Carl Whitlow was there for the very beginning days of the Corvette, so it’s only fitting that after his death last year, his wife Sharyon completed the circle by donating their beloved 1990 Indy 500 Festival Corvette to the National Corvette Museum.
Mr. Whitlow’s father was a service manager for a Chevy dealer in Richmond, Va., in the 1950s, and “when the first ’53 Corvette came into Richmond, it came to that dealer and my husband got to sit in it … and that was all she wrote. He was a fan from then on,” Sharyon explained.
Unfortunately, it would take Carl 51 years to finally become a Corvette owner when he and Sharyon bought a very special 1990 convertible in 2004.
Sharyon explains that they looked up the car on CarFax and discovered that its first stop had been Indianapolis. “That’s what piqued our interest in tracking it,” she said. “We spotted it, fell in love, and bought it.”
Their research revealed to them that the Chevy Beretta was the official Pace Car for the 1990 Indy 500, but since it wasn’t a convertible, Corvettes were used as the official “Festival Parade” Cars transporting drivers and dignitaries, including the Whitlows’ car.
Once they finally became Corvette owners, they quickly made up for lost time, she says. “We called ourselves Gert and Gary Geezer and we would ride on the weekends,” she recalls. “Some days we would ride for six or eight hours, just enjoying the top down.”
When Carl passed away last year, Gert didn’t know exactly what to do with the Corvette. That’s when her daughter, Melanie, suggested that they call the National Corvette Museum, saying “The worst they can say is, ‘no, we’re not interested.’”
Museum Curator Derek Moore was thrilled to accept the gift, however.
“Carl died a year ago in October and the car sat parked in the garage. I could not imagine selling it to somebody,” said Sharyon, who said the experience brought a mix of emotions. “It was the first Corvette that he owned, and he loved it. We drove it, we didn’t put it in the garage and leave it. I think this is the right decision for us and the car. And I think my husband would be thrilled at the prospect that his car would be here.”
Melanie agreed, pointing out that her mom put off making the call to the NCM but finally did. “And I’m glad she did because I think Dad would enjoy knowing that his car is here for everybody to enjoy,” she said. “He could brag about it a little, too.”
The special Indy decals had been removed from the car before the Whitlows bought it, but the Museum is adding them back to return the Corvette to its original appearance.
The Museum expressed thanks to the Whitlow family for their generous donation and for honoring Carl by preserving this piece of Corvette history.
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