Vette Polls: What Is Your Favorite C4 Corvette?

Dateline: 10.1.11
With 13 Model Years and Eight Unique Special Versions, Vote For Your Favorite! 

Cast your vote at the bottom of this post

When the new 1984 Corvette was shown to the automotive press in the Summer of ‘83, there was a wave of euphoria. “FINALLY!!! A New Corvette!” As there should have been. After all, the Shark had been with us since 1968 and the steel parameter frame and suspension since 1963. The chassis was designed somewhere around 1960! So you could say the car was a little over due for an update.

In retrospect the C4 was an extraordinary generation. It came with 205-horsepower, went out with the 330-horsepower LT4, and maxed out with the 405-horsepower LT5. Here are the highlights:

* Domination of 1985 to 1987 Showroom Stock Series
* 1986 Indy 500 Convertible
* 1987 to 1991 Callaway Twin-Turbo Option
* 1988 35th Anniversary Edition
* 1988 Callaway 254.76-MPH Sledgehammer
* 1990 to 1995 ZR-1
* 1990 Morrison ZR-1 24-Hour Speed Record of 175.885-MPH
* 1992 LT1 as the base engine
* 1993 40th Anniversary Edition
* 1995 Indy 500 Pace Car Replica
* 1996 Collector Edition
* 1996 LT4-Powered Grand Sport

C4 Corvettes are at rock bottom prices these days and there were so many built that if you cut one up and make it into a hot rod, no one will howl at you. That is, unless you cut up a Grand Sport. I’ve read comments from some fellows stating that for them, the appeal of a C4 is that it still has that “rough muscle car” feel to it. As a generation, the C4 had a lot to offer and today, they make excellent entry level Corvettes. I’ve seen early C4s with a little Continue reading “Vette Polls: What Is Your Favorite C4 Corvette?”

Vette Videos: Ron Fellows Flogs the C6 Grand Sport & Shows His New Driving School

Dateline: 9.28.11
Champion Corvette Driver Ron Fellows Tests the Chops of a C6 Grand Sport Corvette On the Race Track & Gives a Mini-Tour of His Driving School

Ron Fellows Day continues with two FUN videos. About the only criticism I’ve ever heard about the Grand Sport is that it doesn’t have any more grunt that the base Corvette. True, true, but look at what you do get.

The 430-horsepower Corvette scoots to 60-mph in just a tick under 4-seconds, 1G lateral on the skid pad, AND gets an EPA estimated 26-MPG. I’ve heard anecdotal stories of drivers feather footing a modern Corvette at 55-MPH and getting in the low 30-plus MPG. The GS is available with the Dual-Mode exhaust (okay, it’s only an extra 6-HP, but we’ll take it) the Magnetic Selective Ride Control option and a few other goodies.

So, what’s this kind of capability like when driven by a world-class champion race car driver? The first video is a walk through with Ron of the key features of the Grand Sport. Ron says, “Now it’s time to have some fun!”.

The second video was filmed at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch, the home of the Ron Fellows Performance Driving School. Continue reading “Vette Videos: Ron Fellows Flogs the C6 Grand Sport & Shows His New Driving School”

Corvettes Timeline Tales: Happy 52nd Birthday Ron Fellows!

Dateline: 9.28.11
Ron Fellows – From Carts to Corvettes!

Happy 52nd birthday, Ron Fellows!

Good guys shine and Ron Fellows has become one of the most popular race car drivers of our time. Ron’s a great example of starting our small – kart racing small, in fact. Kart racing lead to Formula Ford 1600 and Formula Ford 2000 cars. But this was strictly entry level racing that only last as long as there’s money in your pocket. After the cash ran dry, Ron took a nine year break from racing. But when you have gasoline in your veins, the itch to race never goes away. Fellows was back on the track, launching his professional driving career in the 1986 Player’s GM Challenge, racing a showroom stock Camaro.

Trans-Am racing followed and by ‘89 Ron was one of the most successful drivers in Trans-Am history, winning 19 of 95 starts. When the C5-R Corvette Racing Team was being assembled in ‘98, Fellows was one of “the” drivers to hire. When looking back on a successful long term career, it often appears easy, but this was far from the case. It was a long, hard battle for the Corvette Racing Team from ‘98 to the 2001 GTS Le Mans win. But even after you win the big prize, the next race can be just as hard. In racing, there are no laurels to rest upon. Fellows went on to win Le Mans again in ‘02 and ‘04, as well as GTS Champion in ‘02, and was co-champion in ‘03 and ‘04 with Johnny O’Connell. In ‘05 Ron was runner-up in the GT1 championship and was the ALMS Most Popular Driver in ‘04, ‘05, ‘06, ‘and ‘07.

