My First Corvette Moment

The Moment That Changed Everything

This story first appeared in the August 2023 issue of Vette Vues Magazine I have been writing stories for Vette Vues since 2011. In 2017, Vette Vues Editor, Bonnie Wolf asked if I would wordsmith stories about readers cars. The owners send me their photos, I Photoshop the images, interview them, and write their stories. The interviews are fun because, after a few minutes, we’re just two Corvette enthusiasts, jaw’n about Corvettes. I always ask, “What was your first Corvette moment?” That moment that separates “before-and-an-after” on all things “Corvette”. Everyone is different, but it usually happens when we are kids.

The special “it” quality of Corvettes is ephemeral and hard to define in a way that “makes sense”. New Corvettes have always been expensive. Some old Corvettes were notoriously undependable. For most people, Corvettes are not comfortable cars. And Corvettes are not terribly “useful” cars.

So, what is it about Corvettes that has captured America and beyond for seventy years now? It’s a spirit of fun and excitement, in motion. For some, the excitement is “driving”. For others, it’s the car’s great looks. And for those with a passion for racing, Corvettes are high testosterone, high adrenaline machines. For many of us, it’s all of the above. Corvettes can be a powerful addiction. (a lot of heads are nodding up and down right now)

So What Was My First Corvette Moment?

When I was ten, my mother took me to the Collingswood New Jersey Library where we lived. What a wonderful place, full of neat science, and military books, full of diagrams, and illustrations. Like most kids, I liked to draw, so I drew, tanks, rocket ships, guns, and maps.

Then someone gave me a stack of car magazines. I didn’t know much about cars, but I began to get familiar with the different brands. My brother Bob is seven years older than me, but his first car wasn’t ever interesting; a 1959 Rambler. But when he got a 1957 Bel Air, even I could see, that was a cool car. Continue reading “My First Corvette Moment”

Corvette Timeline Tales – August

Eight important Corvette events through the decades that happened in August.

This story was first published in the September 2016 issue of Vette Vues Magazine.

August 3, 2006 – All-New C6 Z06 serves as Pace Car for the Allstate Brickyard 400 at Indy

2006 marked the 13th time a Chevrolet car paced the Brickyard 400, but it was the first time a Corvette served as the pace car for the series. Going all the way back to the 1978 Indy 500 Corvette Pace Car, powered by the 220-horsepower 350 L82 engine, off-the-line Corvettes have always had plenty of grunt and suspension to easily pace major races. The 2006 Z06 with its 505-horsepower LS7 was a thunderous beast compared to the ’78 Corvette Indy 500 Pace Car. But the common denominator between the two cars is that aside from the strobe lights, strobe light roof bar, and five-point racing harness, all Corvette pace cars are “off the line” Corvettes – abet thoroughly prepared for the task.

One ironic tidbit is that the production C6 Z06 had a top speed of 198 mph. The average speed for the race was only 137.182 mph and the pole position speed was 182.778 mph. So, could a race-prepared, stock C6 Z06 last in a 500-mile race at the Brickyard? Sure! Could a race-prepared, stock C6 Z06 win against an all-out Indy car from 2006? Probably not, but it’s an interesting question. How would a 2006 C6.R Corvette stack up against an Indy car? Care to Bench Race a little?

August 5, 1961 – At the Wisconsin Grand Prix, Richard “The Flying Dentist” Thompson races Grady Davis’ Gulf Oil 1962 Corvette to a 1st place win in SCCA A/Production class

It is mind-boggling how many early Corvettes were either ordered from the factory with the full-compliment of racer parts, unofficially known as “Duntov’s Racer Kits”, and/or, were built using the Racer Kit parts that were bolted on a Fuelie or dual-quad Corvette. Of course, just having the parts on the car, either factory or customer installed, didn’t instantly create a turn-key racecar – the cars had to be prepared for racing. Preparation and not over-building the engine, so it wouldn’t grenade, is also essential. The larger displacement 327 small-block used in the 1962 Corvette was enough to put the car into the A/Production class, whereas Grady Davis’ 1961 Corvette used a 283 Fuelie was in B/Production class. With Dr. Dick Thompson behind the wheel, Davis’ Fuelie Corvette won 12 out of 14 races. That’s an 85.7-percent win rate!

