Photo Credit: Bob McDorman Automotive Museum
The Corvette world lost a giant of an enthusiast this week.
Longtime Ohio Chevrolet dealer and Corvette Hall of Famer Bob McDorman passed away Wednesday at the age of 82 after a brief illness. Bob was best known for being a Chevrolet dealer in Canal Winchester, Ohio for nearly 50 years and during that time period his own personal collection of Corvettes and other GM vehicles was one of the largest collections of its kind.
McDorman’s early life was working the family farm in Xenia, Ohio but he said he always knew he was destined for the car business.
“When my folks would buy a new car, they’d have to come and get me out of it to eat dinner because I’d always be in it. I’d be examining it, playing with the knobs and stuff like that. I was always just crazy about cars.”
At 20 years old, he took a job with a Buick Pontiac GMC dealer in London, Ohio where he advanced quickly to Service Manager and then Body Shop Manager. He then started selling cars for a Chevrolet Oldsmobile Cadillac dealer as a used car salesman and then eventually became the used car manager.
He mentioned one of the pivotal moments of his life happened in 1953 while mowing his mom’s lawn, he spied a white two-seater sports car with red interior and behind the wheel was a Chevrolet dealer.
“I didn’t have any idea what it was, but I knew it was gorgeous,” says Bob. “I thought it was the neatest little car that I had ever laid my eyes on. I went to his dealership the next day and asked him about it, and he said it was a Corvette.” The dealer took Bob to go see the car up close. “I spent two hours looking over that car. I couldn’t believe that Chevrolet had designed a car that sharp. From there on, I’ve had a passion for them. I couldn’t afford one for awhile but my desire to get one kept building over the years. I remember when that ’63 split window came out. I wanted one so bad I could taste it.”
Bob purchased the dealership in 1965 which coincided with his first Corvette purchase. “I never had enough money to buy one when I was young and running around. I suppose that is why I collect them like I do.”
Bob eventually turned around a dealership that had never sold any Corvettes to one of the largest Corvette sellers in the Midwest. The motto at the dealership was “Corvette Spoken Here” and he sponsored and supported many of the Corvettes in the area.
McDorman ran the dealership for 46 years before selling to the Jeff Whyler Automotive Family in 2011. One of the interesting aspects of that deal was that he retained a 15% interest in the dealership so that he could reach his 50th anniversary as a Chevrolet dealer which was important to him.
McDorman was also known for his philanthropic activities too. Bob raised over $250,000 for the Children’s Hospital in Columbus Ohio over the years through his yearly “Corvettes on the Canal” car shows that at the time was one of the largest Corvette shows in the country.
Following the sale of the Chevrolet dealership in 2011, Bob turned his focus back to sharing his car collection with the public at the Bob McDorman Automotive Museum.
Bob’s Corvette collection was very extensive with his Corvettes and Chevy’s and mostly other GM vehicles numbering over 200 at one point and his specialty was collecting VIN 001 cars as well as those owned by celebrities. Some of his Corvettes were previously owned by Burt Reynolds, Johnny Carson and Dolly Parton. He’s collected and sold his collections three different times with the last sale handled by Mecum in 2011.
Fullfilling one of his last goals came in 2012 when Bob McDorman was inducted into the National Corvette Museum’s Corvette Hall of Fame. On the Hall of Fame website, Bob was quoted as saying “I learned a long time ago that you can fake your attitude, you can fake enthusiasm but you can’t fake passion. I’ve got the passion.”
Thanks again Bob McDorman for all that you contributed to Canal Winchester and to the corvette hobby. You will be missed!
National Corvette Museum