To celebrate Ron’s success, Chevrolet released the hugely popular 2007 Ron Fellows Z06 Special Edition Z06. Only 399 units were built, 300 for the US market, 33 for the Canadian market, and the remaining 66 cars for other world markets. This would be the first in a series of very popular special edition C6 Corvettes.

And on the heels of the ‘07 Special Edition Z06, Corvette Racing sponsor, PRS Guitars (Paul Reed Smith), produced a limited edition, $4,700 Z06 Corvette branded electric guitar based on their PRS Corvette Standard 22 model guitar. Continue reading “Corvettes Timeline Tales: Happy 52nd Birthday Ron Fellows!”

Corvettes Score 23% in Edmonds 100 Greatest Chevrolets List

Dateline: 9.27.11
Of the 23 Corvettes Edmonds picked, vote for your favorite at the end of this post!

Is the C6 ZR1 Corvette the "Best Vette Ever?" Cast your vote below!

Back on September 14, 2011 we shared with you the results of Chevrolet’s Centennial birthday celebration popularity contest to find the most popular Chevrolet of all-time. Like American Idol or Dancing With the Stars, the Greatest Chevy contest was a popularity contest. Certainly an argument could be made as to why the C6 ZR1 is the greatest Chevy of all-time because of its overall performance, the LS9 engine, top speed, etc. But that’s not what Chevrolet wanted to know. They wanted to know what was the most “favorite” Chevy of the last 100 years.

Well it seems that the people at Edmonds.com decided to draw up their own list of great Chevys. The 100 top Chevys list isn’t limited to production Chevrolet cars, but includes, race cars, prototypes, and show cars. Of the 100 cars in the list, 23 were Corvettes! Pretty impressive for a low-volumn, limited usage automobile. The list doesn’t appear to be in any specific order and there’s a slide show of all 100 cars too. Also, the story does not explain how this list was drawn up. Regardless, it’s interesting just the same. To review the Edmonds story, CLICK HERE.

Here are the 23 Corvettes:
1. 1953 Corvette – The First Corvette.
2. 1955 265 V8 Corvette – The first V8 Vette.
3. 1957 Fuel Injected Corvette – The First Fuelie Corvette
4. 1956 SR-2 Corvette Race Car
5. 1957 Corvette SS Race Car
6. 1959 Stingray Racer – Bill Mitchell’s race car playtoy Continue reading “Corvettes Score 23% in Edmonds 100 Greatest Chevrolets List”

Merrily We Roll Along – 1961 “Project XX” Documentary About The Early Days of the Automobile

Dateline: 9.26.11
Were it not for this, there’d have been no sports cars and no Corvettes!

The other night I had the extreme pleasure of watching another of the series of outstanding documentaries from Project XX. The “XX” doesn’t stand for 2/3s of a XXX rating, it refers to the Roman numerals “XX” for the number “20” as in 20th century. As a baby boomer that doesn’t remember a time when there was no television, I vividly remember a certain fascination with the “20th century.” It was a nice, round, even number. It seemed modern, advanced, exotic. After all, it was the beginning of the space age, and we had electricity, telephones, jet airplanes, submarines, indoor plumbing (what’a relief!), computers (the government had a few), and cars – LOTS of fast cars!

While I never saw any of the Project XX programs when they aired, it was probably a matter of I just didn’t happen to see them. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, TV programs tended to run only once. Towards the late ‘60s, “summer reruns” became the norm, so you had a second chance if you missed a show. But if you still missed a show, you were out of luck, as video recording didn’t arrive until the late ‘70s. But when video tape and later DVDs came along, there was a rush to get as much old TV programming back into the marketplace. And today, with the internet and online services, such as Netflix, most of the Project XX series is available to watch any time. Continue reading “Merrily We Roll Along – 1961 “Project XX” Documentary About The Early Days of the Automobile”

FINALLY! Some C7 News – C7 Corvette to Get a 7-Speed Gearbox!

Dateline: 9.24.11
After a LONG dry spell, some C7 news that’s really “news.”

We haven’t had much to say about the C7 Corvette because there hasn’t been much to say about the new C7 Corvette. Oh, there have been a few burps of “news” but it was more like a rehash or rehashed material, spiced up with lots of wild speculation. Eventually, we’ll all know everything there is to know about the C7. But thanks to the immediacy of the internet, there’s been a feeding frenzy over the C7 question for at least the last two years! But finally, there’s something tangible to talk about.

