While the largest one day automotive event in the country was taking place on Woodward Avenue in the suburbs of Detroit, an equally impressive event was taking place sixty miles to the north in Flint, Michigan, a city rich in automotive history.
The spectacular Back to the Bricks car show and the Corvette Reunion welcomed a huge throng of automobile enthusiasts, including Mark Reuss, President of General Motors of North America. Reuss was one of the featured speakers at the unveiling of a bronze statue honoring William “Billy” Durant, founder of General Motors. Durant’s statue will join David Buick and Louis Chevrolet on the brick plaza of downtown Flint. Most of downtown Flint was closed to accommodate the thousands of cars and crowd of spectators, estimated at over a half million, along the streets of the historic city.
Cars of every type began lining the downtown streets at 6 AM, Saturday morning, August 17th to be a part of the 9th Annual Back to the Bricks car show and the 4th Annual Corvette Reunion. There were several thousand cars and trucks being shown, including classic, muscle, restomod, sports and race cars and if you are an automobile enthusiast there was plenty to keep you occupied. Even the world famous drag racing team “The Ramchargers” were there with some of their vintage drag mopars. The show has become so large that it is difficult to see all the cars in a full day.
One of the outstanding features of the Back to the Bricks show is the thousands of dollars it raises to fund statues of automotive pioneers to help revitalize the downtown of Flint. The Bricks is a non-profit organization that over its nine years has raised money to fund four bronze statues. The kick off of this year’s event was to unveil the statue of William Durant, the latest addition to Flint’s plaza. The opening ceremonies got underway with a “fly over” by vintage “Hellcat” planes which were powered by Buick engines made in Flint. Following the flag raising and national anthem several speakers gave brief presentations about the Bricks event and how important it has been to the rebirth of the downtown. Mark Reuss, GM president and an acclaimed “car guy”, was one of the speakers at the unveiling and pledged GM’s continued support for the historic city and birthplace of the corporation. Just a few weeks before General Motors acquired the historic building which housed the Dort-Durant Carriage Company on Water Street, a building which has become known as “Factory 1”. Reuss, acknowledged by many to be instrumental in getting the business back into the hands of car enthusiasts, said the final plans for the historic building were still being developed but implied one of the options was to house several of GM’s historic Buick and GMC vehicles which they currently do not have room to display on a continuous basis.
One of the favorite parts of the Bricks event is the Corvette Reunion which drew in excess of 600 Corvettes from all parts of the US and Canada. Appropriately, the Corvette Reunion takes place in the birthplace of the Corvette; Flint is where the first Corvettes were produced. Corvettes of every generation were represented from outstanding restorations to wild customs and restomods. The chairman of the event since its inception four years ago is Gary Drago, well-known, life-long Corvette enthusiast. With the help of the Flint Corvette clubs, Drago and the committee have grown and organized this event into one of, if not the largest all-Corvette event in Michigan; an impressive accomplishment in light of the hundreds of Corvettes that come from all over the world to cruise the legendary Woodward strip just sixty miles south the very same day. Both the Corvette Reunion committee and the Back to the Bricks committee impressively organized this huge event so there was few traffic back-ups which has been a complaint of pat events. There was plenty of parking for both those showing their cars and spectators.
The Corvette Reunion, though a part of the Back to the Bricks show, is actually a separate event organized and managed within the larger car show. As a result there are some differences between the larger Bricks car show and the Corvette Reunion. Though there is no charge to simply show your car in either the Bricks or Reunion, however, in the Corvette show you can register and pay a fee to have your car judged in a competition. Awards are given in various categories from “Best in Show” to “Farthest Traveled” the trophies are mounted on Bricks commemorating the historic brick paved Saginaw Street, the main street in downtown Flint which is now historically protected.
The Corvette Reunion requires several streets in the downtown to be able to accommodate all the Corvettes that travel from as far away as California to be a part of the event. The National Corvette Museum is also on hand offering merchandise and information on the museum. Each year the event has grown by approximately a hundred Corvettes and this year was no exception.
One of the hallmarks of the Reunion is the broad spectrum of Corvettes being displayed from award winning classic Corvettes to customized cars. The show has one of the largest assortment of “personalized” Corvettes in any show. Flint’s “TrendSetta Corvette Club” has an impressive representation of some of the finest “personalized” Corvettes that can be found anywhere. According to Anthony Bowling, president of the club and a co founder of the event, the outstanding “personalized” cars from his club have been invited to display their cars all over the country. The former president of the Rainbow Corvette Club, Bowling is also the founder of the appropriately named, Trendsetta Corvette Club. From the impressive workmanship and design in several of the club member’s cars, they are truly a trendsetting club. Anthony’s white Corvette with Lambo doors is an outstanding representation of the cars in the club.
