Bloomington Corvette Show - Digging For Gold

We examine the past, present, and future of a premier Corvette event

Walt Thurn Dec 11, 2012 0 Comment(s)
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The Cars

'53 Corvette Serial Number 3 ::: Completed on July 1st, 1953, it is the earliest known Corvette in existence.

'56 SR Corvette ::: John Fitch and Walt Hansgen won their class at the 1956 12 Hours of Sebring in this car.

CERV I ::: This was Zora Duntov's first "Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicle."

'59 Stingray Racer ::: Bill Mitchell bought the second Corvette SS chassis for $1 and commissioned designer Larry Shinoda to develop the beautiful Stingray body. Dr. Dick Thompson drove this car to the 1960 SCCA National Championship.

'61 Mako Shark ::: This show car was used to test the interest in the '63 Stingray design.

'67 Survivor ::: The Survivor award began in 1989 as a way of honoring unrestored Corvettes. This year a 2,999-original-mile '67 model was displayed to showcase the Survivor category.

'67 Le Mans Racer ::: This is the only C2 Corvette to race at Le Mans, where it was driven by Don Yenko, Bob Bondurant, and Dick Guldstrand in 1967. It led the GT class for 12 hours before retiring.

'69 L88 Race Car ::: This iconic C3 was campaigned by the John Greenwood racing team.

'70 Corvette LT-1 ::: The LT-1 was the last high-performance V-8 built by Chevrolet for nearly two decades.

'90 Corvette ZR-1 ::: The "King of the Hill" project began in 1985, under the direction of Corvette Chief Engineer Dave McLellan. It was billed as the first "world class" Corvette.

CERV I Honored

One of the most coveted Corvettes in the Mid America Motorworks My Garage museum was inducted into the Bloomington Gold Great Hall this year. Only 50 Corvettes will receive this recognition, and it is fitting that the CERV I (Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicle) is one of them.

Zora Arkus-Duntov, the so-called "father of the Corvette," began building this car in 1959 and used it for testing the following year. It was unveiled to the public at the 1960 Riverside Grand Prix, where it was driven by racing greats Sterling Moss and Dan Gurney.

In 1964 Duntov introduced the all-wheel-drive CERV II to use in his next-generation test program. After testing was completed on both cars, GM donated them to the Briggs Cunningham Museum in 1972.

CERV I changed hands a number of times before being purchased by MAM owner Mike Yager on June 26, 1996. We spoke with Yager at the Bloomington show about the car's significance.

VETTE magazine: How did you find this car?

Mike Yager: Tom Christmann and I were looking at a ProTeam [Corvette Sales] flyer, and we saw the CERV I for sale for $225,000. It took a lot of soul searching for me to…pay that much money for a car, but I decided to buy it.

VM: What influenced your decision?

MY: Part of my decision to buy this car was when I asked myself, How could a car as significant as this to Chevrolet's history be for sale? In addition this was Zora's favorite test vehicle, and the logbook shows this car was fitted with seven test engines. The engine in the car now is a 377-cubic-inch Grand Sport test engine. It really became an easy decision to purchase it.

VM: How did the car get into private hands originally?

MY: [Miles] Collier bought the Cunningham museum in 1987 when it closed. He immediately put both cars up for sale at the Monterey Classic Car Auction. Chevrolet put an injunction against the sale. It took three years and a lot of money to settle the case, and the verdict was sealed, but the cars received a clear title.

VM: The car is in excellent condition. Did you restore it?

MY: No, shortly after I bought it, I received a phone call from [GM PR director] Ralph Kramer about having GM restore the car. I accepted his offer, and he put me in touch with [GM Performance head] John Moss. John asked me to bring it to Detroit, and his team refurbished it for me. He paid for the restoration with his [Specialty Equipment Market Association show] budget. John took it to SEMA shortly after the restoration, and it was a big hit with the crowd.

VM: Who owns CERV II?

MY: Harry Yeaggy owns the CERV II, and it is part of his extensive collection in Ohio.

VM: What does it mean to Mid America Motorworks to have CERV I join the Great Hall?

MY: I have owned this car for 16 years, and to get it selected as one of the top 50 Corvettes ever built is a huge honor for me and Mid America.

VM: What is it like to sit in this car?

MY: It is about as close to Corvette heritage as you can get. This is the car Zora sat in and drove his heart out in, and now it is in my museum! It doesn't get much better than that.

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