Corvettes of Arkansas Ltd., celebrating its 30th year
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By Julie M. Fidler
PTPMOTIONS CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Three Rivers Edition of The Arkansas Democrat/Gazette
June 6, 2004
There's something different about a Chevrolet
Corvette owner. They're not quite like those dedicated to Mustangs, Thunderbirds or other breeds of car. At least, that's what the Corvette drivers say.
Corvettes of Arkansas Ltd., based in Searcy, is celebrating its 30th year. Fifteen club members, along with their families and spouses, gathered recently at members Shane and Jennifer Harrison's house near McRae to talk about an upcoming show an what it's like to be hooked on Corvettes.
In celebration of its 30th year in existence, the club will host Corvette Celebration '04, a Corvette show, Sunday, June 12, at Berryhill Park in Searcy. Registration is from 8-11 a.m. Proceeds from the show will benefit the Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches.
One of the club's charter members, Steve Tye of Searcy, can't put a finger on the number of Corvettes he has owned, but he knows it's more than 200. While Harrison, who is one of the newer members, says he has personally "only" owned four. Harrison is 28 years old, and his wife, Jennifer, secretary of the club, is 22. They currently have a 2001 black ZQ6 Corvette.
Members of the club range in age from their 20s into the 70s. The cars at the recent gathering ranged from a 1966 red Corvette owned by Stan Yingling of Judsonia to the 2001 that the Harrisons drive. The average age of club members is 40.
There are currently around 50 paid members of Corvettes of Arkansas Ltd. Ron Williams of Searcy is president.
Williams said a photograph of the 1993 Corvettes of Arkansas Ltd. show, featuring every year model of Corvette, is now displayed in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY. According to the museum's Web site at www.corvettemuseum.com , the National Corvette Museum was established as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit foundation with a mission of celebrating the invention of the Corvette and preserving its past, present and future.
Every Corvette made is produced in Bowling Green. Corvettes have been in production since 1953. The only year they were not made was 1983, according to Tye. Chevrolet came out with a "totally new and fresh" model in 1984.
"The owners get very personally involved," Tye said. "It's been my experience that someone who has owned a Corvette for a long time always wants to have one. You never lose that sense of attachment. "Tye was among a group of Corvette owners in 1974 that decided to form the club.
"It's a great way to organize, share experiences, learn about maintenance and have activities to enjoy as a group," said Tye. "There's a great camaraderie. You don't have to own a Corvette to belong to the group. You just have to like them. It helps, for example, if someone had a problem, someone else in the group probably knows how to deal with it."
Tye said Truman Baker Chevrolet of Searcy sponsored the club when it formed 30 years ago. There is a $20 annual fee for membership. Anyone can join by calling Harrison.
Group members at the recent gathering spoke all at once, describing Corvette owners as "children who never grew up," saying "their toys got more expensive" and "they have a need for speed."
What's so great about being a Corvette owner? Some of the answers were: "Going fast," "They're fun to drive," "It's a lifestyle, kind of like owning a Harley," "It's in your blood," "You get noticed a lot with waves or thumbs up" and "Camaraderie."
Club member Mike Walker of Cabot, who owns a 1996 collector's edition silver 'Vette, says, "If you're out in a Corvette, they're going to notice you."
Philip Pulley of Searcy, owner of a 1975 maroon model, said, "It's an investment. You'll get more than your money back."
While talking about how many Corvettes they've owned over the years, Walker said he has owned more than 100. Joe Stevens, who drove to the gathering in a
yellow 1986 pace car, piped in, "I ain't got but three!" He did add, however, that he has owned 33 total over the years.
When asked about some of their most interesting experiences in Corvettes, Roy and Kathy Thomas of Cabot, who now "own a 1968 bronze model, told about having a three-quarter ton pickup truck run over the top of their car a year ago in Cabot. The car caught on fire, and the Thomases were injured and feel lucky to be alive.
Many of the club's members have known each other for decades. Pulley says he remembers washing the Impala he owned as a teen-ager when Walker rode a bicycle rip the driveway and said, "I'm going to have a fast car when I grow up."
The club's president says one of the biggest advantages to being in the club is all of the expertise it offers. Williams is glad to see younger members like the Harrisons and Tye's daughter, Shelly, who owns a 1991 red Corvette, join the club to keep it going.
Walker said, "It's neat to see these kids, the next generation, joining in the Corvette club."
Club member Danny Rhodes of Searcy, owner of a 1976 red 'Vette, attended the gathering with his daughter, Rachelle, who sported a white T-shirt bearing the words "Corvette Girl." Be- cause the cars are two-seaters, other family members sometimes get left out of the rides. Rhodes fondly remembered riding around in one of his Corvettes with Rachelle when she was only 2. Although they got sunburned with the convertible top down, "We had a blast," lie said.
' Thomas' wife smiles as she says, "Our grandson calls it 'Poppy's race car.'"
More information about the Corvette Celebration '04 is available by calling show chairman Harrison at (501) 305-3457.