One of the top summer Corvette events is the Bloomington Gold Corvette show, held each year at the Pheasant Run Resort in Saint Charles, Illinois. Thanks to our friends at Chevrolet, we arrived at the event in style, in the form of an '11 Supersonic Blue Grand Sport convertible equipped with a six-speed manual trans. Parking at the show is no problem for Corvette owners, as a large portion of the resort's 18-hole golf course is dedicated to Vettes-only parking. Attendees drove Corvette models from almost every year of production, and many were in "as new" condition.
After touring the parking area, we moved over to the Survivor section and closely inspected these unrestored Corvettes. After that, we visited the large vendor areas that make up the GoldMarket and GoldMine exhibits. Here you will find cars for sale by their owners, along with Corvette parts that range from complete frames to hard-to-find vintage lug nuts. This is a great place to shop if you're restoring your car or just need to keep it fresh with new parts.
After completing our tour of the for-sale and vendor areas, we headed to the Great Hall. This is where the crþme de la crþme of the Corvette world can be found. Upon walking into the hall, the first thing we spotted was a "barn find" black '57 fuelie on display. The car had been in storage in Rochelle, Illinois, since 1978, after the owner lost interest in it. Attendees were asked to fill out a survey and share their opinion on what should be done with this clearly neglected Corvette. A total of 30 percent said it should it be left alone, unwashed; 45 percent said to leave it alone but clean it thoroughly; 12 percent wanted to make it a driver; and 12 percent recommended restoring it to Gold Certification standards.
The Great Hall began in 2010, for the purpose of paying tribute each year to 10 people who have made positive contributions to the hobby. In addition, 10 Corvettes are selected based on their styling, performance, and historic significance. The 2011 Great Hall Corvettes on display included a '55 V-8 car, the '56 SR-2 racer, the '60 Le Mans racer, the '60 Route 66 TV car, the '63 Harley Earl Corvette, a '65 396/425 hp car, a '67 L88 racer, a '69 ZL1 coupe, a '71 ZR2 big-block, and a '78 Indy Pace Car.
The 2011 inductees were Tony DeLorenzo, M.E. Dobbins, Ralph Eckler, Dan Gale, Roger Judski, Gary Mortimer, the Naber Brothers, the NCRS, Joe Pike, and Bob Wingate. (For a complete history of these cars and a list of inductee accomplishments, visit www.bloomingtongold.com/.)
An induction ceremony was held in front of a large crowd as each Great Hall honoree was recognized. Owners of the exhibited Corvettes, meanwhile, received a certificate and a large medal to commemorate their car's induction. Each car was displayed in a well-lighted area with an accompanying write-up describing its significance.
After drooling over these breathtaking Corvettes, we headed over to the Certification area. Here, Bloomington judges carefully inspect each prospective Survivor, Gold, and Gold Benchmark car to determine if it qualifies for these highly sought-after designations. A Survivor certification documents that the car is unrestored and meets these requirements:
Is more than 20 years old
Can pass a 20-mile road test
Remains more than 50 percent unrestored, unrefinished, and unaltered
Retains finishes well enough to serve as a color guide for the restoration of a car just like it
Additionally, judges inspect four components: Exterior, Interior, Underhood, and Chassis. Cars must pass at least three of these four categories to become Survivor certified. A total of 36 Corvettes received their Survivor certification at this year's show, with model years ranging from 1956 to 1991.
Sixty-nine Corvettes were Gold certified at this year's show. Gold certified means a Corvette has been "preserved in" or "restored to" within 95 percent of the way it appeared when it left the factory. The idea is for the car to display historic, as opposed to cosmetic, perfection. Typically, this recognition is much more difficult to attain.
The most prestigious Bloomington Award is Gold Benchmark--the highest recognition for an unrestored Corvette. Introduced in 1991, this designation requires that a car be Gold certified and excel in all four categories of Survivor evaluation during the same judging weekend. This year 11 cars were selected for this honor.
All too soon it was time to climb back into our Grand Sport and bid farewell to this year's Bloomington Gold event. If you're in the Chicago area next June 21-24, consider stopping by Saint Charles to enjoy all the Corvette-themed excitement--and be sure to bring your own Vette along with you.