Where it gets crazy is how many winning and championship Corvettes were retrofitted back to streetcars and then sold as daily drivers! Yes, many people owned these cars and did not know that their streetcar was once a fire-breathing racing car or racing champion. This happened to the three 1960 Briggs Cunningham Le Mans Corvette racers and the Grady Davis 1961 Corvette that won the SCCA B/Production Championship in 1961 and 1962!

Of course, finding these cars and then bringing them back to their glory days configuration is part of the thrill of these cars. In 2009 when the fully-restored Grady Davis 1962 Gulf One Corvette went to auction, it brought in a staggering $1,485,000! A few months before, the Grady Davis 1963 Gulf Oil Corvette sold at auction for $1,113,000. If you follow car auctions one thing is clear – the big bucks go to championship, celebrity, or super low-production cars. Even a “name” such as John Greenwood, by itself, isn’t enough. In 2015, Greenwood’s Sebring ’75 Corvette stalled out at auction at $300,000. The car was bloody fast and beautifully restored – but had no championship status in its lineage, so no big payday for the seller.

August 10, 1993 – Deep inside the inner sanctum of GM, the 1997 Corvette program begins the “Concept Alternatives Selection” process. It was time to justify the C5!

Dave Hill was officially crowned as the third Chief Engineer for the Corvette on November 18, 1992 – talk about big shoes to fill! Duntov was a living legend even in the 1950s. Duntov’s successor, Dave McLellan had the challenge of redesigning Zora’s Corvette and delivered the very successful C4 Corvette. While C4s are today in the lower strata of Corvette desirability, there were many C4 brutes from 1984 to 1996. Noteworthy C4s include the ’90 to ’95 ZR-1s, the purpose-built Corvette Challenges racers, the Callaway Twin-Turbos, the Guldstrand G80, and G90 cars, the Tommy Morrison speed record holder ZR-1, and the astonishingly fast 1988, 254.7-mph Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette!

So, Mr. Hill had the daunting task of pulling together the new design and then justifying the new Corvette’s existence. The “Concept Alternatives Selection” is where the engineers and bean counters go head-to-head. Virtually every part, procedure, and design layout was presented, defended, and decided on. The C5 program was provisionally passed, pending a two-week review of some components. Continue reading “Corvette Timeline Tales – August”

The Mystery of the MacDonald/Simpson 1961 Corvette Special

What ever became of the first, independent, purpose-built, 1,750-pound Corvette racer?

Unless you are familiar with the early days of Corvette racing, the name Dave MacDonald might not be familiar to you. But 60 years ago, the Corvette and racing community was closely watching MacDonald. Many said that Dave had the potential to be one of the “great” American road racing drivers. Nicknamed the “Master of Oversteer” MacDonald’s tail-out driving style thrilled crowds and chilled competitors.

Meet Dave MacDonald, the Master of Oversteer

MacDonald was the classic American hero; Hollywood good looks, a family man, a gentleman, understated, humble, yet a hard-charging competitor on the race track. He loved America’s sports car but could take almost any kind of race car to the winner’s circle. MacDonald had the admiration and respect of his peers, as well as support from powerful men in racing.

Fate had other ideas, though. When the future seemed golden for MacDonald, circumstances found him in the wrong place on the track at the 1964 Indy 500. MacDonald, along with Eddie Sachs, were tragically killed when the car MacDonald was driving, Mickey Thompson’s “Sears-Allstate Special” went out of control on the second lap of the race. The post-race investigation determined that there was “no driver error.” All too soon, a brilliant career came to an end.

Dave MacDonald came of age in the perfect place and time for young car guys – early ‘50s southern California. Think “American Graffiti” and you’re getting warm. Dave’s first ride was an early ‘50s Cadillac. Don’t laugh, those old Caddys had some of the most powerful engines of their day. But it was a 265 V8 ‘55 Corvette that made MacDonald a Corvette man. The lightweight, high revving small-block Chevy engine was perfect for the Corvette. Drag racing was the everyman’s motorsport and MacDonald honed his horsepower handling skills with Corvettes, one quarter of a mile at a time.

