Corvettes at Carlisle draws aficionados, dealers and dreamers

In an era where many automobiles are indistinguishable from one make to the next, the Chevrolet Corvette remains one of the most recognizable rides on the road. This distinction, along with the car’s undeniable sex appeal and the sheer fun of driving a Vette, are just some of the reasons that 62 years after the car made its initial appearance at the New York Auto Show, the Corvette continues to embody part of what many consider to be the American Dream. That dream was well represented last weekend as Vette owners and fans of the “plastic fantastic” gathered at the fairground in nearby Carlisle, Pennsylvania, for the 2015 edition of Corvettes at Carlisle.

Billed as the largest and most fun-filled Corvette event in the world, Corvettes at Carlisle draws more than 5,000 Corvettes each year, representing all generations of the classic sports car. Along with an expansive Corvette car corral, the event featured a Corvette parade through the historic downtown district. Enthusiasts could also barter at a swap meet with a wide variety of new and used parts vendors, while Vette owners pampered their investments with an array of offerings from the Manufacturers Midway and Installation Alley.

Craig Mudrock (52) of southern York County told the Baltimore Post-Examiner he has never owned a Corvette, but someday hopes to purchase a first generation model. Mudrock had paused to admire a stunning Ermine White 1960 Vette.

A 1960 Corvette in Ermine White. (Anthony C. Hayes)
A 1960 Corvette in Ermine White. (Anthony C. Hayes)

“I’d love to own one when I retire, but right now I have more pressing goals,” said Mudrock.

When asked what he currently drives, Mudrock said he owns a Cadillac ATS.

“I used to own a BMW E series, but to tell you the truth, I like the Cadillac a whole lot better.”

Across the dirt lane from where the white 1960 Vette sat, members of the fan club Corvette Nation were cramming together to take a friendly group picture. The Carlisle event has attracted members of the world-wide fan club from as far away as Australia.

Glancing about the area, this reporter noticed that many of the members displayed interesting and unique custom license plates on their immaculate machines. Each member had a story, and all were proud of their beautiful Corvettes. Diane Bushey explained the meaning behind her custom plates, which read, “Bye Now”.

“As my mom grew older, I always made sure to call her or see her whenever I could. My visits always ended with a cheerful “Bye now”. Those were the last words I spoke to my mom right before she died, so the plates are a constant reminder of my mom.”

Last of the C-1 Corvettes

New Jersey native Chet Schmitt (64) took a break from the noonday sun by relaxing on a folding chair beside his pristine Roman Red convertible.

Jim and Ruth Exline arrived in a custom 1954 Corvette. (Anthony C. Hayes)
Jim and Ruth Exline arrived in a custom built 1954 Corvette. (Anthony C. Hayes)

“This is a 1962, and it’s considered the last year of the first generation of Corvettes. From a collectors standpoint, it’s called a C-1. (Note: 1962 Corvettes were the last of the model with a solid rear axle, which marked the end of the Corvette’s first generation.)

“The C-2 model was started in 1963 and went until 1967. I bought this car in 1999. It was originally Honduras Maroon, but I had it media-blasted up in Bridgeport, Connecticut; then I repainted it myself in my garage. Other than that, I’ve just done some finishing touches here and there. I’m the third owner, and the car had 119,000 original miles when I bought it. It’s been down to Bowling Green, Kentucky twice and was on the Power Tour in ‘98, but I just did the body back. The underside of the car was restored by the previous owner. That’s pretty much all I had to do to it. It’s really a nice car to drive.”

Two lanes over, Jim Exline (60) and his wife Ruth were answering questions while showing off Jim’s latest project: a midnight blue 1954 “kit” Corvette with a host of high performance features. (Kit – or reproduction – cars are very popular with the home builder set.)

“It’s 1954″, said Jim, “but it sits on a C-4 suspension. It’s got a General Motors crate 480 horsepower LS3 in it with a T-56 magnum transmission. There’s a Dana 40 rear out of 1992 Grand Sport; actually, there are a lot of parts from that ‘92 Grand Sport. (Laughing) It’s also got air conditioning.”

Exline said it took him five years to complete the unique head turner, but it’s not his first such project. Prior to undertaking his work on the ‘54, Exline assembled a 1967 Corvette for his wife.

Eduardo Sousa of Al Knoch Interiors fits a new top on a silver Stingray. (Anthony C. Hayes)
Eduardo Sosa of Al Knoch Interiors fits a new top on a silver Stingray. (Anthony C. Hayes)

“That car has an LS3 in it, too. It’s basically the same setup as my ‘54.”

Corvette owners consider finishing touches

On Installation Alley, Eduardo Sosa – an expert technician with Al Knoch Interiors – was busy at work installing a new convertible top on a silver 1969 Stingray.

“We come to these shows twice a year,” said Sosa, as he was carefully affixing the new top to the folding steel frame. “It’s a very busy weekend.”

Around the corner from the Al Knoch tent, at the A&A Auto Stores lifts, several serious Corvette owners were considering the ramifications of ditching their stock exhaust for an aftermarket system by manufacturers such as Borla, Corsa, and MagnaFlow.

The conversation quieted briefly, as on the far end of the field, the owner of a Pepto Pink Vette slowly turned down the lane – looking for a place to park. It was Tracie Jones of Mannheim – last year’s Mid-America Motorworks celebrity pick – driving her standout 2013 Grand Sport.

Car enthusiasts Dianne and Todd Warren. (Anthony C. Hayes)
Car enthusiasts Dianne and Todd Warren. (Anthony C. Hayes)

Back in the car corral, Todd Warren (52) carefully surveyed the field of gleaming finishes; stopping for a moment to consider a Signet Red 1958 convertible. Warren, an admitted regular at car shows, brought his wife Dianne down from Bloomsburg for a pleasant day of tire kicking.

“I was practically raised in an auto body shop, so I appreciate these cars – especially the paint jobs. I work for PPG industries out of Pittsburgh. PPG began as a glass manufacturer, but we’re now 95% paint and a global leader in the automotive paint industry. We actually sponsor a car event called the Bloomsburg Nationals, which is part of Carlisle Events.”

Does Warren own a Vette?

“No, but I think that in the next year, we may be in the market for one.

“We’re the quintessential baby-boomers. I go to a lot of car shows, and if you look around, there are all of these people in their fifties whose kids are out of college; their house is almost paid for. They’re the ones who can afford a car like this (a 1957 convertible in Venetian Red). This car probably sells for $80,000, but you can find Corvettes at all price points. You can buy a really nice one for $20,000 or less. So, no, to answer your question I don’t own a Vette.”

“Not yet.”

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For more information about car shows in Carlisle, including the big upcoming Fall Event, visit Carlisle Events. And be sure to check out our photo roundup of Corvettes at Carlisle 2015!