The Corvette Reunion and Back to the Bricks events welcomed hundreds of thousands of spectators and participants in downtown Flint, for their largest and most successful event since the show’s inception. This is quite an accomplishment when you consider that just sixty miles to the south of the historic city the world’s largest one day automotive event, the Woodward Dream Cruise, was taking place.
But as in the past years it did not seem to limit the exuberant crowds that flocked to the “vehicle city”, birthplace of the Corvette, to view almost 800 Corvettes and several thousand other muscle, performance, custom and classic cars on display in what has been recognized as one of the top twenty automotive events in the country, Corvette Reunion/Back to the Bricks show.
But what takes place each year in Flint is more than a car show, it has become a lifestyle event encompassing support activities throughout the prior week and a place where car enthusiasts can enjoy cars of all descriptions from the finest restorations and customs, to state of the art restomods; blue chip investment classics to rusted out rat rods; show cars and cars in various stages of completion; and, of course, the icing on the cake are the hundreds of Corvettes that have become a feature of the event. And the commonality for all the cars is the outgoing owners more than willing to tell you the interesting stories about their rides.
Despite the torrential storms which dumped record rain on much of Michigan early in the week, the weather cleared and the sun was shining for Saturday’s show which began filling up at 7 AM. By noon every designated spot on M.L.King Boulevard, Saginaw Street and side streets was filled with Corvettes from every generation. Enthusiasts from all over the country made the trip to the Reunion, which has grown exponentially since its inception over five years ago.
The Corvette Reunion is actually an “event within an event.” It is organized as a separate event and though both events welcome enthusiasts to show their cars free of charge the Reunion, unlike the Back to the Bricks show, offers Corvette owners the option of having their cars compete for trophies in a judged class for a nominal fee. Ten Corvettes are selected to receive invitations to the Michigan Corvette Concours d’Elegance which takes place in September and is sponsored by Les Stanford Chevrolet in Detroit.
Automobile enthusiasts from across the country have several choices of outstanding events on this weekend each year. There is the world’s largest automotive event taking place in the suburbs of Detroit, the Woodward Dream Cruise, and of course there are the shows, auctions and vintage racing happening in Monterey, California. One Corvette couple from California commented that they had to decide on whether they’d go to Monterey or Michigan and since they didn’t want to pay the Monterey prices for accommodations decided that Michigan’s Corvette Fantasy Week was the place to be. They drove their fourth generation Corvette from southern California, stopping along the way to visit the National Corvette Museum, then spent Wednesday at Corvettes on Woodward, Thursday and Friday evenings were spent at the Dream Cruise and finally early Saturday they drove up to the Corvette Reunion. They said they’d be back again next year but would kick off their trip at the Reunion and then make the trip to Carlisle and stop off at the National Corvette Museum on their way back to California; but in 2015 they plan on making the trip in a 2015 Stingray.
We found several enthusiasts from around the country who made the trip to take part in Michigan’s Corvette Fantasy Week as well as a contingent of Corvettes that attended Corvettes on Woodward and made the fifty minute trip to Flint on Saturday morning to attend the Reunion and Bricks events before they headed back to Woodward and the Dream Cruise for the late afternoon and evening. Like so many others both from Michigan and around the country, they made the trip to take advantage of the Dream Cruise, Corvettes on Woodward, and the Back to the Bricks events in addition to the Corvette Reunion, the events which make up Michigan’s Corvette Fantasy Week. We spoke to Corvette owners from New York, Wyoming, Arizona, Missouri, Florida and North Carolina who shared their experiences and complimented the Reunion and the organizers of both the Reunion and the Bricks events. One couple said the Reunion felt like a friendly, welcoming small town Corvette show only magnified a hundred times.
Each year the event grows and continues to find more ways to make the show more comfortable and enjoyable. Saturday morning thousands of cars converge on downtown Flint to take part in the Back to the Bricks/ Corvette Reunion show but it is so well planned an organized that there is rarely a backup or long wait to find a place along Flint’s downtown streets. This is a testament to the hard work and planning from the Reunion team, led by Gary Drago, Al Hatch and his Back to the Bricks team and the city of Flint who, unlike some municipalities, welcome the show participants and spectators.
While wandering around and inspecting several of the Corvettes assembled for the event, more than a few of the proud owners were anxious to share the information on their cars. Not only can spectators find Corvettes of all generations but a large selection of modified and custom cars as well. The Reunion has one of the largest displays of Corvettes with “Lambo” doors of any show in the country. There are race modified Corvettes as well as classic survivors and award winning restorations to highly modified and personalized examples of Corvettes.
One of the more interesting classic restorations was Gerald Childs’ 1970 Corvette Stingray which he originally found in pieces and had to transport it to his garage in three separate trailers. Gerald did the frame off restoration himself, except for the paint which was done professionally, by his son’s restoration business. The Daytona Yellow, 454 big block is outstanding and he has several past awards to prove it. In spite of the impeccable restoration, Gerald does what Corvette enthusiasts are supposed to do with their cars, he drives it just like he did with his prior eight Corvettes.
