One of the biggest feast days on the calendar of the Church of Corvette falls every year in mid-September, calling the faithful back to the dead center of Illinois and a little town called Effingham. There, on a sprawling grass-covered campus sits Mid America Motorworks, a company devoted to providing Corvette (and Volkswagen!) fans everything they could possibly need or want (and a few things they never even suspected they couldn’t live without), delivered straight to their door. Thousands upon thousands of Y-body owners and fans converge there each year, and every one of them has a unique story of connection and community based around their love of America’s Sports Car.
It's hard to capture the full scale of the Corvette Funfest in a single picture, even with the help of a bucket truck...
For the last 19 years, Mid America Motorworks has been putting on the Corvette Funfest, which combines a giant Corvette car show, dozens of seminars presented by industry experts, displays by noted aftermarket tuner companies, games, entertainment, food, and a chance to interact with a bunch of other people who are just as nuts about a particular two-seater Chevy as you are. This year saw the addition of a swap meet to compliment the “cars for sale” section, and an event with historical implications – the dedication and sealing of a time capsule, slated to be opened on the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Corvette in 2053.
Among the items donated from around the world for inclusion in the Corvette time capsule were Australian wines, Y-body memorabilia, signs carrying messages from participants at the 2012 Funfest, and even the shirt off of one woman's back!
Mid America Motorworks Chief Cheerleader Mike Yager told us he's committed to be around for the opening of the time capsule in 2053, and he made us promise to be there as well.
People to Meet, Things to Do…
One of the great things about Funfest is that Corvette owners get to interact with some of the people who have influenced the car’s development, production, and history the most. A good example was the expert panel on Saturday, featuring Mike Yager, Ralph Kramer, Dave McLellan, Wil Cooksey, Reeves Callaway, Randy Leffinghwell, Kevin Mackay and Lance Miller.
Hot Rod Live's Dennis Pittsenbarger did more than just get in the way of other journalists trying to do their job - he also hosted a nationally-syndicated live radio feed from the Funfest. Here, he demonstrates how you "can't hear someone point on the radio" with Mike Yager and Reeves Callaway.
Collecting autographs is another popular pastime at the Corvette Funfest.
This year's Funfest was also a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the C2 generation hitting the market, so split windows and other '63's were in abundance, with a special parking area set aside right at the entrance.
Speaking of C2's, we found a pair of midyear cars with intense metalflake-and-pinstripe paint jobs. The Funfest is an inclusive event - your Corvette doesn't have to be Top Flight or Certified to be proudly displayed here. You just have to love it.
Every Corvette has a story...
This year's Celebrity Choice Award trophies featured a stylized '63 Corvette rising from an artist's palette.
You'll see pretty much the entire range of the Corvette hobby in one place at Funfest - this 'Pro Street' C1 is an example of one end of the spectrum.
At the opposite pole are cars like this meticulously-restored big-block C3. Seeing it today, you'd never believe it started out as a complete basket case. The restoration actually involved simmering the entire door assemblies in hot, soapy water to force out the oil from inside, which had been put there by a previous owner in a misguided attempt to arrest rust in the framework.
Funfest also gives you a chance to see things you'd probably never come across anywhere else, like this 1973 Corvette with a period-correct Eckler Can-Am widebody kit.
A few select non-Corvettes also take center stage at Funfest. Last year it was the Wienermobile, and this year it was the Radio Flyer. Built off of a four-door FWD Oldsmobile chassis, it was as big a hit at the Funfest as it had been a few weeks earlier when the Hot Rod Power Tour stopped by to visit at Mid America Motorworks.
History Made, and Remembered
If you’re a regular reader of Corvette Online, you’ll recall our previous mentions of the documentary, The Quest, which tells the tale of the 1960 Briggs Cunningham Corvettes at Le Mans, and Lance Miller’s efforts to fulfill his late father Chip’s dream to return the #3 car to the Circuit de la Sarthe. At this year’s Funfest, the #3 car was a guest of honor and in exchange for a donation to the Chip Miller Charitable Foundation for Amyloidosis Research, attendees got to see the film on the big screen at a gala showing Friday night.
