In 1989 VH1 held a contest where they gave a way 36 Corvettes – one for every year beginning in 1953 through 1989 – to a single winner. Dennis Amodeo, a carpenter from Long Island won the collection, but before taking delivery he sold all 36 Corvettes to Pop artist Peter Max who planned to use the cars for an art project. The project never got off the ground and the Corvettes ended up parked in a Brooklyn building where they were essentially forgotten.
The VH1 Corvette Giveaway was the brainchild of Jim Cahill. After a pitch to the network in 1988 that included toy Corvettes as props, Cahill was given the green light and began assembling his collection. The Corvettes were purchased over a couple of months in 1988 although Cahill remembers the 1953 Corvette being one of the hardest to locate. He recounts there being a big auction down in Scottsdale where if you have the cash, you can get the car you want. The cost to assemble the collection ran $610,000. The cost of the ’53 Corvette itself was $60,000.
The VH1 contest was a rousing success with over 1.3 million entries received. Amodeo was notified that he won and flew out to California where he was given the keys to the collection by Mike Love, a member of the Beach Boys. It was at this time that Peter Max heard about the collection and then had what he calls “the biggest dream ever. I was in the bleachers at a football game, and suddenly these Corvettes come out of the tunnels.”
Peter Max bought the collection for about $500,000 and had the cars shipped to New York City. At the time he was busy with other projects and a legal battle with the IRS, so the cars just sat. After being moved a couple of times in those early years, the 36 Corvettes eventually wound up in the parking garage in Brooklyn where they remained until earlier this year.
In 2005, Digital Corvettes founder Patrick Gramm heard about the collection and he and several others set off scouring Brooklyn until they located the cars in a former Daily News printing plant. Behind a chain link fence sat the 36 Corvettes. They were dirty as hell, many had flat tires and some of the more valuable roadsters like the ’53 (E53F001291) were stored with its top down, allowing over 10 years of dust, grime and dirt to accumulate.
The buzz generated by the finding of the Peter Max collection was substantial. Gramm was very much concerned about the condition of the 1953 Corvette, #291 of 300 made, and offered to take it to the National Corvette Museum where it can cleaned up and stored properly until Max was ready to start the project. Other offers were made to allow a team of Corvette enthusiasts to come in and take car of the cars, but all were rebuffed.
Now comes word that the Corvette collected was recently moved. Pictures from twitter user show the Corvettes lined on the street as they were loaded on car haulers and taken to a new, unnamed location. Is Peter Max getting ready to fulfill his dream of repainting the Corvettes and then displaying them at Giants or Yankees Stadium?
Peter Max has signaled that he is ready to start moving forward on the project, although he now says the paining of the Corvettes will be more subtle than originally planned. I’m going to paint them so it’s respectful,” he said in the New York Times article. In addition to the 36 Corvettes already in the collection, Max’s vision calls for purchasing an additional 14 Corvettes so that there is one from every year through 2003 – 50 Corvettes in all. After painting the Corvettes, the cars would go on an exhibition tour before being auctioned as a set.
David Borroughs of Bloomington Gold was asked by the NY Times about the value of the collection. With photos and information provided by Patrick Gramm, and without an on-site inspection, he suggested that the 36 car collection had an estimated value of $843,000 with the 10 oldest Corvettes alone accounting for $445,000.
Only time will tell whether these Corvettes will finally get the proper care and respect due. And that goes for Peter Max’s claim that he be “respectful” when repainting 36 examples of America’s sports cars.