In addition to bringing you Pulitzer-worthy coverage from Bloomington Gold this summer, I also participated in the judging portion of the show for the 3rd time. My dad and I have been showing cars at Bloomington on and off since 1991. Together we’ve gone through the judging process a total of 5 times now. Previously I took home a Survivor award in 2002 and a Benchmark award in 2003 with an unrestored 1971 LS5 coupe. I sold that car in early 2005 and subsequently bought a 45,000 mile 1972 LT-1 coupe.
Long time readers of the site will recall back a few years ago when I caught the judging bug once again and decided to subject my 1972 LT-1 coupe to NCRS Flight Judging. That day I was happy to bring home a blue Top Flight ribbon with a score of just over 96%. After that show, life took over and the LT-1 took a back seat spending most of its more recent days hibernating in my garage. I now have 2 young Corvette co-pilots at home and I even considered selling my C3 for a while. Ultimately I elected to keep the car and after sitting for a few years it was time to make a run at a Bloomington Gold certificate.
My prep for Bloomington interestingly enough started with a review of the NCRS judging sheets in order to put together a baseline list of things I’d like to improve on the car before heading to Indianapolis. Once that list was created it was time for the “money vs points” evaluation for each of the items on my newly minted to-do list. The 2 biggest ticket items were new Good Year Speedway F70 bias ply tires from Kelsey and a reproduction exhaust system from the folks at Gardner. The tires were mounted to the original date coded wheels and balanced using the proper micro wheel weights. The exhaust was welded at the muffler joints like factory and then those mufflers were blacked out just like St. Louis did. Some smaller items needed were repro keys with knock outs in them, replacing several burned out lights on the interior, swapping in a few incorrect fasteners in various spots around the car, and good cleansing of the chassis including a thorough cobweb removal. Even after 10 years of searching I was finally able to locate a reasonably priced Consumer Information book for my owner’s manual packet.
As the end of June rapidly approached it became evident that I wasn’t going to get to everything I wanted to prior to the show. Some of the leftovers I wasn’t able to finish included freshening the black stripes on my original rocker panels and getting the pesky alarm system to work. I’d just have to take my deductions there and a few more minor areas and move on.
Flash forward to Wednesday, June 23rd and it was time to load up the LT-1 and head off to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After the 6 hour jaunt from CorvetteBlogger’s Motor City Bureau we unloaded the car and left it overnight in the judging plaza. That night would turn stormy as severe weather moved through the area dropping trees and knocking out power throughout the Indy suburbs. Luckily my car just got a good soaking and didn’t melt sitting outside overnight in the rain.
Thursday morning was time to check in at the owner’s tent and receive my parking spot assignment and parking time. I was assigned lucky parking spot G6 where my car would remain until the Saturday awards ceremony. Thursday would be my best chance to see the bulk of the show.
Friday was judgement day. Things got underway about 7:30am at the owner’s meeting. Bloomington owner and President Guy Larsen walked us through how the day would go and answered any questions the nervous owners had. One nice touch was allowing owners to remove their cars from the judging areas temporarily if they had purchased laps around the iconic Indy speedway. From the owner’s meeting it was back to the car wait my turn. Being in spot G6 meant I was the 6th car to be evaluated that day. Interestingly all 6 1970-1972 cars entered for judging were LT-1 powered. No base motor cars and no big blocks. 2 of the 6 LT-1’s were uber rare ZR-1’s. I was sandwiched in between a red 1970 ZR-1 and a Targa Blue 1972 twin to my car, though that car had air conditioning and radio delete.
Bloomington Gold judging is similar to NCRS judging in that all cars are judged against the standard of how the car was initially built by Chevrolet. Deductions based on correctness and condition are then taken based on how far you deviate from that standard. In NCRS judging points can be lost onesy-twosy (or more) whereas Bloomington points come off in 5, 10, and 15 point increments. C3 Corvette owners at Bloomington begin with 8.220 points. Points are taken away at 5, 10, or 15 point intervals based on each judges’ opinion depending on how much you deviate from the standard. NCRS takes a final score of 94% for Top Flight and Bloomington requires a 95% for a Gold Certificate.
