The town of Carlisle is a leafy, bucolic hamlet minding it’s own business in south Pennsylvania.
Nestled away in the Cumberland Valley, a fertile agricultural region surrounded by rolling hills, winding waterways and velvet greenery. Almost 40,000 people call Carlisle, and the urban cluster surrounding it, home.
American history tingles in the air, yet quietly co-habitates with the sticky late summer heat. It’s a constant reminder of events here that changed the United States forever. With today’s acrimony regarding confederate symbols, a refresher course in American history might be in order.
Gettysburg is just a bit further south and was one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles. It tallied the largest number of casualties and became a turning point in victory of the Union. Many people died to right sins of the past and preserve the United States Of America.
All the the folks kneeling should take a trip to this area. Some serious American history and sacrifice occurred here. The tri-cities of Carlisle/Gettysburg/Harrisburg are west of Philly and are a quaint trip back in time. Today, Carlisle is ground central for the Corvette hobby.
Today, the most remarkable takeaway of this area might be, it would be a perfect “location” shoot for a remake of the old Andy Griffin TV series, “Mayberry RFD.”
We’d wager not much happens around here these days. The loudest sound you might hear is a screen door clapping or Mom reminding kids to come home “when the streetlights come on.”
Meanwhile, three thousand miles to the west, California’s Inland Empire is the exact opposite. A sprawling, dusty brown splotch on the backside of Los Angeles that erupted with growth just 20 years ago.
Roaring ribbons of concrete with hundreds of thousands of cars pounding the pavement, heading to destinations unknown, criss-cross the landscape. Air conditioned, single story shopping centers anchor air conditioned, single story housing tracts, defying the heat and desolation of the Temecula Valley that most certainly bedeviled settlers 100 years ago.
As the plane lifted off from San Diego, the megalopolis that is Riverside County/North San Diego County looked innocent and compact from the air, even though I know that’s a damn lie.
I suspect the office gal that books my travel was backed up with work the month before I left. Only when I gently reminded her that I was slated to leave for biggest Corvette show in the world, did my travel initerary appear, and only a few days before I left.
My suspicions were substantiated when I realized she booked me into Baltimore/Washington International Airport, 90 miles from Carlisle. “Great,” I thought to myself, Ive got a two hour drive after my five hour flight.
After I hit the ground at BMI, I ambled over to the car rental counter where they sentenced me to a maroon 2017 Toyota Corolla with a gaping maw of a grille, big enough to fit on a the bow of boat.
The agent handed me the paperwork and as I slinked over to the car I wondered, “How would I explain this to Corvette people?”
“I will simply park it far away,” I said to myself.
Minty fresh 1962 was splendid. Many nuggets of Corvette goodness lurk in unsuspecting places at Carlisle far from the Midway. This old C1 was parked on back side of the "Hill."
I arrived at the “Quality Inn” in Harrisburg which curiously smelled like curry and Pine-Sol. I would find out later that the cleaning staff enjoyed talking in the hall outside my door. At 7am in the morning. Alas, my room was clean and well sorted out and the man at the desk was attentive and courteous.
Multi-valve LT5s were out in full force.
Corvettes At Carlisle is an institution. For ‘Vette folks, it’s Christmas morning, the 4th of July and your 21st birthday all rolled into one.
Founded in 1974 by Bill Miller and Chip Miller–no relation–Corvettes At Carlisle has become ground zero for the gigantic eco-system surrounding the two-seat Chevy.
The Millers purchased the 82 acre fairgrounds in 1988 and since then, improvements include paved roads, manicured landscaping and more than 10 permanent buildings. The annual pilgrimage to Carlisle usually attracts around 5000 Corvettes and 50,000 fans.
This C3 has been judged as an almost perfect example. Spectacular in person and a real testament to Corvette love.
Some Observations From The Show
Nothing Grows In A Clean Pond – That old saying infers that many elements need to be included in an ecosystem in order to thrive. The Corvette hobby is an excellent example of the aforementioned.
Millionaires, billionaires, geezers, punks, morbidly obese folks on scooters, master mechanics, artisans, scavengers, hucksters, toothless 25 year-olds gumming funnel cake and enough cargo shorts, Hawaiian shirts and Tevas to sink a ship.
All rubbing shoulders and communing via a shared common love of a plastic two-seater. The amalgamation is a sight to behold, endemic to Corvette and comes together only once a year in Carlisle.
Vendors are out in full force and a great way to get your hands on that Corvette part you’ve been hankering for. Corvette America was the big sponsor this year, but almost everyone who’s anyone in the Corvette business was there.
The Corvette hobby is alive and kicking, young folks too – A common notion is that Corvette people are doddering codgers with one foot in the grave. As previously mentioned, older folks are a hefty segment of a vast and diverse contingent of fans.
The average age of new Corvette buyers is 63, but Porsche 911 buyers are right behind at an average age of 61, so Corvette hardly has the market cornered for old guys. Lastly, $100k sports cars are attainable to those who can afford them and usually that’s older folk.
What many overlook are the young guns with C5s and C6s. We met and talked with guys–and gals–in their twenties and thirties that are a vibrant part of the hobby. The C5/6 is a hell of a car and now that many are over 10 years old, they’re attainable to younger folks. C5/C6s are the entry level Corvette, much to Chevy’s chagrin. These fans are the new breed of Corvette aficionado and they buy tires, wheels, CAIs, and tune and mod their cars. They are a fairly sizable contingent of ‘Vette fans yet conveniently go unnoticed, usually by critics and detractors.
Corvettes appeals to all ages and if they’re attainable, folks will vote with their pocketbook. How can GM appeal to these people with a new ‘Vette? Well, Kerbeck Chevrolet out of Atlantic City routinely advertises sub-$50K base C7 Corvettes, about the same price as a high-end Nissan Maxima.
Four Days Is Not Enough Time To Cover 82 Acres of Attractions – The event guide is your friend here. Keep tabs on the show, prioritize what’s important and allot enough time to navigate the grounds.
Chip Miller Amyloidosis Foundation dinner was a treat. They assembled some very cool '67 L88's for us to oogle at. It also raised money for a good cause. ChipMiller.org for more info.
The highlights this year were 30 years of Callaway Cars, an L88 Reunion, former GM stylist Jim “JD” Orr, C7 Raffle Contest, a big push of a cool app called Motorcrush, autocross and burnouts, Corvette VIPs as well as Team Chevrolet and Corvette Racing. A lucky guy won a new 2017 Corvette too.
The Chip Miller Amyloidosis Foundation dinner attracted Corvette VIPs as well as Kevin McKay of Corvette Repair, showed off what he believes to be the Sebring #3 Corvette from 1957.
The Corvette cruise through downtown Effingham is a major highlight. We were there and brought you the video below! Corvettes look even better en masse.
On Sunday from the midway, I could tell summer–and Carlisle 2017–we’re creeping to a close. The sun was conspicuously low in the south, casting orangey shadows “taller than our souls,” by late afternoon. I wonder if Mr. Plant has ever been to Carlisle?
A lot of folks think Sunday is “closing up shop day.” It is, but it’s also a great time to canvas the swap meet area or scout out ‘Vettes for sale in the “Car Corral” area. A bargain might be had here as well.
We’ll have to wait for another spin around the sun before we visit Carlisle again. For now, we leave with the smell of corndogs, cotton candy and burnt rubber clinging to our clothes. We’ll get a whiff as we unpack back home and remember the hazy daze of Carlisle 2017.