Dateline: 11.2.11 Hemmings Motor News old sister publication takes a look back at the first special-built Corvette race car, the SS Corvette
(Be sure to check out the SS Corvette video at the bottom of this post!)
Back in the early ‘80s there was a new trend in the car magazine biz – specialty publications. Marty Schorr’s VETTE Magazine was ahead of the curve when it came out in ‘76. VETTE was the first “Corvette-only” news stand magazine ever published. By the early ‘80s there was a specialty publication for most brand cars. Hemmings Motor News branched out with a unique magazine called, “SIA – Special Interest Automobiles.” While I remember seeing the magazine on the news stands it wasn’t something I was interested in back then, as it featured many pre-WW II “classic” cars, and I was interested in other things at the time.
Fast forward to today and the wonderful world of blogging, Hemmings has one of my favorite car blogs. It’s the preverbal “box of chocolates” because “you never know what you’re going to get.” (thank you Forrest Gump!) Recently at http://blog.hemmings.com/ they posted an interesting and detailed story about the 1957 SS Corvette race car from theOctober 1988 issue of SIA magazine.
Don’t let the rather scathing introduction put you off, “…the SS was little more than a poorly executed and slapdash affair, deserving of its failure at Sebring and merely spared the pain of further embarrassment… “ The actual article from SIA is very good with lots of pictures, statistics, and some nice technical illustrations of the SS Corvette.
This is just my opinion, but I think that the introduction was a little unjust for the following reasons. While it is true that Duntov and his team copied the Mercedes 300SL race car’s birdcage frame and chassis, so did many other cars. The design was the standard road racing layout of the day. General Motors of the mid-’50s was arguably the least prepared auto company to even take on such a project, as they had NO experience what-so-ever in building race cars. The only part of the car Chevrolet engineers were familiar with was the 283 Fuelie engine. Plus, the small-block was only in its third year of production and F.I. unit was brand new. Continue reading “Special Interest Autos’ – SIA – 1957 SS Corvette Feature Story”→
Dateline: 10.13.11 Check out the state-of-the-art Bowling Green Corvette factory on “Ultimate Factories.”
Back in the olden days, you know, pre-Bowling Green, if you wanted to buy a Corvette, you simply went to your friendly local Chevrolet dealer and bought your car. While some Corvette buyers may have been aware that their Corvette was built in St. Louis, most couldn’t have cared less, and were more focused on the experience of owning and driving their Corvette, rather than where it was assembled.
All Corvettes from 1953 to 1980 were built in the old St. Louis assembly plant. If you go back and read early road tests from the ‘60s and ‘70s you’ll see a consistent complaint – spotty to poor build quality. Some cars were built very well, most okay, and too many not good at all. It was a time when you didn’t want a “Monday car” for obvious reasons. Owners and magazine writers complained and GM listened. By ‘77 GM started looking for a new Corvette facility. Four location candidates were identified: Waco, Texas, Wichita, Kansas, Montgomery, Alabama, and Bowling Green, Kentucky. The little town of Bowling Green, Kentucky won the contest after granting GM some serious tax breaks.
Once the deal was signed, GM had just 15 months to convert the old Chrysler AirTemp plant into a state-of-the-art assembly plant, ONLY for Corvettes. Floor space was enlarged to a million square feet – about 22 football fields. This move on GM’s part put to rest all concerns as to how serious GM was about building Corvettes. On June 1, 1981, Kentucky Governor John Brown drove the very first Bowling Green-built Corvette off the assembly line. (I wonder how much THIS car will go for at auction some day?) This was arguably one of THE most important developments in Corvette history. Continue reading “Vette Videos: Visit Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant… On Your Computer!”→
Possibly the ONLY factory-custom Corvette for a non-executive Chevrolet employee.
The last two days we’ve been telling you about the two factory-custom Corvettes built for Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen. As if the customized ‘64 Roadster for Semon wasn’t enough, Mrs. Knudsen may have asked, “Bunkie, where’s my Corvette?” This is total humorous speculation on my part, but one “could” imagine such a conversation. Regardless, they are stunningly beautiful cars and actually, there’s another Knudsen Corvette we’ll be sharing with you soon.
