Keith’s Blog: A Cornucopia of Corvettes in Bloomington


My weekend was full; I was the emcee of the induction ceremony into the Great Hall, where 10 cars and 10 luminaries from Corvette history were recognized. I interviewed Dave McClellan, chief engineer of the Corvette (following Zora Arkus-Duntov), and Jerry Burton, the long-time editor of Corvette Quarterly, among others.

Plus, Erin Olson, Jeff Brinkley and Wendie, Bradley and Alex from ACC were there, and the entire team worked the various booths all weekend long.

American Car Collector Bloomington Gold 2012 booth

I also spent time with Lance Miller of Carlisle Productions, and Mike Yager of Mid America Motorworks, dreaming up “rule the world” plans to coordinate a tour that would connect Bloomington, Corvettes at Carlisle and Funfest. Watch this space for more info.

Mike Yager and Keith Martin

The next day, I was emcee for the Bloomington Gold Certificate awards, where bronze, silver or gold levels of achievement are awarded to owners whose cars have gone through the judging process.

Bloomington has a “cars for sale” section called the Gold Mine. Wendie, Alex and I cruised it on Friday and Saturday, and my attention was drawn to a 1996 C4 with 6-speed, LT-4 engine and Z51 suspension. In red / red, it had about 40,000 miles and looked properly cared for.

It was about this time that Alex mentioned she had a friend in Yellowstone National Park she’d like to visit, and suggested the idea of driving home a Corvette from Pheasant Run to Portland via Yellowstone. When I replied that we already had purchased an airplane ticket home for her, she knew which card to play, asking, “Where’s your sense of adventure, dad?”

We checked with some of our Corvette gurus (they were plentiful at Bloomington), and they thought the 1996 C4 was really a $12,000 car, and that the Z51 suspension would be too harsh for a transcontinental run. We decided to keep looking.

I didn’t attend most of the Mecum auction, as it was running concurrently with the certificate presentations, but I took a stroll with Alex through the post-block “The Bid Goes On” sale area, where cars that didn’t meet their reserves remained on display.

I could sense we were getting into dangerous territory as Alex landed on a couple of C3s, C4s and even a C5, so I called in friends Michael Pierce and Jaime Gesundheit to provide counsel.

Michael Pierce Jaime Gesundheit Corvette Experts

As Alex approached a particularly ratty C3, (dark blue / black), Michael dismissed the notion of “adventure” immediately. “Take the airplane home,” he said. “How much adventure is there being stuck by the side of the road in Montana because your electrical system has failed?”

We were all entertained by the owner of a 1988 convertible with a headlight that refused to open fully. “No problem,” the owner insisted, hurrying around to the front of the car as the right headlight motor clicked away, then locking the lamp into the open position by pushing down it with his hand, making it as good as new. “See?” That car was only $8,500.

The options finally narrowed to a 1996 6-speed coupe in white / tan, 40k miles, asking $14,000, and a 2001 C5, dark blue / gray, with 40k miles, asking $21,000.

Alex began plotting her route. I reminded myself that I had never really liked the styling of C5s, with their bulbous, “will hold two sets of clubs” trunk, and that I had already owned a C4 and didn’t really need one today. “Where’s the adventure in that kind of thinking?” Alex responded, right on cue.

Finally, reality reared its head in the form of Mecum specialist and Corvette expert Tom Chrisman. His position was this: If we wanted to have Alex fly in, buy a car and drive it home, let Mecum know first. They see all the cars as they come in, and a specialist will be glad to bring the right car to our attention when it appears. Or, once we’d arrived and looked over the cars, find a specialist and have him or her go over the car with us.

He suggested that starting our buying process after the auction, in the near-dark, in a lot full of cars that had not sold for unknown reasons, was perhaps not the smartest way to do things.

“Where’s the adventure in that?” I responded.

But in the end, none of the Corvettes hit that emotional sweet spot of value and appeal. Rather than force the issue and end up with an older less-reliable-but-more-attractive car, or a newer less-attractive-but-probably-reliable car, we decided to wait until the next auction.

After all, there will always be another car.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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