Describing the Corvette as a timeless car isn’t really accurate – it’s appeal spans generations, but time matters.
For the Corvette owners who assembled their vehicles in downtown Carlisle on Saturday night, the difference between old and new is a key part of the appeal.
“When I drove them back in the day, I didn’t like them – they were slow, and kind of uncomfortable. I never pictured myself owning one,” said Hank Sanders, of Hagerstown.
But that changed a few years ago when Sanders drove a friend’s 2004 Corvette on a trip to Florida.
“I drove around in that car, and I thought ‘wow, Corvettes have really changed,’” Sanders said.
He and his wife, Juanese, now own four, all made within the last 15 years. Several are special editions that saw only a few hundred of a particular configuration roll off the factory floor, including the 50th Anniversary model Sanders drove on Saturday.
He was likely in the majority, with most of the participants in Carlisle Events’ annual Corvette parade and street festival appearing to be models made within the last two decades.
Most of these owners emphasize the cars’ speed and handling. But for the classic collectors, it’s all about speed and style – even if the original muscle cars aren’t the easiest to drive.
“I was 12 when I first saw these, and I always wanted one,” said Terry Vesnefskie. “It was the body style that really drew me in.”
Vesnefskie bought his 1964 Corvette in 2001. Only about 20,000 Corvettes were made that year, he said, and fewer and fewer seem to show up at events – the ones that remain are increasingly kept inside while their owners opt to bring newer models to public events.
This is something Vesnefskie and his wife, Ann, have done themselves. Ann has a 1999 Corvette that she much prefers.
“It has air condition, better steering, it’s automatic – it’s just so much more convenient,” she said.
Possibly more so than some other classic marks, the gulf between the older and newer Corvettes is wide.
“The new ones are nice, but this is my generation’s style,” said Roger Heckendorn. “The ones look more like foreign cars. I have people tell me they like these because they know the shape is a Corvette. The new ones, not as much.”
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Heckendorn bought his 1980 Corvette three years ago. Like many participants on Saturday night, he had admired the cars from afar when he was younger and struggling to raise a family. Only later in life have they become financially feasible.
“Years ago, when I was in school, all the rich guys had these,” Heckendorn quipped.
“Raising a family, you didn’t have any money,” said Lynn Stone, who rode in the parade with his 1971 Corvette.
“In 1972, I had five kids and went into the Chevy dealership to buy a station wagon, and saw one of these,” Stone said. “About five years before I decided to retire, I finally picked this one up.”
The price on Corvette then was $6,500, Stone recalled. He bought his current car for $8,500 – with some bad suspension problems. He probably has close to $30,000 in it overall.
“It gets to a point where you just want it done with and you’ll pay whatever it takes,” he said.
For some, however, Corvettes present an affordable option. Stanley and Mary Radecki bought their 1995 model two years ago. Like many, they put two children through college and didn’t expect to have much left over.
“I just never really saw it in my future because I assumed it was out of my price range,” Stanley said.
But the 1995 Corvette was in the proverbial sweet spot – not old enough to be a rarefied collector, but not new enough to be a hot model sought by performance enthusiasts.
“It’s at the point where it’s just starting to become a vintage car and hopefully will go up in value,” Stanley said. “We lucked out. It’s all original and in great shape. We’ve had a lot of fun with it for an affordable price.”
For some, it’s not a matter of the style, or the price, or the prestige. It’s speed.
“Since I started my real estate license 32 years ago, I always wanted a red Corvette,” said Sheila Watson. “I like fast cars.”
Watson’s 2014 Corvette was one of the first 3,000 seventh-generation cars to roll off the assembly line. It was a nine-month process to reserve and actually get one. But it’s the culmination of Watson’s real estate career, and a landmark for her family.
“The kids are already asking, when I go, who gets it,” she said.