The 'Corvettes Conquer Cancer' C6 gave Funfest visitors another chance to support the Chip Miller Charitable Foundation
Another entertainment highlight this year was Saturday’s band, the World Classic Rockers. Comprised of members of Journey, Santana, Boston, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Steppenwolf, the group played some of rock’s most memorable hits to an appreciative crowd. These are a bunch of performers who clearly enjoy what they’re doing, and Funfest fans ate it up…
Sunday's burnout contest was kicked off by the guys from Funfest sponsor Neal Tire and Service, who set a pretty high standard for the competitors to live up to.
First up was a rental Dodge. At least it was rear-wheel-drive, but even a lot of bleach couldn't coax much smoke from the all-season tires.
Much to the chagrin of the assembled multitude, this C6 wanted to shoot forward in the worst way instead of staying in one place. After three tries, and three near misses when the Corvette hopped over the wheel chocks, he called it quits.
Finally, it was up to last year's winner, 'Swarzy,' to get the job done properly. After roasting the hides till they were well-done, and showering the crowd with bits of hot, sticky rubber, he was unanimously acclaimed winner once more.
A collection was taken up among the crowd, and $100 was raised to encourage the burnout contest winner to return to the water box and destroy his tires once and for all...
For aftermarket manufacturers, the Funfest is a great way to get in front of thousands upon thousands of potential customers, and let them get up close and personal with their products. It’s also an opportunity for fans to window shop for some of the most amazing tuner Corvettes on the planet.
This year, Karl Kustom Corvettes and Lingenfelter Performance Engineering teamed up, with one giant combined display of retro-bodied and LPE-enhanced C6's. Ken Lingenfelter was on hand to answer questions for would-be buyers and keep an eye on the more than a million dollars worth of hardware lined up.
Our pick of the litter for 'new to us' stuff we saw at the Funfest was the 'Car Capsule,' a protective storage bubble kept inflated by a small, filtered fan. We just wish they could come up with one that worked while you were driving...
Another highlight of the midway area was the Callaway owners' club section. We've never seen so many B2K RPO cars in one place at the same time before.
The 'For Sale' section held a wide selection of every generation of Corvette, including Project Y2k's twin.
More Fun Driving ‘em Than Looking at ‘em...
While there’s a certain proportion of Corvettes at the Funfest that arrive on or in trailers, there are plenty of owners who take great pride in making the drive. If we had to guess, we’d say that the typical Funfest Corvette has a higher-than average number on the odometer. Of course, there’s always a few kids in school who wreck the curve…
This 1963 Corvette belongs to Steve Stone, and has since the day it left the showroom. Currently showing 494,000 miles or so on the odometer, Steve and his Sting Ray have visited all 48 contiguous states, 11 provinces, and Washington, DC. Oh, and get this - all but Louisiana and Mississippi were since 2003! This is one guy who got his money's worth out of his Corvette...
Cross country travel in a Corvette of any vintage requires either packing light, or some innovation in extra storage space.
Then again, there's always the option of a stretch limo C4 if you really can't leave anyone or anything behind.
The Install Dome was humming all weekend long. Besides wheel and tire combos and exhausts, the technicians were also slinging upgraded brakes, air intake systems, and interior components, too.
This year, the Fun Dome was laid out like IKEA (but easier to navigate), with individual 'rooms' to display all the different lifestyle stuff Mid America Motorworks offers.
More to Come…
We’re really looking forward to 2013′s Corvette Funfest – it’s going to be a big 20th anniversary blowout, and word is from the Chief Cheerleader himself that there will be a carnival on-site to go along with the car-related fun. We can already feel the corn dog coming back up as we ride the tilt-a-whirl – mark your calendars for September 19-22, 2013, and don’t miss out!