Two sets of judges evaluate your car at Bloomington Gold. The first set evaluates the stamps, tags, and casting numbers on the various components. Here your components are rated as Appears OEM, Inconclusive, or Owner Declared Non-OEM. Deductions are taken accordingly if your car doesn’t conform to what would have come from the factory. There is no deduct for condition here. The 2-man judging team came by about 10am and spent about 30 minutes or so checking over each of their items. I sailed through this area with no deductions as I knew I would.
The final judging bell tolled for me just after lunch time. The group of 4 judges would evaluate the exterior, interior, engine compartment, chassis, and tech (or operations) of my Corvette. Here parts are graded based on originality and correctness and then overall condition. For C3 Corvettes, owners begin with 8,220 points. Points are taken away at 5, 10, or 15 point intervals based on each judges’ opinion depending on how much you deviate from the standard.
Saturday was a much more laid back day. Most of the time was spent wandering the speedway grounds and talking with neighbors as we all surmised how well we had scored in the previous day’s judging activities. Myself and most folks I talked to had concerns over how well their chassis had (or hadn’t) scored just like I did. Finally around 2pm I wandered back to my ride and just hung out while waiting for the 3pm awards ceremony to begin. Slowly but surely the cars lined up and headed to the base of the Indy pagoda right on the yard or bricks to receive their awards as well as a thank you and handshake from Guy Larsen.
As I suspected, the chassis section took the biggest hit. My undercarriage is largely unrestored and was undercoated at some point in its life so there are many items that were subject to losing points. Given its originality I’ve elected to leave most everything alone under there. Overall I lost 250 points here. For comparison sake, you can lose up to 411 points and still get a Gold Certificate. So one section in and I’m already over half way out of points. I’m happy to say that the other sections did much better. Engine compartment lost 95 points Body and Wheels took another 115, Interior only lost 60, and tech lost just 15 points thanks to that inop alarm system.
If you’re adding those numbers up in your head that comes out to 495 total points lost out of the 8,220 I started with. So, in the end, I missed the coveted Bloomington Gold certificate by just 84 points or basically 1%. It takes a score of at least 95% or higher for gold and I came home with a 94% silver certificate and I can’t really complain about that. Sure it’s not the goal I set for myself, but I thought that the judges were fair in their scoring and a high scoring silver certified car is nothing to be ashamed of especially when some of the top Corvette experts in the country have evaluated your car.
If you’re considering having your car judged at Bloomington, I highly suggest you do so. Yes, the cost of registration is high ($650 for certification) and you only get one chance per year to participate, but the knowledge you’ll gain and the experience you’ll have can’t be replaced. Plus, the Bloomington Gold team operates like a well-oiled machine. From the initial online registration, to check-in at the speedway, to the awards ceremony I had no issues. Any questions I had or emails I sent were responded to promptly. All staff I interacted with were courteous and responsive to what I needed. And the air conditioned owner’s tent was a great place to hide out on a hot and humid weekend.
If you’re considering having your car judged at Bloomington, I highly suggest you do so. Yes, the cost of registration is high ($650 alone for certification) and you usually just get one chance per year to participate, but the knowledge you’ll gain and the experience you’ll have can’t be replaced. (This year you get 2 chances to go for the gold.) Plus, the Bloomington Gold team operates like a well-oiled machine. From the registration, to check-in at the speedway, to the awards ceremony I had no issues. Any questions I had or emails I sent were responded to promptly.
So if you’re on the fence about having your car judged at Bloomington go ahead and take the plunge. Starting doing your homework now as prepping your car can take months or even longer. Registration for next year’s Indy show opens up on February 17th, 2017. I probably won’t have a car there next year, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before I’m back at Bloomington going for the gold once again.