This isn’t a huge piece of juicy red meat, but it’s better than nothing. According to InsideLine.com the 2014 C7 Corvette will receive a 7-speed transmission! Calm down, calm down, this has not been “officially” confirmed by Chevrolet, yet.

While a 7-speed tranny won’t do much for “performance” (in the terms WE like to think of) the additional top gear would allow Continue reading “FINALLY! Some C7 News – C7 Corvette to Get a 7-Speed Gearbox!”

Designing the RideMakerz C6.R Corvette

Dateline: 9.23.11
An Inside Look at What It Takes to Design a Modern Electronic Toy

Introduction: Before we pick up our RideMakerz C6.R Corvette story, allow me to briefly explain my background and involvement in this project. I worked in the R&D Department of Tyco Toys from 1992 to 1997 when we were bought out by Mattel Toys. From 1997 to 2001 (when I was employed there) our design group was known as Mattel Mt. Laurel. (we were located in mt. Laurel, NJ) During my nine years as a direct employee, plus my previous four years as a freelance designer, I worked in the packaging department, the Boys Toys R&D Group, the Prelininary Concepts & Design Group, and the Matchbox Collectibles Direct group. I worked on Tyco H/O Electric Racing, Tyco Radio Control, Matchbox 1-75 die cast, Matchbox Play Sets, and Matchbox Collectibles. My tasks included decoration and graphics design, toy concepts, project management, and product manager. At one time or another I did everything from initial product concepts to preproduction approvals. Being a lifetime “car guy” I was in “Hog Heaven” working there. It was a college-level experiential education and I got to work with some of the most creative people I have ever known.

The RideMakerz project came along in 2006 through my friends at Scrambled Eggz productions in Medford, New Jersey. I have known Tom Waters and Jim Mendillo for over 25 years and they were well aware of my extensive car and racing background. So when their art director, the amazingly talented, Don Amadio, called my about the RideMakerz project, I was right one it. It was a pleasure doing the semi-cartoon-like styling of about 2/3s of the Ridemakerz body designs, along with a lot of the accessory parts. Unfortunately for me, when wave 2 of the RideMakerz car bodies came along, Scrambled Eggz designer/art director, Don Amadio, had the time to do the C6.R Corvette body himself. And I must say, he did a magnificent job. Shaping the stylized bodies to existing common chassis, with just enough characture styling isn’t as easy as it looks.

As a designer, my “coolness” gauge is based on my fist, initial “look” at a design. After you work on a drawing for a long period of time, it starts to get “stale” in your mind’s eye. But several months later, when Don sent me the photos of the initial sculpts, my initial impression was a definite, “WOW!” I hope that you enjoy this behind the scene look into the world of toy car design. – Scott

How does something like this come together? The answer is, “Not easily.” After Andreini and Clark joined forces, a dream-team had to be built. RIDEMAKERZ worked closely with GM, Ford, and Chrysler on all of the body designs and licensing. The team from Kick Design was brought in as creative directors and created the RIDEMAKERZ logos, the brick & mortar store design, and website. They are also the force behind Corvette Racing’s “Jake” and BadBoyVettes.com. Andreini brought in Scrambled Eggz Productions to create concept sketches for all of the body and accessory designs, control drawings used to make tooling patterns, as well as graphics for the decals and packaging. I was privileged to be a part of this team effort Continue reading “Designing the RideMakerz C6.R Corvette”

RideMakerz Builds the C6.R Corvette for Their “You Build Your Ride” Toy Business

Dateline: 9.22.11
It’s Build-A-Bears Meets Hot Rods at the RideMakerz Toy Stores

There’s a new toy car maker on the scene called RIDEMAKERZ, that offers a unique toy car experience for today’s fathers and sons with a driving passion for cars and Corvettes. The expression, “the difference between the men and the boys, is the price of the toys” has been around long before Corvettes arrived in ‘53. Sure, Corvettes are a blast to drive, but they aren’t terribly “useful” automobiles and fall closer to “toy” status. It wasn’t long after Chevy’s “plastic” sports car arrived that the toy versions starting showing up in stores. At first they were mostly crude die-cast, cast iron, and tin metal replicas – a far cry from the hot-looking RIDEMAKERZ toy cars of today.

