The CEO of Bloomington Gold claims to be a contrarian. In 1976, when Corvette show cars were all about modifications and enhanced performance, David Burroughs won top prize at three shows with a restored to factory-level 1967 Corvette. The following year, when he won against a pristine, low mileage, 1966 survivor car, he thought “That’s not right.”
Prior to 1978, judging at the Bloomington Gold show was competitive. Cars were judged against each other, with the attendant fallout of winners and losers.
After careful thought to the mechanisms and consequences, Burroughs introduced Bloomington Gold Certification judging. What set this approach apart from the usual was that cars were measured against a fixed standard, rather than each other.
As Burroughs explained to us, “Every Corvette left the factory as a Gold Certified car.” To this end, in a Bloomington Gold show, there are no winners or losers. There are only those whose cars fall within a specified range of originality. Awards depend on the car, not who shows up for the event.
Once people began to understand what certification judging was all about, their interaction with fellow Corvette owners began to change. Show participants began to help one other, rather than ignoring each other. To receive a Bloomington Gold award, a car must be within 95 to 100 percent of the way it rolled off the assembly line.
Judging is handled by a cadre of Inspectors who are specialists in C1, C2, C3 or C4 through C6 Corvettes. There are 84 inspectors in all, plus an overall certification director. Vehicle inspection is subject to highly developed procedures and protocols which leave nothing open to individual interpretation.
“I’m obsessed with making sure we don’t make it political,” Burroughs explained. It is not an insignificant task to prepare a car for Bloomington Gold inspection, or to do the inspection itself.
Fewer than three hundred cars get certified yearly. Seminars run during the event, both to help owners with restoration of their cars, as well as preparing for Gold inspection.
More recently, even higher standards have been established for particularly unique Corvettes. Survivor judging was introduced in 1990, for unrestored Corvettes. Cars at least twenty years old are judged in four categories for originality and to determine whether or not they would best be left unrestored.
The following year, Burroughs introduced the Benchmark award. To achieve Benchmark status, an unrestored Corvette must attain Gold Certification and excel in all four categories of Survivor inspection during the same weekend. Fewer than 100 Corvettes have received the prestigious Benchmark award. In all cases, cars continue to be judged against the production standards of their era, making the process collaborative, rather than adversarial.
Mind you, there is a lot more going on during the Bloomington Gold event than just car inspections. From displays of special and unusual Corvettes, to local driving events, from educational seminars to the Survivor car show, there is a lot to see and do in the span of a weekend.
For any Corvette enthusiast, the upcoming 39th edition of the Bloomington Gold Corvettes USA gathering is more than a show. According to Burroughs, “It’s an event, a destination, go and learn new things.” The event runs June 23 – 26 at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois. For more information, visit the event web site.