When America's founding fathers approved of the first American flag in May 1776, and used the same colors to create the Great Seal of the United States at the Continental Congress in 1782, they had no idea how good the three hues would look on Corvettes centuries later. Their intentions were to symbolize the traits of their new country: valor and hardiness (red), purity and innocence ( white), and vigilance, perseverance, and justice (blue).
The Corvette's use of America's trademark color triad marks another series of famous moments in history; the first was credited to Corvette racer John Greenwood, who campaigned his red-white-and-blue "Spirit of ..." Corvettes at various venues, including Le Mans and Sebring, in the 1970s. Even as recently as May 2006, this tricolor scheme provided the palette for the '06 Corvette Indy 500 Pace Car. "These color choices were based on a patriotic theme as America's sports car," Corvette Product Manager Harlan Charles says.
So there's no doubt that American-based Corvette owners have employed the colors and imagery of the flag on their cars to show their patriotism for decades. But what about Corvette enthusiasts who have never been to America? What would prompt them to put the Stars and Stripes on their vehicles?
"I have always had a love for American muscle cars since I was a young boy, and I love Corvettes," Kevin Mafrici, a 60-year-old aircraft engineer in Chipping North, Australia, tells VETTE magazine. "I am the proud owner of a '98 Corvette coupe that clearly shows its American-born allegiance."
In 2000, Mafrici was celebrating his sixth year of Corvette ownership with a '92 Polo Green C4 convertible, but it was time for a change. "I had modified it immensely, but my wife had issues getting in and out of it, so I looked to replace it with a newer model," he says. "My intention was to import a C5. Back then, the late-model Corvette choices in Australia were rather limited; we didn't have a lot of options for color, transmission, or extras, so I purchased a Torch Red '98 coupe sight unseen; it had emigrated to Australia shortly after it was brand-new, sometime in 1999, and when I found it, there were only 4,000 miles on the odometer."
The '98 Corvette marked the second year of the C5 generation. A total of 19,235 coupes and 11,849 convertibles were produced, for a grand total of 31,084 units. All production models came with the then-new Gen III LS1 engine featuring 346 cid and 345 hp. Two new performance options were added for the model year: the JL4 Active Handling System and the Z51 Performance Handling Package.
After converting his Vette to righthand drive (RHD) to meet Australian regulations, Mafrici got to work "changing things." In 2002 he began cosmetic upgrades and light mods. "I focused on making the engine bay and underbody show ready, then added 13.5-inch drilled-and-slotted brake rotors and polished factory wheels, modified by Mag Wheel Repairs and Polishing, in Sydney," he says.
The next year he added a C5-R-style rear wing, carbon-fiber fender trim, stainless-steel brake lines, and interior accoutrements consisting of Simpson five-point racing harnesses, polished-aluminum gauge surrounds, a red-and-black-leather steering wheel, a billet shift knob, and a cockpit-mounted camera.
In 2004 he sent his Corvette to Advanced Airbrushing in Penrith for custom graphics born straight out of American history. "The thought of airbrushing was there from when I first bought the C5," he says. "The problem was what to paint. Most of the show cars had naked women on the bonnets; it looked great, but I never felt comfortable with that idea for my car. I had the idea of a racing winner's flag-black and white checkers-[but] it's been done many times before, on many different cars. Eventually, I came up with the idea of an American flag. I had to wait until the big car shows were over for the year, and then I booked my car in for the airbrushing. By chance, the painter at Advanced Airbrushing was American, and he had some great ideas; I finally agreed to the three-dimensional look."