Feb 10, 2011

Corvette Dreams


First a little back story...

Corvettes have had a soft spot in my heart for a long time.  The only Matchbox car I remember was a ’63 split window coupe.  The Corellian Corvettes in Star Wars didn’t escape my attention.  How could it?  I watched the movie 30 times.  I learned to draw by tracing Corvettes from the pages of CarToons magazine.  In high school I read everything printed about Corvettes.  I worshiped the collaborative genius of the 32 valved C4 ZR1.  My teens will give an honorable mention to both the movie "Corvette Summer" and the song "Little Red Corvette."   A very tired C3 almost took me off to college; luckily my Camaro was fast enough to take my license. Freshman year speech class was all about about Corvettes, at least for me. Somewhere in college my attention drifted to the brutal power of the Shelby Cobra.  After I built that Cobra, the C5 came out and immediately got my attention at the local track.  I’ve been watching them out of the corner of my eye ever since.  

Not my actual 1st Matchbox,  It might have been a HotWheels

So, when does cruising not require a car?  When it’s on a ship. I just returned from such an “anti-Cruise” through the Hawaiian islands. I know what you’re thinking, “didn’t he say he’s not interested in anything without wheels?” Yes, I did, but please, let me explain.
Every year the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green Kentucky raises money with a winter vacation cruise. Various contributors take the opportunity to park those Corvettes and cruise in a different way.  I attend periodically since my Mom and Aunt Dee own a couple of Corvettes.  It's an easy way to spend time with family while keeping conversation close to what's really important... cars.
Corvette owners settled for Jeeps and hit the road to Hana on Maui. 
Most of these attending museum contributors are die-hard Corvette fans. Singularity of their passion is quite evident. I wish I could stay in love with the same car for that long. I’m more the oversexed teenager type when it comes to cars:  I look, admire and desire them all.  Just days after buying a new vehicle my mind wanders. Being loyal to the Corvette moniker is often more than simple sports car enthusiasm, it’s also patriotism. The Corvette is America. Most of these “cruisers” are retiree’s as you might expect. Many are veterans as well.  It’s always an honor to be in the presence of individuals that have given so much to America, especially after visiting the Pearl Harbor memorial.

Memorial to the Arizona. Sunk at Pearl Harbor, but I hope you knew that.
The Arizona still leaks  2-9 quarts of oil daily. Sometimes called "black tears"
 How can it still be leaking?   Because It held 1.5 million gallons. 
Thats alot of oil changes.

Contributors give to the Corvette museum in various ways. Buying a cruise ticket starts the process. A portion of that ticket cost is donated to the museum. Many of the cars in the museum are actually donations also.  Commemorative bricks and benches (among other things) are sold as well. They commemorate the contributors and the particular year/cruise they attended. These folks stick together, that’s for sure. Many attend every single year, so they are a tight group.

On the big island the local turn out to meet our group was impressive.

Corvette talk fills the air at dinner time. Racing, modifications, speculation about the C7, members can talk endlessly about whichever model they appreciate best. Some of the cruisers are quite well connected, so if you can keep quiet and listen (not my best talent) you can learn a lot. The only conversation more passionate than Vettes was the wise cracking about my Porsche. I took considerable abuse for being a non-corvette owner. I might save up for one of those ZR1 raffle tickets.  Then, after winning I can put an end to the abuse.

Yes, the museum is raffling a whole package to Lemans 24hr!!  Poly vu francias?
Picture stolen without permission from my hero, Corvetteblogger.

Not all Corvette people are into stock cars with matching numbers.
Kind of refreshing.

Corvette cruisers, on land or sea, are quite easy to spot. Just look for the Corvette logo, it’s on them like white is on rice. It started with magnetic pictures on each cabin door, in case you forget your room number. Your car is much easier to remember after that third Mai Tai. Then it was followed up with name tags, hats, shirts and pins. I even saw some Corvette socks. It was easy to spot who was in our group, just follow the crossed flags.

Mustard isn't really my color. But I looked smashing anyway.