The special custom cars for GM’s top honchos has been for decades a low-key topic and were it not for several of these cars going to auction, we most likely wouldn’t know about them at all. But it seems that not all GM customs were for executives. Of course, we’ll never know for certain how many customs were built and for whom, but here’s one that went to the top Corvette salesman back in the mid-’60s. In the world of Chevrolet sales, Bob Wingate was known as “Mr Corvette” because he sold more Vettes than anyone else. This is an amazing story of achievement, reward, loss, recovery, and a beauty of a restoration. I covered this car in my VETTE Magazine Illustrated Corvette Series No. 158, back in Winter of 2010. Enjoy! – Scott
Here’s the story… Illustrated Corvette Series No. 158 – 1967 FS&O 427 Corvette: “Bob Wingate’s V.I.P. Special”
In the ‘50s and ’60s, GM had a system for taking care of its top people. Presidents, VPs, high-level managers, and other VIP types often got new cars that were specially made vehicles. These were generically called “SO” – for “Special Order” or “Shop Order” – cars. Another term was “F&SO,” for “Fleet & Special Order.” About 25 to 50 or so of these cars were made each year. However, it was unusual for a car salesman to get one. But Bob Wingate of Clippinger Chevrolet, in Covina, California wasn’t just a good car salesman. He was “Mr. Corvette.”
Wingate started at Clippinger Chevrolet in 1955 as a prep guy – the fellow who cleans the cars prior to delivery. His favorite cars to prep were Corvettes. After a few years, he worked his way into sales, and before long, he was selling more Corvettes than anyone else in California. What got Chevrolet sales managers’ attention was when Wingate ordered 100 ‘62 Corvettes for the dealership. Chevrolet had only sold 10,939 Corvettes in ’61, so they wondered, “Who is this guy?” Upper management was reluctant to send that many cars, but Chevy’s Joe Pike believed in Wingate and was not disappointed. Wingate became the highest volume Corvette salesman in ‘62 and by ’66 had sold more Corvettes than any other salesman. Chevrolet thanked Wingate by giving him the Legion of Leaders award. His reputation even got the attention of Ford’s Lee Iacocca, who offered him a job doing the same kind of work for Mustang and Cobra sales. He declined, and when Joe Pike found out, Wingate got a raise and an F&SO Corvette. He was told, “Pick what you want.” Continue reading “Another Chevrolet-built Custom Corvette – The Bob Wingate FS&O 1967 427 Corvette”→
Dateline: 9.29.11 VOTE HERE on some of the most important Corvette questions of our times.
Okay, these aren’t earth shaking questions, it’s just Vette people wanting to have some fun. Last winter while poking through plug-in features that I thought would be neat to have here, I found a “polling” plugin that allows you to as questions with responses to choose from. It’s a neat little feature but the only thing about the polls is that after a few weeks and the post isn’t getting as much attention, the question doesn’t gather any votes.
So, we thought it would be a fun thing to create a dedicated “Polls Page.”The first thing we did was to add all 13 polls to the page with a photo references and a link back to the original post. While we don’t use the Polls feature often, when we do, it will be added to the top of the “Vette Polls” page. Look under the top banner, in the red tab bar for the “VETTE POLLS” tab.
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”→
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.
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.”
Dateline: 8.14.11 Corvette videos for every generation and Corvette racing lovers too!
First, I have to thank my wife and business partner, Karen, for dragging me away from my drawing board and into the world of blogging. We launched our first post on CorvetteReport.com on August 17, 2009 – nearly two years ago. For the longest time, I would add a post every now and then, sometimes going weeks or months in between posts. But the more I read and studied the subject of blogging, I could not escape the fact that for a blog to get a lot of traffic, you have to post several times a week – preferably daily.
So, last Spring I got on the stick and started posting every few days and by mid-June, just about every day. I also studied other car blogs to research what I like and what I don’t like. I found three blogs that I liked because they are constantly being updated. And because there’s always something new and fresh, I visit Keith Cornett’s CorvetteBlogger.com, Marty Schorr’s CarGuyChronicles.com, and Hemmings Blog EVERY day. Why? Because they’re FUN! To quote Forrest Gump, “It’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
Last week was “Vette Videos” week. I asked myself, “How could I make CorvetteReport.com better and more fun?” Add videos! DUGH! So over the last week, I have been hammering away at my Mac’s keyboard filling up the eight video sections with fun Vette videos. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them as much as I did researching, writing, and stitching together the 25 video posts to get our new feature loaded up.
At the top of the page in the red bar, look for the third drop down that says, “VETTE VIDEOS.” When you click the link, the drop down will give you eight choices – C1 Vette Videos, C2 Vette Videos, C3 Vette Videos, C4 Vette Videos, C5 Vette Videos, C6 Vette Videos, C7 Vette Videos, plus Corvette Racing Videos. “Vette Videos” will be a regular feature at CorvetteReport.com, along with our “This day in Corvette history” feature titled, “Corvette Timeline Tales.”Continue reading “SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT!!! CorvetteReport.com’s NEW “Vette Videos” Feature!!!”→