“Dave, it’s Bruce. I’ve got something HUGE. Call me.” That was the message on both my voice mails at work and my answering machine at home.
The Bruce on the other end was Bruce Meyer, one of the driving forces behind the Petersen Automotive Museum and one of Southern California’s preeminent car people. The huge news he was so excited to share was that the 2014 Corvette was going to be making a brief visit to the museum.
That appearance was part of the big 60th anniversary celebration of the Chevrolet Corvette, obviously planned well in advance. But landing one of the most talked about cars of the year was quite the coup for the Petersen.
The upcoming Corvette was first unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January, to huge crowds of press from around the world. GM had done a pretty good job of keeping it mostly under wraps until its official debut, and it was the most talked-about car of the show.
A few weeks later, the Corvette was on display at the Chicago Auto Show. It wasn’t the newest vehicle there, and there were other cars specifically debuting during the show’s press days. That didn’t matter. People still flocked to the show floor to get a glimpse of “America’s sports car” as Chevrolet likes to call it.
So the next question was, when would car enthusiasts on the West Coast get to see it? The seventh-generation Vette won’t even go on sale until late summer, but people still want a glimpse as early as possible.
Strings were pulled, and budgets within General Motors were pooled to finance proper transportation. Finally, the company was able to confirm museum officials that, yes, one of the prototypes of the 2014 Corvette would indeed be on hand for the big party.
As part of the festivities, a Friday night gala dinner had been planned. Featured speakers were to include many people synonymous with the Corvette, and die-hard Corvette enthusiasts signed up first. But as soon as word got out about the four-wheeled guest of honor, the dinner became a sell-out.
So the early birds who came to attend the dinner, see Corvettes, and support the Petersen Automotive Museum’s outreach program got an early glimpse of the car. The cover was pulled off after the last speakers had appeared on stage and the last bites of desert were eaten.
Instantly, the car was mobbed. Camera phones were held high in the air, and everyone wanted to get a closer look, practically knocking down the stanchions and velvet ropes that had been placed around the new Corvette.
The next day was the main event for the C7 (Corvette-speak for “Corvette – 7th generation), and it had been moved to the center of the polished stone floor in the museum’s Grand Salon. Before the facility even opened at 10:00 a.m., crowds gathered in the lobby, with everyone wanting to be among the first to catch a glimpse.
What was even more impressive was the line to the front desk, where people buy their admission tickets to the museum. On any given busy Saturday, there might be 10-12 people in line during peak hours. The line on this “Corvette Saturday” stretched through the lobby, out the front door, down an access ramp, and out onto the sidewalk on Fairfax Avenue.
An hour and a half later, the line was still almost as long. People wanted to see the new Vette, and they wanted to see it badly. Many were Corvette owners and enthusiasts, some were just car enthusiasts, and a few probably just happened to plan a visit to the museum that day, perhaps as part of a vacation trip to Los Angeles.
It really is a stunning car, one that has to be seen in person to really appreciate. Yes, it’s still many months away from production, and yes, the base price is close to $60,000. I seriously doubt that I would buy one myself, but that doesn’t matter. I was truly excited to be among those who saw the 2014 Corvette in person, up close, and early on in the car’s life.
And the next time a certain guy named Bruce calls me to tell me about something “huge,” you can bet I’ll be listening.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave