Cruzes & Events
Here is copy of the speech given by our keynote speaker, Ken Fichtner, at the banquet on Sunday night.
Thanks for the introduction.
I am honored to be asked to speak this evening at the 50th annual Montana State Corvette meet! Wow! 50 years, give yourselves a hand for being a part of this occasion. (applause)
I am privileged to have been a 3rd generation Chevrolet dealer. There is no business in America, in Montana, and in our communities like ours. Not only do we employ great people and help them provide for their families, but we are involved in our communities.
Tonight I want to take you on a journey. A journey about The Generations of a Chevrolet Classic, the Evolution of the Corvette, with a few fun facts about US History as we go. Be ready to participate!
Few things are more American than the Chevrolet Corvette.
Just ask Jay Leno, who owns several Corvettes!
Think for a moment about how owning a Corvette has changed your life. It’s afforded you an opportunity to make many new friends and to participate in events like this!
The Chevrolet Corvette, commonly known as the 'Vette, is a two-door, two-passenger sports car manufactured and marketed by Chevrolet across 68 years of production and eight design generations.
Corvettes have always been the dream car of young and old alike.
It all began at 1 PM on a cold Friday afternoon in 1953 when America got an eyeful of a sexy, windswept Convertible concept sports at the GM Motorama at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Upon seeing Harley Earl’s Corvette prototype at the Motorama, Zora Arkus-Duntov was instantly smitten and applied for a job at GM. He unleashed the full brunt of his persuasive powers to convince Chevrolet boss Ed Cole that a production Corvette would be a “turning point” for GM and that his contributions could be instrumental in advancing any high-performance automobile’s cause.
In 1953, when GM executives were looking to name the new Chevrolet sports car, assistant director for the Public Relations department Myron Scott suggested Corvette after the small maneuverable warship—and the name was approved.
Originally manufactured in Flint, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri, the Corvette has been manufactured in Bowling Green, Kentucky since 1981.
The Corvette has since become widely known as "America's Sports Car.
Automotive News wrote that after 'starring' in the early 1960s television show Route 66, the Corvette became synonymous with freedom and adventure," ultimately becoming both "the most successful concept car in history and the most popular sports car in history.”
With its generations noted sequentially from C1 to C8, the Corvette serves as Chevrolet's halo vehicle and is widely noted for its performance and distinctive plastic—either fiberglass or composite—bodywork.
Generation 1: The Godfather, referred to as a C1. The solid axle cars were produced from 1953 thru 1962 spanning 10 model years. 300 hundred were hand built for 1953 with the first one built on June 30 in Flint, Michigan, all Polo White equipped with a 6-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. Because they were underpowered compared to their European counterparts 1/3 of them remained unsold near the end of the 1954 production year. The first V8, a 265, was offered in 1955. Unfortunately Corvette sales continued to falter and GM was pondering the retirement of it’s sports car. In 1957, Ed Cole challenged Zora to develop fuel injection for the Corvette. 1957 was a turning point for Corvette as Arkus-Duntov stepped in at the last moment to save the Corvette and to recast it as Chevrolet’s halo vehicle. In 1957 Zora told GM that the only way to avoid cooking the driver was to mount the engine behind the cockpit. Zora then created five mid-engine experimental cars. Thus the start of the journey to make Corvette a mid-engine sports car. In 1962 the 327 was introduced.
Notable events in US History from 1953
- Walt Disney's 14th animated film, Peter Pan, premieres in Chicago
- The Korean War ends
- Burger King opens its first restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida.
- Swanson introduces the TV dinner.
- Hugh Hefner publishes the first issue of Playboy magazine selling 54,175 copies at $.50 each.
- Tim Allen, comedian, actor, voice-over artist and entertainer is born.
- Bruce Springsteen owns a 1960 Roadster
- Kendall Jenner owns a 1957 Blue Roadster
- Holly Madison owns a C1 Red Roadster
- Astronaut Alan Shepard owned a 1957 & 1962 Corvette Roadster
- Johnny Depp owns a 1959 Corvette Roadster used in the 2011 movie he starred in, “The Rum Diary”.
Generation 2: The Sting Ray Years, referred to as a C2 was designed by Larry Shinoda, master minded by Zora Arkus-Duntov was produced from 1963 thru 1967 spanning only 5 years, the shortest number of years of any Corvette generation. 1963 brought the Stingray with a new design, better handling and a lighter body. More than 21,000 were built in 1963. In 1965, the 396 V8 was introduced, followed by the 427 in 1967. The C2’s received great reviews and were truly worthy of comparison to European sports cars of the time.
Zora became the Corvette chief engineer in 1967.
Notable events in US History from 1963
- President John F Kennedy is assassinated and Vice President Lyndon B Johnson becomes President.
- Country music star Patsy Cline is killed in a plane crash.
- The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary closes.
- Walt Disney’s enchanted Tiki Room opens at Disneyland, the first Audio-Animatronics in the park.
- Zip codes are introduced in the U.S.
