For 33 years, hundreds of the members of the very tight-knit community of Corvette owners make their way to Bowling Green for the Corvette Homecoming. It’s happened every summer since 1981 and heat can usually be the biggest weather concern. But this year, the problem was rain.
There was a steady drizzle all day Saturday in Bowling Green – not conducive to walking around and looking at Corvettes in a parking lot. The cars were still there, just not in the numbers as have been seen in past years. Most of the action was taking place inside, under the roof of the Sloan Convention Center where some of the most prized Corvettes were on display.
Fans of the car from all over the country were in attendance. For some, they make it a yearly pilgrimage.
“Just the camaraderieship. Mingling with people, having fun, talking Corvette stuff. Good stuff,” said Cedric Wingo of Clarksville, Tennessee.
Wingo picked out his favorite car on display.
“That one, 1963 split-window there. That’s the best one in here, right there. He re-did that car and did a real good job on it,” said Wingo.
He was talking about a "blade silver metallic” split-window coupe with a lipstick red interior. Many of the vintage Corvettes had been restored – all of them, it seemed had an interesting story attached to them – like another model from 1963 – the Corvette Sting Ray coupe. This one was sleek white on the outside with a dark blue interior.
It belonged to Gary Traughber who just finished restoring it earlier this year. The first time he saw this particular car, it was in a barn in Grayson County, and it was completely disassembled.
As Traughber tells it, the previous owner was planning to restore the Corvette, but got sidetracked.
“He was a strip miner in east Kentucky and he said he bought the car with the intentions of giving him some stress relief and he thought he would restore it and that would get his mind off strip mining and he would have a night passion,” said Traughber.
But the miner was soon transferred and couldn't take the Corvette with him. He stored the car's pieces in a barn in Grayson County.
"In the summer of 2011, the cousin called him and said ‘you gotta come get it ‘cause the roof’s getting ready to fall in on it,” recalled Traughber.
Traughber says the hardest part was getting the disassembled car from the barn to his place in Elkton. But the upside. All the parts were original, except for the fuel pump and the water pump. Traughber says that made the process go a lot smoother, without many complications.
“This one went back with total original pieces and there were no modifications so it went back just by the book. And if you take it step-by-step, it’s pretty simple. Really, I don’t think there anything, really, as far as what I would call a major, major hurdle, other than just your time commitment.”
And he says that time – to be able to attend to every minute detail of putting the car back together – can actually produce up in a better car than one rolled off the assembly line 50 years ago.
“We have the opportunity to spend more time perfecting what GM probably on the assembly line didn’t have – and the technology at the time they were constructing these cars and assembling them in ’63. So we can improve upon a really good product that they had,” said Traughber.
To say Traughber has a passion for restoring corvettes would be an understatement. The ’63 Sting Ray Coupe is the sixth one he’s done.
“Well, it’s America’s sports car. And it’s the best therapist you can ever find”
The Corvette Homecoming in Bowling Green not only gives enthusiasts a chance to swap stories over popped hoods. It’s also a marketplace to find everything Corvette – from jewelry, and t-shirts to replica miniatures and accessories.
There was also artwork.
“Well my father was a car dealer. And my mother was an artist and a photographer and a writer,” said Jerry Speight of Murray, Kentucky.
And that parental influence led Speight to begin painting pictures of Corvettes. He’s done 25 of them. All now hang in the National Corvette Museum 10 minutes away.
His paintings feature the cars, of course, but also vivid background images.
“The painting has to go through an ‘ugly phase’ – you know that’s funny, where you get a little disgusted. But I try to get them as realistic as possible and then I try to do something that’s different with each painting. I think if they ever start looking all alike, I’ll quit – but so far, each one is a new challenge.”