And his son, Steve, must have inherited his father’s love of Corvettes. Steve’s recently purchased 1962 was right next to his fathers. The white C1 has not yet undergone a restoration, which conveniently is Steve’s profession. He and a partner own Paragon Corvettes, a parts and restoration company in Michigan. The exceptional quality of Childs’ and Paragon’s work was shown off in his wife’s 1958 first generation Corvette in blue with silver coves.
Bruce Field showed his 1967 Lyndale Blue 427 coupe. Though the car is all original Bruce has made some personal modifications, like suspension and wheel upgrades to facilitate the driving experience, but he was quick to point out that he had all of the original parts stored in his garage. The 427/390 engine is all original and has been rebuilt and the car was resprayed in 2005.
One of the participants from the Midwest and a testament to the popularity of the Corvette Reunion, Gary Hollander and his son, Russell, drove over eight hours, from Missouri to show off his Velocity Yellow 2013 Grand Sport coupe which he had dressed up and personalized. Gary told us the biggest decision was not whether to make the trip but whether to drive the yellow Grand Sport or one of his other two sixth generation Z06’s.
Last year’s Best of Show winner at the Reunion was this 1963 Split Window Coupe which the owner has reluctantly decided to sell. The impeccably restored second generation coupe is being offered for $110K.
Charles Thomas brought his Crystal Red modified 2011 Grand Sport outfitted with “Lambo” doors, dual cameras in the grill, and a stereo system that could rock the entire show. Charles’ Corvette has won award all over the country including the World of Wheels show and Memphis’s Strictly for Vettes.
James Wilkerson brought his impeccable black with red interior C4 that he bought new in 1995. There aren’t many original C4 survivors that look like they did on the showroom floor but James’ example illustrates that even though his Corvette is frequently driven it still looks new.
The Back to the Bricks/ Corvette Reunion events are so large it fills most of the downtown streets of Flint, which are closed except for classic, hot rod, custom, resto-mod, and of course, the Corvettes being shown. Recently the Bricks has been selected as one of the top twenty automotive events in the country and Buick and Chevrolet is the event’s main sponsor. Like other “mega-events” the Bricks has spawned an entire week of supporting events which includes everything from a free drive in movie, to local car cruises and concerts. The only challenge is seeing all of the cars displayed on Flint’s historic brick streets. The Corvette Reunion and the Back to the Bricks event is staged in downtown Flint, which closes the downtown area to automobile traffic for the day in order to turn the space over to the two events which together draw several thousand cars.
One attribute which sets the Back to the Bricks event apart from most automotive events is it is set up as a non-profit organization for the purpose of funding its Automotive Pioneer Statue Fund and all profits go to help preserve and promote the rich automotive history of Flint and specifically to commission bronze statues of automotive pioneers that were so much a part of the city’s past.
The event was started in 2004 by car collector, Allan Hatch in an effort to rehabilitate the deteriorating city of Flint and preserve its rich automotive history. A lifetime resident of the Flint metropolitan area, he saw the city’s automobile heritage slipping away. Hatch decided that there should be something that would attract visitors and help rehabilitate the historic downtown which still retains some of the original brick streets where once Billy Durant, David Buick, Louis Chevrolet, Walter P. Chrysler and other important automobile pioneers walked. Being an avid car collector his vision to help turn the downtown around was an event centered around the automobile.
What ensued was a free car show that would attract visitors from around the Midwest and draw some overflow Dream Cruise enthusiasts to Flint. But today the Bricks event does not rely on the Dream Cruise for overflow, it is its own mega event in many ways surpasses the Dream Cruise. And this year will celebrate its tenth anniversary by being selected as one of the top automotive events in the country. In the ten years since its founding, the event has grown from the first year’s 1000 cars to over 15,000 cars and has funded several statues of Flint’s automotive pioneers.
The Corvette Reunion was an outgrowth of the Back to the Bricks event and the brainchild of Gary Drago, owner of Drago Corvettes and then president of the Flint Corvette Club. Drago realized that the Bricks presented a unique opportunity to get all Corvettes from the city’s four Corvette clubs to park together in one designated section to create more impact for America’s sports car. Drago, the head of the Reunion each year since its founding, put a plan together to not only make that happen but to attract Corvettes from around the country. His idea worked and grew from approximately 100 Corvettes in the beginning to almost 800 today. Now the Corvette Reunion is a major attraction to the Back to the Bricks event and one of the premier Corvette events in the country.
Check out these photos of the Corvette Reunion show at Back to the Bricks:
Rick Tavel writes about automobiles with an emphasis on Corvettes and the hobby in general. You can see his website at Corvetted.