The People

Tony DeLorenzo

Corvette Racing

 

“Life in the Fast Lane”

 

There is nothing unusual about getting started in Corvettes as a youngster in the early 1960’s.  However, not many got started by driving exotic Corvettes owned and driven by Ed Cole and Bill Mitchell.  Tony DeLorenzo, Jr. was one of the fortunate few who did.  Tony’s racing career started with driver’s school at Watkins Glen in 1964.  That led to sponsorship from a Detroit Chevrolet dealer who made it possible for him to strap into the first production 1967 L-88 Corvette.  Tony and the L88 won their first race and qualified for the ARRC at Daytona that year where they finished second.   Pretty fast tracking in more ways than one.

 

Success continued with co-driver Jerry Thompson:

• 1968 Daytona 24 and Sebring 12

• 1968 SCCA Cent.Div. Champion

• 1969 GT Winner-Watkins Glen

• 1969 SCCA Cent.Div. Champion

• 1970 SCCA National Champion

• 1970 Sebring 12 Hour Winner

• 1971 Daytona 24 Hour Winner

• Winning an unprecedented 22 straight

  SCCA  and FIA races in 1969-70.

 

The professionalism shown in both track performance and the appearance of the cars with help from GM styling and their PR program was an unbeatable combination.  DeLorenzo is quick to point out the success of his racing team was based on hard work by a lot of highly motivated people.  This team created excitement for others in what was being accomplished by Corvette racers.  They favorably impacted the enthusiasm among thousands of baby boomers who wanted to one day own and drive a Corvette.

 

Racing created a rallying point of “speed” for the Corvette brand.

 

   

M.F. Dobbins

Researcher, Author, Restorer & Manufacturer

 

 “Just the Facts”

 

In 1975, it was impossible to find any factual books on Corvette restoration.  There were no books, NCRS manuals, or Bloomington Gold judges with ready answers…let alone Google or reproduction parts suppliers.  Around 1977, one ambitious person decided to do something about it.  Dr. M. F. Dobbins bought his first Corvette in 1969, joined a local club and began studying, particularly 1963-67 model years.

 

While writing judging rules for the club’s judging event, Dobbins realized the lack of information detailing the differences between the various years.  This lead to writing The Vette Vues Factbook of the 1963-1967 Stingray, published in 1977.   Other books followed.

 

While studying Corvettes, Dobbins found the GM supplier of labels and decals.  That company needed a $12.50 minimum order.  More research ensued learning what labels went where on what years.  Dob put together a list for them all.  Vette Vues Magazine had just started publication in 1972 and for a nickel a word, Dobbins advertised.  Of course, that lead to writing many articles about Corvette labels which were published in at least seven reference books.

 

With his pioneering research into the mid-year Corvettes, Dobbins’ knowledge and skills fit the specs of what Bloomington Gold was looking for.  Dob was invited to consult with David Burroughs, Chip Miller, Bill Mock, and Bill Locke about the design of a new idea; Bloomington Gold Certification.  Dobbins was one of the original Bloomington Gold judges and continued on the Certification Board for 27 years.

 

Today, Corvette facts are everywhere.  M.F. Dobbins sowed the first seeds.

 

   

Ralph Eckler

Vendor, Marketer, Collector & Restorer

 

“Broken Windshield and Flapping Fenders”

 

Walking into a salvage yard in 1961 was Ralph Eckler’s first step into Corvette history.

 

Driving out of that yard in a 1960 Corvette with a broken windshield and smashed fiberglass was his second step.  The fenders flapped noisily and it looked like a sports car owned by the Beverly Hillbillies.  “This is great,” the 20-year-old Ralph thought to himself.  And it was the Corvette’s less-than-show room condition that set Ralph on his way during the early years of the Corvette Phenomenon.

 

Growing up working at his father’s shop and learning his main trade of fiberglass, Eckler used his skill and knowledge to restore his fender-flapping 1960.  He began customizing  body kits for all years of Corvette.  He created the Can-Am wide body, hatch-back kits and one-piece tilt front ends.  He quickly became known as the King of custom-bodied Corvettes.  Although the Eckler brand didn’t quite jibe with the judging crowd, Eckler’s was a staple at Bloomington Gold from day one.   Then, Ralph negotiated a restoration parts license agreement with GM allowing Eckler’s to use tooling and blueprints for discontinued parts and sell them as restoration parts.  Ralph’s extreme passion for Corvettes turned into Eckler’s Corvette Parts serving the entire U.S. and beyond with every conceivable Corvette part and accessory.  Now, Eckler’s was able to serve all market segments —custom to OEM.

 

Ralph Eckler made Corvette repair and modification practical long before the days of the current craze of aftermarket accessories. And with it he had a huge influence on the direction and enthusiasm of the Corvette Phenomenon.

 

Ralph Eckler was the pioneer of Corvette personalization.

   

Dan Gale

National Corvette Museum Visionary

 

 

“He Turned a Nice Idea into a Crusade”

- Ralph Kramer

 

Some pioneers in the Corvette community lead with technical knowledge.  Others lead by designing beautiful curves and edges inspiring people to dream about owning a Corvette.  Still others research them, write about them, or restore them.  And there are many enthusiasts with great collections and awards.  However, none of these describe Dan Gale.