Like many young men of his day, Dave married his sweetheart. MacDonald first saw Sherry Gravett when she was in the lead of her high school play. The pair talked on the phone for two months before she finally met her future husband. Two months after Sherry graduated, the couple were married and started their life together. Dave had a good job at the local Chevy dealer and was able to afford a new Corvette every few years. Dave was still into drag racing, but Corvettes have that “handling thing” that inspires many to go around corners, FAST. But, that’s what Corvettes are designed to do.

Meet the MacDonald/Simpson Racing Team

MacDonald struck up a friendship with car salesman Jim Simpson, who soon became MacDonald’s racing partner/sponsor. At Willow Springs in February 1960, MacDonald began his professional racing career. In the first year, the team entered 15 races, finished 1st place three times, 2nd place three times, and 3rd place four times. In his first year, Dave never finished lower than 4th place. 1961 proved to be MacDonald’s breakout year. In 20 events, Dave took 1st place 13 times and 2nd place three times. MacDonald won the first seven races of the season and went on to dominate the season.

You just can’t win races like that and not get noticed. While Carroll Shelby had retired as a driver, he was in the thick of things getting his Cobra deal together. According to Dave MacDonald’s son, Rich, it was Shelby who first suggested that Dave should consider a purpose-built car. No one knows if it was just an offhanded comment from Shelby, but the seed was planted.

Purpose-built, tube-framed race cars were nothing “new” in 1961. All serious race cars were tube-framed lightweights. Mercedes-Benz was arguably the leader in this type of construction and had many imitators. Even Duntov used the birdcage frame from a Mercedes 300 SL as his template for the 1957 Corvette SS racer.

One of the two frames Duntov built was later used under Bill Mitchell’s 1959 Stingray Racer and won the 1959 SCCA B/Production Championship. “Tube framed” race cars were the way to go and it just so happened that there was a local legend that built tube frame cars. Enter Max Balchowsky.

Max and Ida Balchowsky Build the Boys a Real Racecar

Max and Ida Balchowsky had made quite a name for themselves with their “Old Yeller” racers. Shelby drove Balchowsky’s Old Yeller II in ‘58 and Dan Gurney drove the car in ‘60. So it wasn’t much of a stretch for Shelby to say to MacDonald, “You should get a Balchowsky chassis.” MacDonald and Simpson took Carroll’s advice, and Simpson paid $4,500 for a Balchowsky chassis and running gear (approximately $46,000 in 2022 dollars) – a considerable sum, as a new ‘61 Corvette cost $3,934.

Here’s how the car came together.

While Corvettes look small today, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, they were huge compared to other sports cars. Max and Ida built the chassis and MacDonald and Simpson made the Corvette body to fit. There were no companies making fiberglass replica bodies in those days, so Simpson “borrowed for the weekend” a new ‘61 Corvette from Sorenson Chevrolet to make molds to make a Corvette-like body. Continue reading “The Mystery of the MacDonald/Simpson 1961 Corvette Special”

Dan Barr’s 1989 Factory-Built Corvette Challenge Race Car

A Look Back at the First-Ever Factory-Built Customer Spec Race Cars

Get Into the Time Machine Inside Your Head

Imagine for just a little while that it’s 1988-1989 and you know nothing about Z06 Corvettes, supercharged Corvettes, or mid-engine Corvettes, and the Corvette ZR-1 “King of the Hill” super-Vette is just over the horizon.

The times were very good for Corvette and the new C4. With massive tires and modern suspension, the C4 could go around corners like never before. In 1985 electronic-controlled fuel injection was back and Car and Driver proclaimed the Corvette, “The Fastest Car In America”, clocking at 150 mph! Starting in 1985, Corvettes became the new “Untouchables” and started a three-year total domination in SCCA’s Showroom Stock racing.

The competition was so flummoxed, Porsche bought a C4 to take apart to see why the car was so damn fast. Corvette fans enjoyed seeing Porsche eat some Humble Pie. Of course, the situation couldn’t run on too long. Rather than tell the other sports car manufacturers, to build a better car, Corvette was kicked out of the Showroom Stock Series. Yes, kicked out for being too fast! This is an amazing thing to consider because early C4s are the cheapest, least respected Corvettes around. Fans loved the Showroom Stock Series because they knew, “I own one of those too!”.

But the Party Wasn’t Over

Corvette performance was back and race promoter John Powel, from Toronto, Canada wasn’t about to tuck tail and complain. Powel pitched Chevrolet the idea of a million-dollar, ten-race series with equally-prepared Corvettes. Chevrolet was warm to the idea, as they were heavily involved in NASCAR, the Callaway B2K Twin-Turbo was an official Corvette option, and the all-aluminum, double-overhead-cam (DOHC) ZR-1 was in the works.

The new Corvette-only series was called, “The Corvette Challenge Series” and it came together quickly. The concept wasn’t new, as the International Race of Champions Series (IROC) had been around since 1974. IROC was launched with Porsche Carrera RSR cars that proved to be too expensive to build and maintain. From 1975 to 1989 it was an all-Camaro series.

The 1988 Corvette Challenge Cars

While the basic formula is the same as the IROC Camaros. The cars rolled off the Bowling Green assembly line as “RPO B9B” with the same options that included the following; the Z51 Performance Handling Package that included the new Bosch ABS II, larger-diameter stabilizer bars, Bilstein shocks, restyled 17×9.5-inch wheels with twelve cooling slots, shod with P275ZR17 Goodyear tires, higher-rate springs, a finned power steering cooler, larger 13.1”x1-1/6” front brake rotors and duel-piston calipers, the Doug Nash 4-3 manual transmission, 6-way power driver’s seat, a Delco-Bose stereo radio, Rear Window + Side Mirror Defogger, and removable blue-tinted roof panel. The 1988 Corvette base price was $29,489 and the additional options brought to total to around $33,500.

The L98 engines were specially-built at the Flint, Michigan plant and calibrated to equal horsepower levels, and sent to Bowling Green for assembly. Each engine’s bolts and screws were painted with special paint that could only be seen in low light with laser light to verify that the engine had not been tampered with. Fifty-six cars were built and forty-five of the cars were sent to Protofab, in Wixom, Michigan for preparation. “Protofab” later became Pratt & Miller.

Each car received a roll cage, a racing seat, a safety harness, a fire suppression system, PBR racing brake pads and ducting, a low-restriction Desert Driveline exhaust, Dymag magnesium wheels with shaved-to-half-depth Goodyear tires, and special “Corvette Challenge” emblems. The Protofab preparation cost $15,000 for a grand total of $48,043. That’s just over $124,000 in 2023 dollars. Race cars have never been cheap.

The 1989 Corvette Challenge Cars

The 1989 Challenge cars used the same formula, but with a few changes. Sixty RPO R7F Challenge cars came off the Bowling Green assembly line with the same package as the 1988 cars, but with the new-and-improved ZF 6-speed transmission. Upon completion, twenty-nine Challenge cars were sent to Powell Development America for the same preparation as the 1988 cars but received straight-through exhaust that exited the side out the rear fenders and a roll cage with sidebars.

During the 1988 Series, there were complaints that some cars had more horsepower. To assure this was not happening, an electronic telemetry box was installed in place of the passenger-side airbag to monitor engine output. And to keep things fair, ten cars per race were monitored in random sequence.

Unlike the 1988 Challenge cars that were built on the assembly line with certified, equally-built engines, they came off the line with the stock L98 engines. The stock, numbers-matching engines were crated and stored with Powell so that if the owner ever wanted to take his car back to “stock”, he could. Again, the L98 engines were assembled for identical power. According to Dan Barr, owner of the #9 Bosch Challenge Corvette, the power output was around 300 horsepower. While all Challenge cars were “purpose-built” race cars, they were all street-legal and carried the full factory warranty. The window sticker for Dan Barr’s Challenge Corvette totaled, $36,193. (around $89,500 in 2023 dollars) Continue reading “Dan Barr’s 1989 Factory-Built Corvette Challenge Race Car”

2026 Electric SUV Corvette??? HUH!

NOTE: Big thanks to for the most excellent renderings and writeup that you can read HERE!

The notion that GM would break off “Corvette” as its own division has been kicking around since the days of GM’s bankruptcy. Government auditors discovered that of all GM’s divisions, only two were turning a profit; the truck division and Corvette.

Before this discovery, it looked like Corvette was once again on the chopping block. This happened once before in the very early ’90s when the late Jim Perkins came back to GM to be the new Chevrolet general manager. When Perkins arrived back at Chevrolet he reported that he didn’t recognize the place, it was in such disarray.

To read the full report and review more renderings on, CLICK the above image!

