BBC Autos

Car Tribes

‘Vette populi

  • The converted

    Amid a sea of Hawaiian shirts, a parking lot filled with historic cars and a prime rib buffet, fans of the Chevrolet Corvette poured into the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles earlier this month for the West Coast unveiling of the seventh-generation model, known to cognoscenti as the C7.

    Lead exterior designer Kirk Bennion was present to take the wraps off a C7 clay model at the gala event, which was held among the museum’s collection of heritage automobiles and motorcycles. Though no running examples of the C7 were present, the clay model made for a unique surrogate.

    The evening’s festivities attracted Corvette owners and museum patrons, with healthy representation from the museum’s Checkered Flag Club. There were also Corvette-world big shots, including customiser Reeves Callaway.

    The event was followed by a daylong Corvette show held in the museum’s parking garage.

    Not a retiring group, the Corvette fans on hand held strong opinions of the C7, which was a polarising force at the 2013 Detroit auto show, where it made its global debut. (Jeffrey Jablansky)

  • Howard Merrill, San Diego, California

    Mr Merrill is a two-time Corvette owner whose vanity licence plate, “VETT4HM”, hints at the depth of his fixation. He and his wife drove north from San Diego specifically for the unveiling of the C7 at the Petersen museum.

    “I think they did a great job,” Mr Merrill said. “Nothing has to be changed. Flared-out exhaust pipes, just leave ‘em alone.”

    Before owning his sixth-generation convertible, Merrill owned a coupe for three years.

    “If I had to have [another] ‘Vette , I’d buy the C7,” he said. (Jeffrey Jablansky)

  • Dr Alan Álvarez, San Jose, California

    Dr Álvarez and his wife are owners of a 2009 Corvette, their first. The couple flew to Los Angeles to examine the C7 and convene with fellow enthusiasts. While Dr Álvarez is interested in the latest generation of the Corvette, he plans to wait for a mid-cycle update, or perhaps a faster version.

    “Mustangs, Harley-Davidsons and Corvettes”, Dr Álvarez said. “In America, you have to have one. (Jeffrey Jablansky)

  • Ruth Ziony, Los Angeles, California

    While Ms Ziony no longer owns a car or drives, very little could stop her from attending the unveiling of the seventh-generation Corvette.

    “Corvettes are great, my God,” she said.

    Having carried on a lifelong love affair with cars, which she characterised as “better than husbands,” Ms Ziony purchased a ticket for the C7 event after taking a tour of the Petersen vault. She is the former owner of a Cadillac Seville. (Jeffrey Jablansky)

  • The Petriks and Copelands, with Alex Wallis; Lancaster and San Pedro, California

    And then there were the Sons: scions of Corvette owners who attended the unveiling in their parents’ stead. Although they have taken part in other events hosted by the Petersen’s Checkered Flag Club, this was the first time this particular group had all come together at the same event.

    "Our dad used to collect and restore cars back in the day," said Travis Copeland, who attended the event with his brother, Austin. "He was in the Corvette club. That’s where he met my mom, who was in the running for Miss Antelope Valley. He was driving the car, she was waving on the back, and I guess the rest is history."

    The Petrik clan’s automobile collection includes but one Corvette, though it also counts a 1965 Jaguar E-type and a 2013 Shelby GT500. More than the coupe, Nik and his brother, Alex, were anxious to see the 2014 Corvette convertible, which dropped its top in Geneva on 5 March. (Jeffrey Jablansky)

  • Grant Hamilton, Glendora, California

    Although Mr Hamilton has barely walked the earth long enough to see an entire generational cycle of a Corvette, the Glendora resident convinced his parents to bring him downtown. He said he was the first of his family to glimpse the C7, which he previewed in the media before arriving at the Petersen museum.

    "I like the new square taillights, and how it looks like a Dodge Viper," Grant said. "I will want to own it."

    A fan of the ZR1, currently the most powerful Corvette produced, Grant was excited to see that version of the seventh-generation Corvette hit the streets. (Jeffrey Jablansky)

  • Maria D’Angelo, Los Angeles, California

    Ms D’Angelo did not mince words when it came to describing the design of the seventh-generation Corvette.

    "It is so hot."

    Ms D’Angelo is a member of the Petersen’s Checkered Flag Club. She was impressed by the shape of the restyled Corvette, but was not yet convinced to buy.

    "I’m a Mercedes driver, but a hot rod girl," she said. "The Corvette is an all-American car, but not my number one. If I was a go-fast girl, I would get one in a minute." (Jeffrey Jablansky)

  • Jim Plowden, Los Angeles, California

    Does the latest Corvette, designed to compete against European sports cars and brutes like the SRT Viper, hold up against the classic lines of the first-generation model? That was the question faced by Petersen museum docent Jim Plowden, also the owner of two historical Corvette models.

    "I can’t relate to the C7 like I can to my ’56 convertible," Plowden said. "The C7 is arguably a work of art, but this one is a timeless work of art."

    He said the sensation of driving his Corvettes was akin to "driving a truck". That may seem like faint praise, but Plowden perceives something inimitable coursing through the classic cars’ steering columns.

    "It’s like comparing a Rembrandt to a Picasso," he said. "Totally different worlds." (Jeffrey Jablansky)