 

Gale’s contribution was leading through passion, vision, and influencing others to believe in an idea.  An idea that would document the elements and people associated with the production and enjoyment of Corvette - a museum: The National Corvette Museum, in Bowling Green, KY.  Serving as President from 1992-94, Dan was the visionary spokesperson for the Museum in its early years and worked to see the dream become reality.  Driven by his close friendship with Zora Arkus-Duntov, Dan wanted to make Zora’s dream a reality.  Duntov wanted a home where Corvette history would be preserved and displayed for the world to see.  In a sense, Gale and Duntov collaborated to be sure that the Corvette brand would never be lost and would be available for those who wanted to see it in person.

 

Gale single-handedly got the job done. According to Ralph Kramer, (retired GM exec), “It goes without saying there would be no Museum today had it not been for Dan.  The NCM was his baby.  It became his life. It stayed that way to the end.”

 

Gale died in October, 2000.  But the Museum remains a reminder of the roads driven by Corvette from 1953 into the future…a huge accomplishment!

   

Roger Judski

Collector & Corvette Hobbiest

 

“The Harder One Works, The Luckier One Gets”

 

In 1970, there was nothing spectacular in Roger Judski’s show room—in fact he didn’t even have a show room.  However, over the nearly 40 years since then, Judski has specialized in looking in all the right places, being patient, calculating the risks, and making the right moves at the right times.  The payoff of his practice has been what is arguably the pinnacle of success for a Corvette collector, or hobbyist as Roger likes to call himself.  Today, Judski has a row of some of the rarest Corvettes on the planet.  It’s a museum for the hard core fan of Corvette horsepower and rarity.  The Corvettes include a spectrum of years and models; however, the crown jewels include:

 

• 1966 “tanker”

• (2) 1967 L-88s

• 1968 L-88

• 1969 ZL-1

• 1988 Challenge Series winner

• New 1990 & 1993 ZR1

• 1996 Grand Sport.

 

Unlike many collectors whose vehicles are hidden from public view, Judski’s collection rests in plain sight for any Corvette hobbyist to visit at his business near Orlando, Florida.

 

To his credit, this collection of highly important milestone Corvettes is not here one day and sold the next.  The Judski collection is stabilized, well cared for, and preserved in the proper conditions.  The collection, its surroundings, and its accessibility by anyone wanting to view it is worthy of commendation equal to the class of the vehicles within it.  Just viewing this collection inspires viewers to consider getting involved, themselves.

 

Roger needs to rest for awhile, so others may get lucky.

   

Gary Mortimer

Researcher, Author, Restorer, Founder & Facilitator

 

“First President, NCRS #1”

 

Gary Mortimer is still at it.  The restorer and vendor from Ohio is still involved with Corvettes.  Like many Corvette people, Mortimer has owned, restored and judged them.  Far fewer people have also written about them, made parts for them, or advised people about them.  However, only a micro-fraction of a percent have also participated in the founding of the National Corvette Museum, let alone be inducted into the National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame.  Of course, his most significant contributions were not only being one of the original seven founders of the NCRS but also its first president holding NCRS membership #001.  Although there were seven founders and hundreds of others who have moved NCRS forward to the success it enjoys today, it was the quiet, stable, and likeable man from Ohio who has been THE name connected

with NCRS.

 

“There could have been others who could have come in, but no one else would have had the commitment that Gary had for the club.   If it wasn’t for Gary, the club would not be what it is today.”

- Jay Kellogg, NCRS Co-Founder

 

Coincidentally, another 2011 inductee had a significant influence on Mortimer’s success.  According to Mortimer, he was encouraged that Joe Pike thought enough of the new club to attend and cover the very first NCRS meet for Corvette News.  Gary’s wife Sharon and son Eric have been integral parts of contributing to the entire Corvette community and helping preserve the heritage of the Corvette.

 

Gary Mortimer is more than a founder.  He’s a leader.

   

Naber Brothers

Ken & Gary Naber, Corvette Restorers

 

“Another way of saying Restoration Perfection”

 

In 1953, the Naber Brother’s dad took the boys to see the GM Motorama Corvette. In 1957, people began leaving Corvettes in their care.  Although the pair (18-year-old Ken and 10-year-old Gary) weren’t getting paid to restore anything, the ‘57 fuelie was a source of fun and education for both of them.  Ken Naber bought a Gulf service station in 1963 and simultaneously bought a new 1963 Corvette coupe with a damaged left quarter panel. When the repair was completed, the Corvette repair business was officially started.  But a clever name was needed. Quickly, Nabers Motors was chosen and it has been their name ever since.

