America's most iconic sports car — the Chevrolet Corvette — is having a major birthday this year, and enthusiasts are celebrating the car's milestone in a big way this summer.
At the age of 60, the Corvette endures as a favorite in the world of high-speed, high-performance vehicles because it has evolved, says Stan Trask, president of the Corvette Marque Club of Seattle. Over the decades, Corvettes have transformed radically from one generation to the next, with sweeping overhauls instead of just minor tweaks, says Trask, who drives a red 1963 split-window coupe.
60 Years of Vette: The exhibit at LeMay — America's Car Museum will showcase the car's evolution throughout the generations. During opening weekend, Aug. 9-11, three concepts — a 1959 Stingray Racer, a 1961 Mako Shark and a 1965 Manta Ray — will be on display before being shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. For more information, visit lemaymuseum.org.
All Corvette Car Show: Corvette Marque Club of Seattle is hosting a show at Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-in in Issaquah on Aug. 25 from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. The club expects more than 150 Corvettes. For more information, visit corvettemarqueclub.com.
"The cars have stayed relevant because no one generation has lasted very long," he says. "The C-1 only lasted from '53 to '62; the C-2 only from '63 to '67. When one came out, it seemed like [General Motors] was already working on the next one."
One of the major events celebrating the Corvette's anniversary is the 60 Years of Vette exhibit opening Friday at LeMay — America's Car Museum in Tacoma. The exhibit will highlight the Corvette's evolution through the years, with models from each generation as well as concepts and modified versions.
"What GM has done well is retain the soul of the original Corvette, but the cars continue to be built with contemporary design and technology equal to anything in the marketplace today," says Scot Keller, LeMay's chief marketing and communications officer. "It's America's sports car. People love an emotional connection with the cars."
The Corvette Marque Club of Seattle, which boasts 238 active members, is hosting a show at Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-in in Issaquah on Aug. 25. The group is also planning a pilgrimage to Bowling Green, Ky., to visit the Corvette factory next year.
The group's members say enthusiasts are often torn between more recent models — which emphasize comfort and handling — and mid-'60s models, which have cool retro appeal. Many club members solve that problem by owning one of each.
Club vice president Lorrie Montgomery is in the newer-model camp, driving a 2006 Monterey red convertible. "It has everything I want," she says. "It's my everyday driver, but it has power and you can get there quickly if you want to."
She says myths still abound about the Corvette, including the perception that they're wildly expensive. A new Corvette, she says, costs about as much as an SUV. The base 2012 model starts at $49,600 MSRP.
Another myth is that they get poor mileage. The V-8 engine (with over 400 horsepower) on a newer model can achieve high-20s to low-30s mpg on the highway, thanks to the well-designed weight-to-power ratio and low profile, Trask says.
The highly anticipated seventh-generation Corvette, due out in 2014, is the first major redesign for the car in eight years. Its launch is sure to reignite the "best years" debate among enthusiasts.
"If you ask 10 people ... you'll get 10 different answers," Trask says. "The best year is the year you own — or the one that you wish you had back."