As a result of the happy findings of the g-man auditors, Corvette engineering and design were given the green light for the C7. Tadge Juechter was already working on a mid-engine platform, but an enhanced front-engine layout built empirically on the highly successful C6 Z06-based C6.R race cars would get Chevrolet to the C7 sooner, rather than later.

Since those days, much has changed in the automotive world. Customers liked and wanted more SUV-type vehicles, enough that the industry began walking away from the traditional two and four-door sedan designs. Crossover SUVs filled the marketplace for buyers that didn’t want a big SUV.

At the same time, hybrid cars started getting traction. Then came the success of the Tesla vehicles and the race was on! It wasn’t long before big hybrid and battery-powered, luxury SUVs started showing up from U.S., European, and Asian manufacturers. This was a total game-changer because the public discovered something new… TORQUE… you know, that “other horsepower”. Continue reading “2026 Electric SUV Corvette??? HUH!”

The Story of Fiberglass, Pt. 2 – Making the Plastic Corvette

NOTE: This story was first published in the January 2023 issue of Vette Vues Magazine We left “The Story of Fiberglass” in the October 2022 issue of Vette Vues. The story goes back to 1880 when Herman Hammesfahr, a Prussian-American scientist, was issued the first-ever U.S. Patent for “glass fibers”. Self-taught “scientists” had been playing with making glass fibers long before 1880. But for decades, many said, “… interesting stuff, but what do you do with it?”


Once the Patent was issued, it took sixty years before the answer to that question was discovered. One of the earliest applications was for the military’s new radar systems during WW II. As microwave energy passes right through fiberglass, large globes were made to house the spinning radar units that gave the Allies the edge during the war.

Post-war, industries that were part of the war effort just wanted to get back to commercial business. The selling of fiberglass (GRP – glass-reinforced plastic) into the automobile industry was very difficult. The industry just couldn’t see it. After all, car parts have always been metal. It took small-time entrepreneurs to show, “Look what we can do with this stuff!”

The “First” Fiberglass Car

After the war, in 1946, Bill Tritt, from Pasadena, California applied what he’s learned while working at Douglas Aircraft to build fiberglass-hulled 21-foot sloop pleasure boats. Because of his hands-on expertise, U.S. Air Force Major Kenneth Brooks commissioned Tritt to build a fiberglass body for his wife’s personal Jeep. Major Brooks was so happy with his re-bodied Jeep he commissioned Tritt to build a slick fiberglass body for a sports car.

As the car was being built, Eric Irwin, from Costa Mesa was inspired to build a similar sports car that became the Lancer sports car. When Mrs. Brooks car was completed, she called the car the “Brooks Boxer” because she loved boxed dogs. In 1950 Tritt teamed with Otto Baeyer to form the Glasspar Company to expand the boat hull business.

Enter the Naugatuck Chemical Company. Their business wasn’t just chemicals, they wanted to be part of what growing numbers of visionaries saw fiberglass as a modern marvel of wartime technology. Several companies had tried to get Detroit to embrace the new material but weren’t having any luck. The car industry needed to see a real fiberglass “car”. Naugatuck was given a license to make replicas of the Brooks Boxer and a version for themselves. This one had opening doors and was called Alembic-I.

In the 1950s and 1960s Life Magazine was one of the most popular magazines in America. Bill Tritt from the Glasspar Company built the Alembic-I and was featured in a one-page article on Life’s “Science” page, titled, “Plastic Bodies For Autos.” The photo in the magazine was fascinating, showing the translucent quality of fiberglass with Tritt’s hands on the underside of the rear deck of a sports car body that Glasspar was selling for $600, equal to $6,747 in today’s dollars. The following month, the Alembic-I was on display at Philadelphia’s National Plastics Exposition, on March 11, 1952. Seen as part of the war dividend, fiberglass was as futuristic, gee-wiz stuff!

