It’s time for another installment of On the Campaign Trail with my ’72 Corvette. For this final stop on my campaign, I’m off to the NCRS National Convention in Greenville, South Carolina to take a run at their prestigious 4-Star Bowtie award.
You can catch up on the previous articles in this series here:
- Follow Along as I Campaign a 1972 Corvette Convertible (Part 1)
- Preparing for Flight (Part 2)
- The NCRS Motor City Regional (Part 3)
- Survivor Day at Bloomington Gold (Part 4)
- Bloomington Gold Certification (Part 5)
- MCACN Triple Diamond (Part 6) The Gold Collection at Bloomington Gold (Part 7)
The 4-Star Bowtie award is arguably the most prestigious award in the NCRS portfolio. Bowtie judging is strictly for unrestored cars and performed only once per year at the National convention each July. Only 4 cars per class are judged annually. According to the NCRS website, just 340 Corvettes have earned this award to date. Compare that total to the thousands of cars that have earned a Top Flight or Duntov (or other) award.
To be considered for Star/Bowtie judging you must first get a Bowtie signoff from the NCRS National Team Leader at a preceding regional or national NCRS meet. From that signoff date you basically have 1 year to apply for Bowtie judging at the subsequent national convention. So if you get a signoff but aren’t one of the first 4 cars to register for bowtie judging, you’ll have to wait another year for the next national convention. I received my Bowtie signoff at the Motor City Regional in 2018.
Bowtie judging is different than Top Flight judging. Yes, the judges are looking for correct parts, but this time they want to see the actual part that was on the car when it left St. Louis. They also want to see that no one has touched it since then. This means they’re looking for evidence of screws having been turned, nuts scratched from wrenches, parts repainted, etc. They expect to see some rust and wear and tear. Parts are simply given a pass or a fail. There are no partial deductions here. The part or component is either good or it’s not.
4 teams of 2 people evaluate the mechanical, interior, exterior, and chassis areas of the car. Chassis judging is done on a 4-post lift. There is no operation judging here so, technically, a bowtie candidate doesn’t even have to run. The car must pass with an 80% score for mechanical and chassis and achieve 85% or better for interior and exterior. There’s also an age correction factor applied to even the playing field between, for example, a 1953 car and a 1982 car. Each passing area is given a star. If you pass all 4 areas, you get 4 stars and the elusive 4-star Bowtie award. Not every car gets 4 stars, some get 2, 3, or less. Finally, the car is voted upon and must be deemed “historically and educationally significant” to the Corvette hobby. Meaning – leave it alone and do not restore it. The intent is for the owner to preserve the car just the way it is and use it as a learning tool for the hobby. Bowtie cars usually end up being used for future revisions to judging guides and at judging schools to demonstrate how the plant actually built these cars. Cars get 1 attempt at star/Bowtie judging and afterward, your car cannot be Flight judged again. Again, this is to encourage owners to leave their cars just the way they are and not restore them.
All that is a rather long-winded explanation of Star/Bowtie judging, but it sets the table for what I was about to go through and shows just how detailed this judging gets. I’ve been through NCRS and Bloomington judging with other cars and knew what to expect going into those events. This time was different, though. I’ve never been through Star/Bowtie judging before. I’ve seen it done but never been through it myself.
Prep for the National Convention was minimal. Since this is more unrestored judging, the focus is on preservation. There’s really nothing to do other than make sure things are tidy and the judges can see what they’re looking for. For me, I just carefully addressed a bit of rattle can paintwork done years ago on the chassis and that was it. Now off to Greenville!
We rolled into town about 10am on Sunday morning and met the Reliable Carriers truck at the Greenville Convention Center. On a hot, muggy morning they unloaded the car and I headed into the building to find my parking spot. Bowtie judging was on Tuesday.