- Martin Luther King Jr delivers his “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
- The Pro Football Hall of Fame opens in Canton, OH
- The Beatles release their first two songs in the US; “I want to hold your hand” and “I saw her standing there”
- Beach Boy’s hit song from 1963, “Shut Down” dedicated to the Corvette Stingray
- Elvis Presley stars in "Viva Las Vegas" with Ann Margaret, featuring a 1963 Riverside Red Corvette split window coupe
- Michael Jordan, Larry the Cable Guy, and Johnny Depp are born.
- Rick Springfield owns a C2 Coupe
- Cindy Crawford owns a 1967 Stingray Roadster
- Robert Downey Jr owns a 1965 Stingray Roadster
- President Joe Biden owns a 1967 327 Stingray Roadster
- Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson owned a 1966 Corvette Roadster
Generation 3: The Shark Years, referred to as a C3 was produced from 1968 thru 1982 spanning 15 years, the longest number of years of any Corvette generation. The 3rd generation Corvette was patterned after the Bill Mitchell’s Mako Shark concept car. C3 Coupes featured the first use of T-Top removable roof panels. 1968 was the last year to offer a 327 V8 with the 350 becoming standard in 1969. Corvette’s 25th anniversary was celebrated in 1978 and for the first time Corvette paced the Indy 500.
Notable events in US History from 1968
- 1968 is often considered to be one of the most turbulent and traumatic years of the 20th century
- Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In debuts launching career of Goldie Hawn
- The Viet Cong of North Vietnam launch the Tet Offensive against South Vietnam, the United States and their allies
- Walter Cronkite shows his disdain for the Vietnam War effort influencing President Johnson to not seek another term
- Martin Luther King Jr is shot dead in Memphis, Tennessee
- The Beatles announce the creation of Apple Records
- US presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy is shot and dies
- The TV show 60 minutes debuts
- The NBC Special “If I Can Dream” marks the concert return of Elvis Presley
- Molly Ringwald, Kenny Chesney, and Tony Hawk are born
- Jimi Hendrix owned two 1969 Corvettes
- Apollo Astronauts: Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon and Alan Beam all owned identical 1969 427 Coupes
- Farrah Fawcett owned a 1977 George Barris Custom Corvette Coupe
- The movie "Gone In 60 Seconds" is released featuring a1970 Corvette Bronze Corvette roadster & a 1973 Classic White Corvette coupe
- Mark Hamill and Annie Potts star in the 1978 movie “Corvette Summer”
- Prince releases hit “Little Red Corvette” in 1982
Generation 4: Eighties Glam, referred to as a C4 was produced from 1984 thru 1996 spanning 13 years. Production was to begin for the 1983 model year but quality issues and parts delays resulted in only 43 prototypes being produced. All but one of the prototypes were destroyed or serialized as 1984s except for one that is on display at the Corvette Museum. The 1984 model year began early with the first deliveries in March of 1983. In 1986 a Convertible was offered, the first since 1975. In 1987 the Callaway Corvette was a regular production option with a twin turbo. The ZR1 was introduced in 1990 with production thru 1995. The 4th generation also saw the 35th anniversary, the 40th anniversary, the Collector and Grand Sport editions.
Notable events in US History from 1984
- Ronald Reagan is President and George H W Bush is Vice President
- Mark Zuckerberg, LeBron James, and Katy Perry are born
- The 1984 hit "The Karate Kid" featured a White 1984 Corvette
- The 1993 hit "Sleepless In Seattle" with Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan featured a 1982 Gold Corvette
Generation 5: All-New Architecture, referred to as a C5 was produced from 1997 thru 2004 spanning 8 years. Actual production began in 1996 but again quality and manufacturing issues caused a delay with the first C5s offered as 1997 models. The C5 was a breakthrough with vastly improved dynamics in nearly every area over the C4. It weighed less, had a .29 drag coefficient, active handling and a 50/50 weight distribution. In 2001 the Z06 returned, an option not seen since Zora’s 1083 race-ready Corvette. The LS6 was upgraded to 405 horse. With it’s improved rigidity, suspension, brakes, and reduced weight it was quicker than the C4 ZR1.
Notable events in US History from 1997
- Bill Clinton is President and Al Gore is Vice President
- The Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl, the first time since 1967 defeating the New England Patriots
- A Santa Monica jury finds O.J. Simpson liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman
- Mike Tyson bites off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear in a boxing match in Las Vegas
- Steve Jobs returns to Apple Computer and Microsoft buys $150 million in Apple shares
- Lamar Jackson and Kylie Jenner are born
- The 1997 movie “Con Air” featured Nicholas Cage/John Cusakand a 1967 Elkhart Blue Corvette roadster
- The song “Riding with Private Malone” by David Ball released in 2001
Generation 6: Faster and Lighter, referred to as a C6 was produced from 2005 thru 2013 spanning 9 years. For the C6, GM wanted to focus on refining not redesigning. Magazines described the C6 as “an evolution of the C5”. Fixed headlamps appeared, the first since 1962. The LS2 6.0 liter was introduced producing 400 horse and a 0-60 time of under 4.2 seconds. In 2006 a 7.0 liter version of the small block was offered in the Z06 code-named LS7 with an official output of 505 horse and a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds. The ZR1 was reintroduced with a supercharged 6.2 liter engine producing 638 horsepower.
