Corvette faithful from around the US and parts of the globe streamed into beautiful rural Pennsylvania for the 36th annual Corvettes at Carlisle. The weather this year was predicted to be perfect, a slight breeze, plenty of sunshine with no rain in the forecast and afternoon temps in the mid-eighties. A great way to shake off the summertime blues.
From its humble beginnings as a swap meet in 1974 organized by Chip and Bill Miller, Corvettes at Carlisle has grown into an immense first-class, all Corvette themed multi-day event that is a must attend experience for any Corvette fan. Followers of the marque travel from all over the world to attend the four day event and are not disappointed. Held on the Carlisle Fairgrounds and covering 82 sprawling acres, the show is an extraordinary gathering of seven generations of Corvettes, race cars, pace cars, show cars, survivor cars, Corvette displays, judging events, the NCRS Gallery, expert seminars, Corvette sales corrals, the NCCC autocross shootout, burnout contest, autograph sessions and even a Woman’s Oasis where the ladies can get away from the husbands and boyfriends and relax. Of course hundreds of vendors are on the grounds selling parts. Old parts, new parts, salvaged parts, NOS items, new reproductions items, Corvette literature, parts cars, T-shirts and hats. “I found it at Carlisle!” is a phrase that’s been heard around the Corvette community since the early ’80s and is true even today. Even with everything the show has to offer, it’s the Corvette enthusiasts in attendance that make the event great.
Sadly on March 25, 2004 the Corvette world lost an incredible individual and its biggest fan when Chip Miller passed away from Amyloidosis. Today the show continues to thrive and grow under the keen leadership and foresight of Chip’s son, Lance Miller. Together with co-owners Bill Miller, Jr., and Bill Miller III, the event enjoys a thriving success and a bright future. During Corvettes at Carlisle, you can support the Chip Miller Amyloidosis Foundation (CMAF) by purchasing merchandise, attending the benefit dinner at the show or by making a donation.
While discussing Corvettes at Carlisle with co-owner Lance Miller, Lance was asked “where do you see Corvettes at Carlisle progressing towards in the next 10-15 years?” Lance responded “Corvettes evolve every year, so does Corvettes at Carlisle. We see many Corvette owners that love to drive their solid axle Corvette, but they’d prefer to bring their new Corvette to our event due to the luxuries it has in place such as technology, A/C, etc. This tradition won’t change any time soon, the Corvette will continually become more and more advanced, which in turn will make it a better car. With that in mind there’s always going to be something new that’s coming out and Corvettes at Carlisle will be a place for people to experience it. In short, the hobby will continue to evolve. The Corvette will continue to evolve. Corvettes at Carlisle is no different. We’re excited for the future and what it will bring. The cars will continue to get better and better, our events will strive to do the same.”
The cars will continue to get better and better, our events will strive to do the same. –Lance Miller, Carlisle Events.
Manufacturer’s Midway, Installation Alley, the Fun Fields, the Show Field, the swap meet areas, seminar tents and vendors staged inside buildings, Corvettes at Carlisle is massive and it’s extremely easy to become overwhelmed and lost as you attempt to see everything, but what an event to become lost in! The best way to see the show is to pick up a map when you enter and plan a route. This was my tenth trip to the event and it’s still overwhelming. This journalist was well prepared this year. I had my parts list, a map of the event and my camera slung over my shoulder. I was ready to see old friends, make a few new ones and enjoy a day of parts shopping.
My first stop was the wash area inside the main gate to clean the road dirt off the blue beast after the morning’s spirited drive to the event. Just inside the main gate, Corvettes at Carlisle thoughtfully set up several spaces and hoses allowing Corvette owners to clean and detail their machines and it’s here where I made a new friend from Canada. Paul Marentette drove his 1965 Sting Ray convertible down from Toronto, Canada and was busy cleaning miles of road grime off the fiberglass beauty. The fascinating story here is that Paul won his Corvette from a local radio contest on Father’s Day June 19, 1999. He has driven the Corvette from Canada to California, to the Florida Keys and a few points in between. His Corvette has been awarded the Celebrity’s Choice Award six times, the first time the Corvette was not even entered and he had it parked behind several vendors’ transport trailers. Interesting fact, the build date of the Sting Ray is the same as Paul’s birthday. Paul drives his Sting Ray as much as he can and truly appreciates every mile of it.