As plastics caught on in the ‘50s, model kit companies flooded the market with styrene plastic kits of model airplanes, boats, ships, and yes, cars. The model kit companies formed a close relationship with car makers and by the mid-’60s, some car kits were released along with new cars. While Matchbox was making vintage and European cars, Hot Wheels began to popularize muscle cars, race cars, and Corvettes in die-cast.

Two developments in the toy industry occurred in the late ‘80s that are still being felt today. As tool and die manufacturers in China started to gain proficiency, we saw  $100-plus, pre-assembled die-cast cars with details that rivaled the more difficult plastic kits. Second, was the introduction of toy-grade radio controlled cars and trucks from Taiyo, Tyco, Nikko, and others, with prices under $100. These advances can be directly seen in the RIDEMAKERZ toy line, as you’ll see later in this story.

Then a new player arrived that had a profound effect on boy’s toy cars. Build-A-Bear Workshop took the traditional teddy bear to a new level in 1997. CEO and founder Maxine Clark created a chain of stores that invited girls to come in and create their own customized teddy bear. Original ideas are very hard to come by in the toy business. It wasn’t long before Clark was swamped with all sorts of “build-a” toy ideas. She had even outlined her own “build-a-car” line, but was busy making teddy bears. Continue reading “RideMakerz Builds the C6.R Corvette for Their “You Build Your Ride” Toy Business”

Vette Shows: Corvettes Unlimited of Vineland, NJ’s “Last” Vettes at Glasstown Show

Dateline: 9.21.11
A Fond Farewell to a Delightful Venue.

Wheaton Village in Millville, New Jersey had been the home of Corvettes Unlimited of Vineland, NJ for well over a decade. Wheaton Village is a tribute to the old days when commercial glass products were part of the local economy. Today, it’s a beautiful tourist attraction with shops, historical artifacts, and a functioning glass blowing studio in the style of the old days of glass making. So, what a perfect place to have a fiberGLASS Corvette car show!

But things change, and for a variety of reasons, Corvettes Unlimited is having their “American Glass and Steel Show” at Michael Debbi Park in Richland, NJ on October 9 with a rain date of October 16. There will actually, be two separate shows. Obviously, the “glass” part is for Corvettes. The “steel” part will feature muscle cars, antique cars, custom cars, street rods and trucks. For more information about the show, CLICK HERE.

Jonathan Settrella and his 63 Vette – Best in Show – photo by Cliff Shields

In the meantime, enjoy the above slide show. I first attended the Vettes at Glasstown Show in ‘09, where I bumped into my Corvette and artist friend, Jonathan Settrella. With the Corvettes at Carlisle show still fresh in my mind, the Glasstown show seemed down right “cozy.” Don’t get me wrong, the Carlisle experience is astonishing, but being there is a real marathon. While talking with Jonathan I said to him, “This is a very nice little show, really!” To which Jon replied, “Ah! This is nothing! We used to get three times as many cars here.”

But since I hadn’t attended any of the previous shows, what I saw was just right. I was able to take my time, look at all the cars, Continue reading “Vette Shows: Corvettes Unlimited of Vineland, NJ’s “Last” Vettes at Glasstown Show”

Vette Videos: Jeremy Clarkson Gushes All Over the C6 Z06 at Willow Springs Raceway

Dateline: 9.20.11
But on the street, it’s grump, Grump, GRUMP!

Jeremy Clarkson from the TV program, “Top Gear” arguably has the best car-guy job on the planet! All he has to do is drive, burn rubber,  and critique. And his critiques are usually, ah, I’ll be a lot nicer that the comments people leave on YouTube, and describe them as “crabby.”

Clarkson starts off flogging the pants off the 505-horsepower C6 Z06 at Willow Springs Raceway and is just about besides himself! He loves what the car will do on the track and has WAY too much fun rear-wheel-drifting the “Zed-Oh-Six” as he calls the car. (He’s a Brit, so we’ll cut him a little slack!) Everything is sweetness, light, and adrenaline… COOL!

Then, it’s out on to real roads – that’s when the “Clarkson grumping” begins! It’s no surprise that the C6 Z06 is closer to a track car than a GT street machine. And with 505 “net” horsepower, the overall package is more like a Continue reading “Vette Videos: Jeremy Clarkson Gushes All Over the C6 Z06 at Willow Springs Raceway”

Corvette Pace Cars – The First Indy 500 Corvette Pace Car

Dateline: 9.19.11
From the Archives of  The Illustrated Corvette Series

The Corvette’s tough-guy legend is founded on racing and performance. By the mid-to-late ‘70s, Corvette high-performance and racing efforts were in the pits. Power was down, weight was up, and Porsches were eating the Corvette’s lunch at the race track. The announcement that the 25th anniversary Corvette would also be the pace car at the ’78 Indy 500, looked like the highlight of the decade for Corvette fans. But controversy was in the mix right from the beginning.

