Article and photos contributed by Steve Burns
The National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) held its 2011 National Convention last week in Novi, Michigan just outside of Detroit. Hundreds of families from around the world converged on the Motor City suburb to look at, talk about, judge, and drool over pristine examples of America’s sports car. In addition to the seminars and judging events at the Suburban Collection Showplace, attendees could attend a number of tours of local attractions including visits to several GM facilities in the area. Click past the jump to check out more from this year’s national.
The 2011 incarnation of the National Convention was hosted solely by the Michigan Chapter NCRS for the first time since 1992. They cohosted the 2004 convention in Windsor, Ontario with the Ontario NCRS chapter.
The week kicked off with the arrival of the national road tour at the convention center. Smaller regional road tours from across the U.S. and Canada met up for a final “en mass” arrival at the show site led by the 1961 Corvettes celebrating their 50th birthday this year.
One of the main facets of the national convention is the judging. Nearly 200 Corvette owners staged their cars inside the show hall in pursuit of Flight, Star/Bowtie, Duntov, McClellan, Performance Verification, and Crossed Flags awards among several others. Judging events took place over several of the convention days. The judging classes encompass all years from 1953 – 1996. There are other classes as well for racecars and cars that are significant to the Corvette hobby but aren’t necessarily “factory correct”.
In addition to judging, there are numerous tech sessions, tours, and seminars held at the national convention. Being right in GM’s backyard provided the opportunity to tour such locations as the Performance Build Center, the GM Heritage Collection, and the GM Wind Tunnel. Even trips to the Ford Piquette plant (where the Model T was born) and the Walter P. Chrysler Museum were planned. Keep an eye out for upcoming articles on some of these stops in the near future. The tech sessions ranged in topics from the St. Louis build process to the ins and outs of Corvette paint. In our opinion, the 2 “must attend” seminars this year were the Advanced Judging Schools and Friday’s talk with the Chief Engineers Dave McClellan, Dave Hill, and Tadge Juechter.
At the advance judging school NCRS Master Judges used several original, unrestored Corvettes to demonstrate some of the finishes, markings, colors, and fasteners that were used by the plant in a particular model year. Each car is placed on a lift so it can be scrutinized from all angles. Examples from each of the first 4 generations were covered this year. We spent most of our Friday underneath a 1970 ZR1 with 300 miles and 1979 L82 with just 3 miles on it. The amount of history and originality on each of these cars was simply amazing. Almost like they were frozen in time.
After the Advanced Judging school we attended a talk by current and past Corvette Chief Engineers. Dave McClellan spoke about some of GM’s design leaders of the past as well as some great reference books for a little summer reading. Dave Hill then spoke about the C6R racing program and some of the design aspects of the new Corvettes. Lastly Tadge Juechter facilitated a presentation on all of the new 2012 content. Several people tried, but we couldn’t get him to reveal any secrets about the C7! He did give us a little tidbit on how the new Commemorative Edition wheels are made, though. The black and red hoops are first molded and then painted red. Next they get a coat of black paint over top of the rouge hue. Finally the red stripe is created by machining off just the black paint to reveal the snazzy red pin stripe. It’s complicated process, but as Tadge said, it makes for a much higher quality product.
By far, the highlight of the tours was the driving tour of the Milford Proving Grounds. 220 Corvettes were given a police escorted drive through Milford, MI and into the grounds. Once there the owners gathered at the famous Black Lake for photos and the chance to check out some of the 2012 Corvettes. The yellow Nurburgring record-holding ZR1 and Corvette Engineering race trailer were on display as well. 12 lucky raffle winners were selected at random to ride along with GM test drivers in ZR1’s on some of the various test tracks where they were treated to savage acceleration, launch control demo’s, and a leisure cruise at 160mph around the high speed ring. 6 additional attendees bid on the opportunity to ride with Jim Mero himself in a ZR1 around another test loop. The thousands in bids went to the NCRS Foundation Charitable Fund. We didn’t win and we were way too cheap to bid, but watching Mero race across the Black Lake at 160+ was entertainment enough for us. The car basically sounds like a small Formula 1 car racing around Spa or Monte Carlo. All the winners exited with ear-to-ear smiles after their rocket rides. After the rides were completed Mero signed autographs for fans who requested them. Once playtime was over, owners hopped back into their rides and completed their tour of the grounds on tracks like the North/South straightaway, 7 sisters and the “Lutz Ring”.
The Michigan NCRS, the sponsors, and volunteers created a fantastic weeklong Corvette experience with activities for Corvette owners of all generations and ages. Next year the club heads out to Ron Burgundy’s neighborhood of San Diego, California. Make your plans now as it’s sure to be another first class event.