37TH AN­NUAL CORVETTE NA­TION­ALS

Words and photos:

New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Mikey May­ers

From 1958 to 2016, the an­nual Corvette Na­tion­als left no St­ingray be­hind, and for the 37th it­er­a­tion, mi­gra­tion took them to the sunny top of the south for this year’s fes­tiv­i­ties.

It’s rel­a­tively safe to say that the Chevro­let Corvette has be­come an au­to­mo­tive icon, not just in the US but the world over. This fact was def­i­nitely proven when I was made aware of the at­ten­dance list for the 2017 Corvette Na­tion­als — the South Is­land lo­ca­tion would have you think­ing num­bers would be lim­ited, but the Nel­son host club, Top of the South Corvettes, in­formed me that at­ten­dance num­bers sky­rock­eted past 100, fi­nally set­tling at a stag­ger­ing 107 — truly as­tound­ing and proof that the Ford Mus­tang isn’t the only per­for­mance two-door pop­u­lar in New Zealand.

The weather fore­cast was set for sunny, but Nel­son didn’t re­ally hold up to its beam­ing rep­u­ta­tion, with Fri­day af­ter­noon’s reg­is­tra­tion a lit­tle touch and go weather-wise. That didn’t seem to bother any of the ’ Vet­ters, though, who were all out so­cial­iz­ing through­out Grand Mer­cure Nel­son Monaco vil­lage, some even tak­ing to clean­ing, pol­ish­ing, and dry­ing their cars be­tween show­ers.

Satur­day was show day, with all 107 cars mak­ing the short jour­ney to Founders Park in Nel­son City, where they were neatly ar­ranged into their pre­spec­i­fied classes be­fore the park was opened to the ea­ger pub­lic.

With the park lit­tered with Amer­i­can jew­els glis­ten­ing in the sun, the judges got to work on de­cid­ing on this year’s class win­ners. With nine tro­phies to hand out over eight dif­fer­ent classes, I didn’t envy their job at all.

Martin Dun­woodie’s beau­ti­ful 1966 C2 427, ‘RAY­GUN’, was some­thing I couldn’t just walk past — I found my­self back be­side it on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions, con­stantly search­ing and find­ing more and more hid­den de­tails that de­serv­ingly won it the C2 tro­phy this year. RAY­GUN had some se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion, though, as there were six stun­ning C2s to con­sider for the top spot. While the C1 class was small in num­bers, it wasn’t lack­ing in qual­ity, and although there were only two to choose from, the choice still wasn’t easy. Jack Gill­man’s stun­ning 1958 ex­am­ple beat Paul Leibezeit’s 1961 for the top C1 by a whisker. Jack also picked up the Peo­ple’s Choice award for the event.

The largest class for the week­end was the C3 class, con­sist­ing of 37 ’ Vettes. This was di­vided into two sep­a­rate classes, with the first be­ing C3 Chrome and the other be­ing C3 Rub­ber — di­vid­ing them into more man­age­able groups of 20 rub­ber-bumpered and 17 chrome-bumpered ’ Vettes.

The stand­out C3 for me was the deep red chrome-bumper con­vert­ible ‘350COR’. The deep red paint nicely set off the musthave side pipes that had been fin­ished in a matt black — a com­bi­na­tion that re­ally tied the big block ’ Vette to­gether well. Although my opin­ion wasn’t enough to get it the top spot — C3 Chrome went to Chris Jury’s 427 ’69, and C3 Rub­ber to the im­mac­u­lately pre­sented and very staunch ‘C3VETT’ owned by Bryan Ber­ry­man.

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