Initially, it looked like a triple-play for Chevrolet. First, the ’78 Corvette received a sleek new fastback roof that completed the overall redesign started in ’73 with the soft bumper covers. Second, all Corvettes wore the 25th Anniversary badges. And third, three special Corvettes would serve as the pace cars at the ’78 Indy 500, and replicas would be available. Then the details set in.

The initial proposal was that there would be 300 pace car replicas, the same number as the ’53 production run. The car would have a two-tone silver paint (for the silver anniversary), red pin striping, and special Goodyear tires with “CORVETTE” sidewall lettering. Then the plan was to make 2,500 replicas, 100 for each year of production. But there were 6,200 dealers that all wanted at least one replica, so production went up to 6,502 units. Then two key elements were changed. The special “CORVETTE” tires were deemed too expensive, and paint was changed to sliver and black.

Then there was the price issue. The RPO 1YZ8778 package cost $4,302, on top of the $9,351 base price – a 46-percent premium! Here’s what came with the option. The exterior had special two-tone paint and pin striping, unique front and rear spoilers, glass roof panels, sport mirrors, and red pin stripped aluminum wheels on P225/60R15 tires. The interior came with power windows and door locks, tilt-telescopic steering column, convenience group, silver thin-shell seats, AM/FM with a CB radio or an 8-track tape player, dual rear speakers, and a power antenna. The $525 L82 engine rated at 220-hp was not part of the package.

The controversy started right on the showroom floor. For a premium collectible,” quality was not good. On many of the cars, fender seams and slight bubbles were clearly visible. The black upper body paint only made the defects look worse. Then there were the opportunistic dealers who tacked on surcharges that bumped the price up to between $15,000 to $22,000. Continue reading “Corvette Pace Cars – The First Indy 500 Corvette Pace Car”

R.I.P. Betty Skelton – Champion Aviatrix, Speed Record Holder, Advertising Executive, & Corvette Racer

Dateline: 9.8.11
A Genuine American Hero and Roll Model For Women

“I just like to go fast. I enjoy it, I really do.” - Betty Skelton

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of another Corvette legend, Betty Skelton. The Corvette community first met Betty in January 1956 when she was part of the three-driver team of Duntov-modified ‘56 Corvettes that were on a hunt for speed records on the sands of Daytona Beach as part of Speed Week.

But Betty was already a champion – a champion of the air. She was the U.S. Feminine Aerobatic Champion in 1948, 1949, and 1950. Betty started flying when she was just 16-years old and in 1948 bought a Pitts Special experimental, single-seater biplane that she named, “Little Stinker.” She tried to join the military’s Women Air Service Pilots (WASP) but it was disbanded before Betty reached the minimum age of 18-1/2. Undaunted, Betty got her commercial rating when she was 18, instructor rating at 19, and became an instructor with the Civil Air Patrol. As if that wasn’t enough, she started aerobatic flying in a Fairchild PT-19. This gal definitely had “The Right Stuff.”

While all this high-profile flying got Betty a lot of attention, it didn’t pay well. She landed a job with Campbell-Ewald as a liaison between Chevrolet and racers that were given R&D parts for “field testing.” She was petite, cute, charming, and formed bonds with everyone she worked with. With her background in flying, and her champion credentials, plus her good-looks and charm, she was a shoe-in for the ‘56 Daytona Corvette team.

For the three-car team, Duntov drove his ‘55 mule Corvette dressed with ‘56 body panels, while Betty and John Fitch drove the specially prepared ‘56 Corvette. For the top speed part of the event, Fitch came in 1st place in the production-sports car class with a speed of 145.543-MPH and Betty came in 2nd place with a speed of 137.773-mph. It should be noted that there were very strong head winds that kept the Corvettes from running over 150-mph.

Four years later, Betty shocked the world by being the only woman to undergo and pass all of the physical and psychological tests given to the Mercury astronauts. There were 7 Mercury astronauts and LOOK Magazine put Betty on the cover in her silver space suit and helmet, with the headline, “Should A Girl Be First In Space?” (pardon the sexist “girl” reference, that just how people spoke then)

[nggallery id=30] Continue reading “R.I.P. Betty Skelton – Champion Aviatrix, Speed Record Holder, Advertising Executive, & Corvette Racer”