Working back through the fiberglass jungle of the outstanding Show Fields towards the swap meet area, Manufacturer’s Midway is a great place to browse new Corvettes, take in detailing seminars and product demonstrations and shop for new and reproduction parts. Corvette America was again in attendance this year and I was able to purchase a new high quality weather stripping kit for my 1994 Corvette Coupe. At 24 years old, the original weather stripping is giving up the ghost. Most manufacturers in attendance offer show specials and free shipping on their products.
Detailer’s Row is an area not to be missed. Meguiars’ Auto Care Products and Adam’s Premium Car Care Products and others have the air saturated with countless scented wax and detailing spray aromas. Complete detail kits and new products are on display. The talented techs at Adam’s are quick to answer any paint finishing questions as they demonstrate their products on customers’ Corvettes in the demonstration area. It’s easy to spend a few hours here watching and learning the tricks of a perfect finish for your Corvette. Neither vendor could be missed as Meguiars’ had their traveling semi rig parked front and center with the great products on display and Adam’s had a pink 20-foot tall inflatable detail spray bottle marking their location like a lighthouse.
This is also the area to view and ask questions of the host of vendors showcasing high performance add-on parts and complete systems. Callaway Cars of Old Lime, Connecticut always have a good display for the high horsepower Callaway Corvettes and are willing to talk to you any time about horsepower, torque, supercharger installations and aftermarket handling packages for the late model Corvette. You can even order your new Callaway C7. Team Chevrolet also has a large display set up on the midway area. Walking around all the latest Corvette offerings from Chevrolet dressed in a dazzling pallet of colors, Team Chevrolet Product Manager Harlan Charles and the GM techs are ready to answer any questions the new model Corvette shopper can give them. When questioned about the rumors of a new mid-engine Corvette, several GM techs just smiled, only one said: “There will be no disappointments.” If you are ready to pull the trigger on a new 2019 model 755hp Corvette ZR1, there are dealers on the Manufacturer’s Midway to help you pick the options.
Next to the Manufacturer’s Midway is the loudest and busiest section of the fairgrounds, Installation Alley. The sounds here are pure heaven to any motor-head as new exhaust systems are installed, tuned and demonstrated. This is where performance shoppers ask detailed questions, examine new systems and can purchase new exhaust systems, headers, X-pipes or other high performance upgrades for their Corvette. You can make arrangements with some manufactures to have a new exhaust system installed on your Corvette while you attend the show. Billy Boat Exhaust Systems, Corsa Performance and American Racing Headers are a few of the industry names at the event. Bring your ear plugs, this area is loud.
If the summer sun gets to you as you walk around, there are four buildings on the fairgrounds hosting vendors, free seminars, autograph sessions and a Chip’s Choice Corvette Display where you can enjoy the shade and continue to shop for Corvette parts, restoration specialists and supplies and Corvette art work. In Building T, Chip’s Choice Display featured Vette Rods for 2018. Vette Rods are Corvettes that feature the classic stylish lines of the Corvette, but have customizations to the interior, engine or suspensions that take advantage of modern day engineering. The Corvettes in this display are truly matchless in their style and customizations. This is the area where future resto-rod dreams are fueled.
The Car Corral and Vendors Areas are located on the main body of the fairgrounds and both host the core activity of the entire show. Corvettes from every year, in every type of condition are for sale in the Car Corral and waiting to go home with a new owner.