As most of you know, Corvettes at Carlisle takes place this weekend and the Corvette on the center stage will be Steve Stone’s 1963 triple black convertible one of the participants in this year’s Reunion. Just one of the things that sets Steve’s car apart is the over a half million miles he has put on the car since taking delivery of the car on February 27, 1963, four months after he ordered it, when he was just eighteen years old. The car has had four engine rebuilds/replacements, four replacement front end clips, due to accidents, and the interior has been redone twice. He added the side pipes and disc brakes in the 70’s and had the frame restored in the 80’s. The car has traveled all of the lower 48 states and 9 Canadian provinces and on long excursions he and his wife tow a small 5X8 utility trailer behind the packed sports car. Packing light is a requirement his wife has mastered especially for their once a year trip to the Boundary Waters, which means they take a 22-foot canoe along as well. Though he has owned the car its entire life he did put the car up for sale when he was drafted back in 1965. He thought he was going to end up in Viet Nam so he wanted to make sure that if anything happened to him he would not leave his parents stuck paying off the loan on the car which they had cosigned. However, the planets must have been aligned because he could not find a buyer, did not go to Nam and took that as an omen to keep the car. Now he said he’d never part with the car and couldn’t picture driving anything else. While showing me his picture and document album of the car, he expressed his feelings towards the well used Corvette, “I won’t take anything for it, not even if I were offered a new C7.”
Like other Corvette events, owners are more than willing to share their stories about their cars if asked. What makes this event different is the vast quantity of Corvettes and great stories. Like the beautiful 1956 and 1957 Corvettes owned by the Campbells, father and son. Or like Jerry and Janet Karyciak’s story about their NCRS Duntov Award winning 1962 Corvette. Jerry bought the 1962 convertible in 1978 when he was 18 years old. When he found the car it was hardly original. Among other things the car did not have the original engine in it since the seller said it was cheaper to put in a replacement engine than repair the original. But luckily the seller still had the original engine and sold it to Jerry along with the car. That began Jerry’s fourteen year quest to find the correct factory parts for the car. Finally after compiling the correct parts he was able to start his restoration in 1992 which lasted for three years. Now Jerry drives the car everywhere and said the only time it has ever been on a trailer was on a trip to California where he received the Duntov Award. He recently drove the C1 to Hampton, Virginia, for the NCRS convention. The beautiful Honduras Maroon coupe is an exemplary example of the last year of a first generation car.
It’s always exciting to hear a story about a “barn find,” especially a Corvette. Bruce Jackowski found his 1966 Sunfire Yellow convertible in a barn in Michigan in 2006. He is the fourth owner of the car which was delivered to the dealer in January 1966. Bruce discovered the car in a barn where it had been sitting for over fifteen years. To get the car running Bruce had to rebuild most of the mechanicals, drop the tank and clean it and replace several hoses and lines. He was surprised when he discovered in the same barn hidden from sight the original hard top for the car. When delivered originally the car had been painted Trophy Blue but had been repainted Sunfire Yellow several years before it had been parked in the barn. Bruce decided to keep the Sunfire Yellow paint as found, which is still in good condition.
Even Larry Courtney, organizer of the recently completed Corvettes On Woodward event which drew over 500 Corvettes on Wednesday August 14, found time in his busy schedule to take part in the Reunion. Larry, Michigan captain of the National Corvette Museum’s National Parade, was hard at it pitching information on the 2014 Corvette tour.
Throughout the event there was plenty of music and food available. Both the Bricks and Corvette Reunion shows ended at 6 PM but the action continued into the evening with parties and a 50’s themed sock hop.
If you are a Corvette owner, overall it was a great week to be in Michigan. From Larry Courtney’s Corvettes on Woodward, to weeknights along Woodward Avenue, to the Back to the Bricks – Corvette Reunion show there was never a lack of things to do. From all indications the Woodward Dream Cruise, the Back to the Bricks and the Corvette Reunion had larger turn outs of participants and spectators, were better organized and with more activities than ever before. The only recommendation I would have for you aside from being in Michigan next year for these events is to get plenty of rest the week before because from the moment the green flag drops on the Sunday before the Saturday event it becomes a fun-filled Corvette endurance event.
Here’s even more pictures from the Corvette Reunion and the Back to Bricks show in Flint:
Rick Tavel writes about automobiles with an emphasis on Corvettes and the hobby in general. You can see his website at revenantrt.blogspot.com