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The American Sports Car
The Chevrolet Corvette is an American sports car manufactured since 1953. At the time of its introduction it was America’s only two-seat car, and for decades was unchallenged as the premium domestic sports car of its day. The first Corvette was designed by Harley Earl and named by Myron Scott after the fast ship of the same name. Originally built in Flint, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri, it is currently built in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the same location of the National Corvette Museum.
The cars’ designer, Earl, loved sports cars was hired by GM in 1927. GI’s returning from overseas following WWII were bringing home MG’s, Jaguars, Alfa Romeos, and other European automobiles. Earl convinced GM that they also needed to build a two-seat sports car and with his “Special Projects” crew began working on the new car in 1951. GM was considering shelving the project if not for two important events: 1. Introduction in 1955 of the first V8 engine since 1919 2. influence of a Soviet emigrant in the GM engineering department Zora Arkus- Duntov
The new 265 cubic inch (4.3L) V8 became available with a three-speed manual transmission late in the model year, turning the previously anemic Corvette into an outstanding performer. And the rest as they say is history. The Corvette is in its’ sixth generation (characterized as C1 through C6 with each version offering differing features. The C6 version includes the ZR1, which has the most powerful engine used in a production Corvette to date. The car comes in a coupe and convertible but the possibility of a sedan version has also been considered by GM executives. The oldest surviving Cor v e t te to ever come off the Flint assembly line is known as the “double-o-three” to Corvette enthusiasts. It was sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction in January 2006 for one million dollars. (See Jerry’s Chevrolet and Corvettes story for a 1963 Corvette purchased at this year’s Barret-Jackson auction.) The oldest Corvette in existence is believed to be the EX-122, a pre-production prototype that was hand built and first shown to the public at the 1953 GM Motorama in New York City. The car currently resides at the Atlantic City Showroom and Museum of Kerbeck Corvette.
On the cover of this month’s magazine are three top locally owned Corvettes, a red, a white, and a blue one in honor of the Memorial Holiday. The victory red Corvette is a 1966 model convertible, owned by Jim McGrann. The car boasts a 350 HP 327 cubic inch engine. Jim has owned the car for about three years. He got the car in a swap with a collector in St. Louis, Missouri. The car was in pretty good shape when he traded, needing only some mild restoration. He tore out the interior and restored the insulation and carpet, and put in new leather seats. Some additional detailing completed the classic. Jim is a dermatologist in Sioux Falls and has been driving corvettes for decades. His first vette was a 1960. his second vette, a 1966, was regrettably sold to finance his medical school education. Jim has owned 6 corvettes but his favorite is his 2008 jet stream blue convertible. He has been a member of the Corvette club since 1994.
The ermine white car is a 1966 owned by Ron Kersbergen. He bought it as a junked car many years ago. The original 427 engine has been modified many times for racing and other personal tastes. Over the years, Ron has restored the car to original condition, representative of the 427 cubic inch 390 HP 4-speed big block Chevy of its time. Ron works at a prominent goal.
The club sponsors many events that can be enjoyed by almost all car lovers. The average members are couples, but singles are very welcome. In the winter months when driving the Vette is not ideal, the club sponsors garage tours to view car collections and dream garages of The Siouxland community. There is usually a social event monthly that may involve a wine tasting or dining at some fun, but not well known, site. The monthly club meetings are held at C J Callaway’s. This gives members a chance to visit, pass on vicarious life adventures, and even club planning. During the more pleasant months, the club focuses more on opportunities to get out and drive the cars.
The club sponsors several yearly events also. In April there is a spring rally that involves travel through the country side with mystic clues to find the final destination. Usually this involves a fun meal as a reward for traversing the route. There is a spring car show. This year the show will be held at the Billion Chevrolet site on west 12th Street. This is scheduled for May 30th from 1-4 pm. This will feature the Corvettes of club members, but any Corvette owner is encouraged to attend and show their car. The club also participates in Automania which will be held on June 17th in the downtown area.
The primary event for the SFCC is the annual Black Hills Corvette classic. This event starts with Hot Summer Nights in downtown Sioux Wheel City and has the longest tenure as a Corvette Club member - 37 years. He has owned six corvettes over the years and still maintains a stable of four models.
The Nassau blue Corvette is a 300 HP 404 small block 1965 convertible owned by Pat Campbell. Pat took this car down to the frame approximately two years ago and restored to its’ pristine condition it is in today. This is a wonderful representation of one of the great Corvettes of all time. Pat, who works for Rehab Medical Supply as an Equipment Technician has owned seven corvettes and has been a member of the Corvette Club for almost twenty five years. When asked about his favorite vette, he was torn between the ’65 convertible and a 1961 black convertible.
Sioux Falls is home to many wonderful events and groups that make the enjoyment of motorized vehicles possible. One the oldest and largest is the Sioux Falls Corvette Club. There have been groups of Corvette fans prior to this group, but the SFCC seems to be the enduring and growing club. It was originally founded in 1972 by a group of Vette fans that seemed to be determined to have a good time. The group has grown to about 200 members today, but the pursuit of a good time continues to be Falls. Several hundred Corvettes are parked on Phillips Ave. along with hundreds of Harley Davidson motorcycles. There are food vendors and live bands to make for a festive time. The following morning the Corvettes leave Sioux Falls in a caravan to travel to Spearfish, SD for the next portion of the classic. On arriving the attendees have an opportunity to meet fellow travelers at an evening meal with the cars parked for critical viewing. The next day there is an opportunity to participate in drag racing, autocross racing or a fashion show for non-racing ladies. That evening, there is a car show in downtown Spearfish. The main street is blocked off, and all people are invited to ogle the fine vehicles. The next day there is an opportunity to cruise through the Black Hills at your leisure, take part in a guided tour, or a poker run. That evening there is a banquet for the participants. During this time the awards for the events are given out, and a guest speaker expounds on some aspect of the Corvette. Later a band gives the “cool cats” a chance to work out any cramps from a day in the car. The following morning the group heads home, armed with stories to share for the next year.
Accordingly to research by Specialty Equipment Market Association and Experian Automotive, as of 2009 there were approximately 750,000 Corvettes of all model years registered in the United States. Corvette owners were fairly equally distributed throughout the country, with the highest density in Michigan (3.47 per 1000 residents) and the lowest density in Utah, Mississippi, and Hawaii. 47% of all Corvette owners hold college degrees (significantly above the nationwide average of 27%), and 82% are between ages of 40 and 69 with a median age of 53. The average SFCC member comes from all walks of life, from farmers, plumbers, and salesmen, to lawyers, doctors, or you name it. Anyone who has an interest in Corvettes can be a member of SFCC. If you don’t know a SFCC member, you can get acquainted with the club by attending a meeting (held the last Wednesday of the month at C J Callaway’s, at 7:30 pm). Another opportunity to network with local Corvette enthusiasts will be May 30th (1-4 pm) at Billion Chevrolet on 12th Street.