37TH ANNUAL CORVETTE NATIONALS
Words and photos:
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.