oil change or any kind of service on the car. Tommy and I go to lunch while the car's being serviced. How many Corvette dealers do you know where you can do that?"