The Swap Meet areas have row after row of spaces set up with people selling and trading Corvette parts, and has been the main draw for the show since the first event in 1982. Corvette literature, manuals, NOS parts, salvage parts, engine parts, wheels, tires, wiring harnesses, hard to find items and restoration projects, a careful exploration of this area will reward the Corvette enthusiast with items to complete your restoration or keep your Corvette on the road. If it was a part used on a Corvette, it will eventually show up at Corvettes at Carlisle.
I was able to find several items at great prices and started checking things off my shopping list. First thing I located was a used 1972 Rochester Quadra-Jet carburetor in good condition. Originally installed on a base 200hp 1972 Stingray, this carb will make a good winter restoration project. A short walk down the row of tables filled with engine parts brought me to a new, in the box OEM idler pulley for a 1994 LT1 engine. I was able to negotiate a good price and I dropped it into my parts bag. Here’s a good tip, if you are planning to purchase a lot of parts or big items, like an intake manifold, bring a wagon to load your parts. It makes your shopping adventure a little easier.
My last exploration of the swap meet area ended with an unexpected, interesting find. While searching for midyear emblems to restore, my eyes stopped on an uncommon item. A vintage aluminum fly box sat on a table. I picked it up and opened it, in the box were 72 carefully hand-tied dry flies from a vintage era. The vendor’s father, who was into fly fishing, had passed away and he was selling his father’s fishing-related items along with some Corvette parts. I paid $10 for the fly box of memories. As I walked away I smiled and thought about my late father and his love of fly fishing and Corvettes and how he passed those interests on to me. Miss you dad.
Mike Cox of Virginia drives up to the event almost every year to shop for parts. He owns several Corvettes and stays busy restoring his father’s, red on black 1971 small-block coupe. After shopping the swap meet area this year, Mike purchased a difficult to locate part for his 1968 Sting Ray, a ’68 speed-warning speedo for his project. Mike said he, “found it at a good price” and made an interesting observation and comment: “Lots of vacant vendor spots this year. eBay and Craigslist are killing the swap meets.” A few of this year’s vendors had made similar observations.
When discussing this year’s show with Lance, he commented: “Ironically the vendor base has been slightly up year to year, although only fractionally. We’re extremely proud of our vendor base at Corvettes at Carlisle, it’s the largest out there. I often tell show-goers to be sure to walk through the vendor area, not only to see the amazing products available, but because of the wealth of knowledge that is available just by speaking with them!”
Lance also had interesting remarks on the size of the vendor base adding, “Has the size of the vendor base contracted since the hey-days of the mid ’90s? – absolutely. Times have changed, the internet is an amazing source for organized items available at your fingertips. Corvettes at Carlisle has seen a tremendous increase with our Sponsorship Midway through the years as well. For instance, chances are you stopped in to visit Corvette America, they had over 1,200 SKU items (Stock Kept Units) available. It was like shopping at a Corvette mall–anything and everything available. Plenty of exhaust systems were installed in our Installation Alley area throughout the weekend as well. We’re seeing a trend were people that attend our event are looking for instant gratification. Meaning, get an exhaust installed while you wait. Get your interior repaired or a new top for your convertible installed while you wait. The times are changing and we’re doing our best to keep up with the times.”
We’re extremely proud of our vendor base at Corvettes at Carlisle, it’s the largest out there. –Lance Miller, Carlisle Events
Through the years, Corvettes at Carlisle has weathered both economic and metrological storms and survived. This year was no different, 2018 Corvettes at Carlisle had the second biggest attendance for the event since 2013. The show continues to succeed and grow under the vision of co-owner Lance Miller who clearly has his eyes set on a flourishing future for Corvettes at Carlisle ensuring that Corvette enthusiasts from the US and parts around the globe will continue to stream into beautiful rural Pennsylvania to enjoy the biggest Corvette event in the world. August 22-25, 2019 are the dates for next year’s event – do yourself a favor and be there!