All this Corvette worship got me thinking more seriously about these cars. At times, Corvettes have been a bit big and heavy but not anymore. Are they too common? Well maybe, but many special option packages and unique models exist to please those exclusivity obsessed types, like myself.  Interior has been accused of being lackluster for a supercar, but look again. The optional leather interior brings the appearance up a notch. Don’t forget the economy of scale that benefits the buyer. Chevrolet is huge and they’ve spent more money than most companies can even earn to make the Corvette deliver reliable performance. Aston Martin, while very classy and cool, could never earn the kind of money that Chevy has spent developing this one car.

The 2011 Grandsport Coupe in particular has my attention. It’s got all the good looks and handling without an excessive power plant. I do fear, however, that Chevrolet would simply make a better and faster car as soon as I wrote my check.  Keeping my slower Porsche is safer as I’m confident the current Carrera quality level will never compare to my 1998 model. Dare I say it, Porsche quality is not improving as quickly as performance is.


My dentist's Corvette. Think I'll cut back to once/year cleanings.

One of my favorite years.
We must give the Corvette a fair shake here. It is a survivor since the 50’s. 60 years of development as a flagship for performance has paid off.  The raw statistics indicate any current Corvette is definitely an exceptional sports car. Let’s not even get into the performance of the Z06 or the ZR1 models. Toss in some more carbon and leather, then maybe upgrade the seats to some hard backs with Alcantara (hint hint). Now your competing head to head with Europe at a far lower price.

I love the color and the red headed gal in the driver seat too.  (Aunt Dee's Z06)

I forget what year this Vette was, but it was nice.
Oh, you need to check out the Corvete club of Hawaii
Ask yourself this, if the current ZO6 was built by someone in Europe, and cost $200K how would the magazines and the world regard it? Let’s take the Folgers switch with even an LS3 Corvette and give these cars a respectful nod.

Hey Chevy:
I'll take these colors, a spoler, manual 6spd and that black leather dash package.
Oh, and I'll pick it up at the Museum in Kentucky, so no need to ship it.

I can hear all the bar stool experts saying “why are you comparing European supercars to Corvettes?” To them I ask this:
Have you driven a Corvette lately?

Heck, my aunt’s Z06 scared the crap out of me! in a good way. When the C5’s rear- transmission was introduced handling reached a  new level. Anyone remember the 944?.  Balanced yes, but it's still an all American with a front engine feel. Even with the lowly 430hp LS3, one lap around the track will clear this up for you.  Anybody shooting his or her mouth off should get the picture by the 1st turn. No bar stool can thrill like this car.


Did I mention who won the Cruise's RC car  time trials?
That's because I'm so humble.  It's one of by best qualities.
Local enthusiasts can always be found wherever the Musuem
cruisers go and as usual they show us a really great time.
 Special thanks to the enthusiast owned Aikane Coffee Company
I packed up as much of this coffee as I could carry.  Good stuff.

So don’t let all those convertibles, automatics, and grey hair fool you. These are some serious sports cars. If you want performance and reliability over all else, look no further than a new Corvette. The fact that they are a bit more common is for good reason, they make great sense.   A lot of people love them for a lot of different reasons.  Many people have waited most of their lives to get one, so yes the hair may have greyed. But show the good old Corvette some car guy respect, or my mother may just to hand you your ass on her way to church.

Mom washes her C6 with distilled water to avoid water spots.
I'm so proud.  




Special thanks to Sheri Clarke for organizing all the travel for the Corvette Museum for many years. She and her husband David are true masters at managing large, loud, confused, and unruly groups like ours. http://www.cruiseholidays.com/  Next year I hear it's South America.


More random pics from our Hawaii trip...

View from hotel in Waikiki

Jeep tour allowed a few stops for swimming beneath water falls

Smart people, rent.  It's cheaper than shipping it over.
This one's for you Bill
Snorkeling and alcohol do mix.
Just a few friends that showed up to say hello.
Bet you don't find these at your airport on the mainland
The Ford ThunderChicken, has low horsepower. 


Ferrari, expensive cars, but great hats.
I have no idea who these women are.
Survivors of the invasion can be found at the memorial,
 but the numbers are dwindling.



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