The Alembic-I was a drivable car and definitely got the attention of General Motors, a major American industrial giant with a passion for advanced technology. Their Hydra-Matic automatic transmission was first seen on the road in the 1937 Buick and used during the war in the M5 Stewart tank, which would revolutionize the auto industry. The development of automatic transmissions was viewed as a safety feature and enabled more women to drive cars. Continue reading “The Story of Fiberglass, Pt. 2 – Making the Plastic Corvette”

Meet Mr. Bloomington Gold; Guy Larsen

Note: This story was first published in the ??? issue of Vette Vues Magazine. All photos from the Guy Larsen Collection: The Corvette success story is one of empirical accomplishments built on previous accomplishments. Joe Pike was Chevrolet’s National Sales Promotion Manager in the early days of Corvette and clearly saw the vision. Joe once said, “… the Corvette is more than a car; it is a lifestyle.” When Joe and his team launched “Corvette News” in 1957, they had no idea what the Corvette lifestyle would become.

Many years later in an interview with then-Corvette Chief Engineer, Dave Hill, Hill said something similar, “… We’re not talking about transportation here; we’re talking about a product that changes someone’s lifestyle, and that causes us (Dave’s design team) to be enthusiastic about our duty.” It is easy to forget such statements, but the sentiment has echoed since the mid-’50s.

Were it not for that sentiment, that ephemeral heart connection to Corvette, there’s be no Vette Vues Magazine or any of the other Corvette print publications over the years, no National Corvette Museum, no Corvette clubs, no NCRS, and no big Corvette shows; such as Bloomington Gold. It is not an overstatement to say that the foundation of the Corvette hobby, as we know and enjoy it, is Love.

Guy Larson Gets Bit By the Corvette Bug!

Recently we had a conversation with Guy Larsen, the current owner, and CEO of Bloomington Gold. What started out as a regional Corvette parts swap meet in 1973, quickly became a force of nature that added a depth of credibility to mostly-original Corvettes. When the event started, it wasn’t called “Bloomington Gold”, it was simply “Corvette Corral”, and was held in Bloomington, Illinois.

To put this into perspective, in our interview with Guy, he said, “People lament that the Swap Meet part of Bloomington Gold isn’t what it used to be. Well, of course not. Back then, if a Corvette owner was looking for missing parts, he had to hunt and scratch around at swap meets because it was the only way to find parts. Everything changed when the internet and eBay started and Corvette parts started to become available online.”

For those that are relatively new to the hobby; imagine traveling hundreds of miles to pick through parts at swap meets a few times a year, to finish your restoration project. Yes, the “hunt” was part of the fun, but it sure made restorations much slower than today.

A Novel Idea! Your Corvette Competing with Itself! Continue reading “Meet Mr. Bloomington Gold; Guy Larsen”

Corvette Engineer Mauri Rose

Genuine Unsung Corvette Hero

There are a few dozen Corvette heroes and arguably hundreds of unsung heroes. Most engineers are quite thoughtful people that do not seek attention. Of all of the Corvette heroes, Zora Arkus-Duntov was atypical, he loved attention, and that made him the perfect Corvette frontman.

But Duntov wasn’t the only player in Ed Cole’s dream team of specialists for the then-new Opel sportscar project. Riding on his success with the 1949 Cadillac OHV Cadillac engine and the soon-to-be-released small-block Chevy engine, Cole was promoted to Chevrolet chief engineer in the fall of 1952

Chevrolet Chief Engineer, Ed Cole Builds His Corvette Team

Cole wanted a team of engineers with chassis, suspension, and racing expertise for Harley Earl’s Opel sports car project. His hand-picked team included: chassis expert Maurice Olley, engineers Harry Barr, Russ Sanders, Maurice Rosenberger, Duntov, and three-time Indy 500 winner, Mauri Rose. Rose had the most racing experience and Cole told him, “You are the man to do the sports car.”

Rose later said, “There were no drawings, all I had was an 8-1/2” x 11” sketch.” (Olley’s sketch) Working in a sequestered loft with a sketch and basic dimensions, Rose started roughing out the frame with wood and Styrofoam. When pieces worked out they were then made from metal in the build shop.

While Rose’s three-time Indy 500 record loomed large, he only ever raced at Indy and was always a working engineer at the Allison Engine Company in Indianapolis. When Rose was preparing for a race, he would do his track testing on his lunch hour.

Rose raced at Indy a total of 15 times, won in 1941, 1947, and 1948 and had a reputation for being a hard-charging, fierce driver. After a crash in 1951 at Indy, Rose retired from driving at the age of 45 and quickly found work at GM. Continue reading “Corvette Engineer Mauri Rose”