I arrived at the show about 7am on Tuesday. During the owner’s meeting NCRS Nation Judging Chairman, Dave Brigham, ran through the day’s activities and thanked all of us for bringing our cars. After that, the nervous owners scattered, and the various judges got to work. It was about 8:30-9am when I had my first visitors of the day – the exterior team. As they went through their work I did my usual thing and just kind of wandered around trying to listen in on their conversations and, of course, get a peek at the judging sheets – more on those in a minute. Next up the interior team arrived and did their thing. From there it was over to the 4-post lift for final judging of the chassis. Quick shout out here to the lift team volunteers that pushed each car from its parking spot to the lift and back. They were a nonstop group constantly staging and moving cars all day long. The mechanical team was the final judging team of the day and finished up just about lunchtime. I’d estimate that each team took 45-60 minutes each per section.
By now you’ve probably noticed that I’ve not mentioned reviewing judging sheets when the teams were done. That’s because Bowtie judging sheets aren’t reviewed with the owners afterward. Each team just kind of finishes their duties and then moves on to the next car. Bowtie judging sheets are the “Area 51” of the Corvette hobby. Everyone knows they exist, but very few have seen them. The intent here, again, is to deter restoration of the car. For example, if an owner saw a part that failed, they may want to restore or replace it which defeats the purpose of Bowtie judging. All that said, just after noon I became the first car in my class that was done for the day.
And this is where the mystery begins. Since the judging sheets aren’t reviewed I really had no idea how I’d done. Going into this I was pretty confident that I’d come home with at least 3 stars but, as usual, my chassis with its 46 Michigan winters on it had me concerned. I just wasn’t sure if there was enough originality left underneath the car for the judges liking. As the day went on I became more and more antsy waiting on the results. Around 4pm the grapevine began reporting that I’d gotten all 4 stars. Great, but that’s the rumor mill. My OCD needed real data, but by then the show was wrapping for the day so my crew and I headed back to the hotel for the evening. Wednesday morning my goal was to confirm what the rumor mill was reporting. With some creative sleuthing, just after lunchtime, I was able to confirm that I indeed did achieve all stars and the prestigious NCRS Chevrolet Bowtie Award for Corvette Preservation Excellence! The hard part was now waiting until the Thursday night awards banquet to get my Bowtie plaque. Anyone who knows me well understands waiting isn’t exactly one of my strongest skills.
Thursday was a nice relaxing day at the show with my family. I got to wander around with the Detroit Bureau’s two unpaid interns plus catch up with some friends I’d missed over the course of the week. Finally about 3:30 the cars were released from the judging hall and scattered quickly outside to their waiting trailers. The Reliable Carriers truck was right on time once again and we had the car loaded up and heading north by 4:30. Now off to the banquet where owners were formally presented their awards for Flight, Duntov, Crossed Flags, and others. The Bowtie awards were given a little over halfway through the event and when my name was called former Chief Engineers Dave Hill and Dave McClellan presented me with my snazzy Bowtie plaque. After that, it was back to the hotel to catch the online reveal of the C8 Corvette. A good day indeed.
Since that time I’ve been able to determine that my car is one of just 37 1972 Corvettes to win the Bowtie award. Of those, just 9 are convertibles. And that’s where this campaign will conclude. In 13 months, across 4 states, and thousands of miles, my ole blue car and I were able to take home the Corvette hobby’s top accolades. Now it’s time to take a break so I can actually drive and enjoy the car more. Thanks to everyone that’s helped me along the way here and to everyone that’s stopped me at the various events to talk about this series. I hope this shows that you don’t need a perfect car to chase all the big awards. Mine is far from it. So if you’re on the fence about having a car judged just do your homework first, take the plunge, and enjoy the ride.
Photos by Steve Burns
The Gold Collection at Bloomington Gold (Part 7)
On the Campaign Trail with a 1972 Corvette: MCACN Triple Diamond (Part 6)
On the Campaign Trail with a 1972 Corvette: Bloomington Gold Certification (Part 5)
On the Campaign Trail with a 1972 Corvette: Survivor Day at Bloomington Gold (Part 4)
On the Campaign Trail with a 1972 Corvette: The NCRS Motor City Regional (Part 3)
Preparing for Flight (Part 2)
Follow Along as I Campaign a 1972 Corvette Convertible (Part 1)