 

The business evolved from a general repair shop to one exclusively for Corvettes.  Thousands of cars later, in 1986, Naber Brothers became singularly focused on world-class Corvette restorations.  Although not exclusively, that focus became especially associated with 1967’s.  Some of their highlights include the Delmo Johnson 1963 Z-06 race car, the DeLorenzo 1967 L-88 race car, the yellow 1969 ZL-1, plus dozens of other award winning Corvettes.  Obviously, their level of immersion and their track record for quality make them one of the leading sources for Bloomington Gold and NCRS quality restorations.  Their experience has also been highly important to Bloomington Gold on the Certification field.  They have served for decades as judges on the National Corvette Certification Board

 

Ken and Gary have influenced and inspired hundreds of customers and thousands of owners to become involved and restore Corvettes to meet the standards of factory authentic appearance.

 

   

NCRS

Education, Publishing, Judging Awards & Influenced the Direction of the Hobby

 

Wapakoneta, Ohio

 •  1930 Birthplace of First Man on the Moon

 •  1974 Birthplace of First NCRS meet

 

At the first NCRS meet, judging included a handful of 1953-1962 Corvettes.  Today the organization has grown to 16,000 families distributed across 44 chapters.  Nearly 50,000 members have belonged over the 37 year history.  Publishing 10 magazines and producing nearly 60 events each year along with chapter activities, NCRS allows members from all over the world to learn about Corvettes and meet other enthusiasts. 

 

“Our purpose as written in our Constitution shall be the preservation, restoration, and enjoyment of early Corvettes and related material as well as to encourage and publish studies and research pertaining to their history.  An additional purpose shall be to conduct meetings, tours, and programs of any sort relating to the development and history of Corvettes.”

                                                                                                

- Gary Mortimer,  (NCRS First President)

NCRS has developed a robust judging and awards process and enormous amounts of technical data. Further, NCRS events have provided thousands of hours of discussion, debate, controversy, learning, and fun.  This advancement of knowledge has become well known in the collector car world and is the reason many agree that the “Corvette guys” are the leaders in authenticity.  The Corvette community’s use of this information combined with the desire to properly restore their Corvettes has fueled the restoration industry.  The world of aftermarket parts, swap meets, sales and auctions, collectors, and hundreds of restoration service companies would look much different without the grass roots passion of NCRS members around the world.

 

Wapakoneta was a giant step for mankind and the Corvette!

   

Joe Pike

Marketer, Promoter & Writer

 

“Corvette’s #1 Ambassador”

 

From 1960 to 1974, Joe Pike was best known as the Editor of Corvette News, one of the contributing founders of the National Council of Corvette Clubs (NCCC) and a general Mr. Fix-It for Corvette.  For years, he was the entire Corvette marketing program, all rolled into one person.  He instinctively knew the Corvette would “never make it” unless accepted by sports car people.  As National Sales Promotion Manager he personally set about the task of creating a market for the Corvette. His message: “Corvette is more than just a car – it is a lifestyle.”

 

Pike made it a lifestyle by setting up a national group of Corvette clubs for Corvette people to have fun.  He also promoted races and rallies for people to enjoy.  Joe started ‘waving’ at other Corvette drivers on the road.  That tradition continues today.

 

Pike’s voice was respected by GM management.  He was close to Chief Engineer Ed Cole.  He played a key role in shooting down a proposal for a four-passenger Corvette.  Pike also did little things to help out the image of the Corvette, like naming the colors of the car after famous racetracks, suggesting leather upholstery and wooden steering wheels because they were found in leading European sports cars.

 

Joe always used to say he was the most fortunate guy at Chevrolet - he actually got paid for doing his hobby.  He truly contributed on a large scale to the Corvette Phenomenon.  Without him the Phenomenon may never have occurred.

 

Joe Pike is the text book model why the Great Hall was created.

   

Bob Wingate

Corvette Sales, Organizer, Promoter & Racer

 

“Corvette’s #1 Salesman”

 

By January 1, 1970, Chevrolet recognized Bob Wingate  as the Top Corvette Salesman in the United States.  He received the “Legion of Leaders” award for selling over 150 cars per year, a good portion of which were Corvettes.  Although Wingate credits his success to Chevrolet, Joe Pike, Zora Duntov and others, it was Bob himself who was the guy on the ground promoting Corvette in the early days. Wingate was THE West Coast Pioneer at the grass roots level where the Corvette Phenomenon began.

 

Starting in 1956 as a salesman for Clippinger Chevrolet, in California, Wingate sold Corvettes and got involved in all kinds of Corvette activities from 1958-1974.  In 1959, he created his first Corvette club and in 1966 was one of the founding fathers and first President of Western States Corvette Council. Many Clubs from Canada to Mexico were created with Wingate’s guidance.   Autocross, slalom and road racing events were also a big part of the West Coast Corvette culture. Bob was a leader who helped mold the national SCCA rules for autocross and slalom racing. No wonder Southern California Corvette sales skyrocketed.  The guy was everywhere promoting Corvette.  Wingate says, “It didn’t hurt that I got full support from my dealership and became good friends with Joe Pike and Zora Duntov.”  But Wingate’s positive attitude was the key to sales.

 

By the mid-1970’s, Bob Wingate’s name drifted east and was THE name in “old” Corvettes along with Buxbaum in Chicago and Wasserman in New Jersey.  We’d never met them, but by their names commonly seen in magazine ads, everyone knew, “they must be somebody really important”.

 

Turns out, they really were important!

 

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