Notable events in US History from 2005
- George W Bush is President and Dick Cheney is Vice President
- The New England Patriots win their 2nd consecutive Super Bowl defeating the Philadelphia Eagles
- YouTube goes live
- Montanan, Lance Armstrong wins a record 7th straight Tour de France
Generation 7: Supercar for the Ages, referred to as a C7 saw the return of the Sting Ray and the last hurrah for front-engine Corvette. Produced from 2014 thru 2019 spanning just 6 years, the second shortest number of years for a Corvette generation. Development began in 2007 with a goal of being introduced in 2011. Both front and rear engine layouts were considered. The front engine design was chosen to keep production costs lower. It was at this time that GM product planners and marketers acknowledged that the Corvette had become “an old man’s toy.” John Fitzpatrick, Corvette’s marketing manager said “It’s the old saying, Nobody wants to be seen driving an old man’s car, but everybody wants to be seen driving a young man’s car.” Thus the C7 was designed to be more aspirational to young people. Chevrolet resurrected the Stingray name. The base 2014 LT1 6.2 Liter engine produced 455 horse. In 2015 the Z06 was reintroduced with a Supercharged LT4 6.2 Liter engine producing 650 horsepower. In 2019, the ZR1 returned with a new LT5 engine with a larger supercharger producing 755 horsepower.
Notable events in US History from 2014
- Barack Obama is President and Joe Biden is Vice President
- The Seattle Seahawks defeat the Denver Broncos for their first Super Bowl win
- Frozen wins the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature
- Paris Hilton owns a Pink Barbie C7 Coupe
- KISS frontman, Paul Stanley owns a 2015 Stingray
Generation 8: Mid-Engine, referred to as a C8 – In July of 2019, Chevrolet unveiled the 2020 Corvette, the first mid-engine platform for the flagship General Motors muscle car,
the Corvette Zora dreamed of began production in 2020 and continues today in it’s second year of production as a 2021.
The C8 is powered by a 6.2 Liter V8 producing 495 horse in the Z51. It attains a 0-60 in just under 3 seconds.
It’s the first affordable mid-engine supercar with great forward visibility, increased interior space, and dual trunks.
When you completely reimagine a car as iconic as Corvette, you get a beautifully sculpted mid-engine sports car that makes a daring statement.
The legacy of the man who championed Corvettes in general and a mid-engine version in particular will live forever. Soon to come at a dealer near you –
“a ZORA”. Only time will tell how it will be powered and how fast it will go.
Hold on to your seats!
Prior to the arrival of the C8 Corvette, I would have told you that there is no reason to pay more than sticker for a new Corvette as there are plenty of dealers, including most of the top volume sellers, who will gladly sell you a new Corvettes at MSRP. I predicted that initial demand would be high during the roll-out and then pricing would fall back to normal by the end of the first model year production.
But interest in the first-ever mid-engine Corvette exploded following the reveal and buyers responded by selling out the first year production of the car even before the first customer-ordered model was produced. Then came the UAW strike in late 2019 followed by the COVID pandemic in March of 2020 which closed the plant for two full months and delayed launching the 2nd shift until August 2020.
Those two events cut initial projections for a 40K unit model run and even after extending the model year for several months, Chevrolet built only 20,368 Corvettes. That left 20,000 orders allocated to dealers and promised to customers un-built. Demand is even stronger now as supply is non-existant, and for many buyers, the only opportunity to purchase a C8 Corvette will come on the secondary market where prices range from $5,000-$25,000 over MSRP.
At this time, it appears that there will be approximately 25,000 Corvettes produced for 2021 thru mid-September. Then the plant will close for a long weekend to tool up for 2022. The online visualizer is targeted to be available June 9th with the official Dealer Order Guide available June 28th. Ordering should begin in July with production starting in September.
Just think of all the things we as Americans buy over the list price because it brings us immediate satisfaction. Before COVID, you might have paid more to get good seats for a sporting event or to attend the big concert in town that was sold out. Even little things will have us spending more than lower priced items if it means that we can get it delivered quicker. You can thank Amazon’s two-day Prime shipping for that.
Look at the housing market right now where new houses are selling well over listing price. The point is that Americans have the highest level of disposable income and spending that on the things we love and want is about the most American thing ever.
If you can find a new Corvette buy it! Even at prices over MSRP it’s a bargain. Especially when you think of the exotic sports cars that it keeps company with that sell in the hundreds of thousands of dollrs! While others are complaining about the prices you’re out there driving the American dream!
The Corvette continues to live on!
In closing, simply stated:
Corvette: Not your everyday car, but a car you want to drive every day.
Thanks again for inviting me and thanks for listening!
Presentation by Ken Fichtner on May 30, 2021
First cruise of 2020 was a trip over the Big Horn mountains on June 20th, lead by Phil and Nada Bell. We had fifteen cars in the group, with a sixteenth car joining us half way through the trip. We stopped for dinner at the Edgar bar on the way back to Billings.
On July 4th Dennis Fitchner led six cars over the Beartooth pass and down the Sunlight basin to Cody, WY. We stopped for an early dinner at Bubba's Barbeque before returning to Billings.