This 1958 Corvette has distinctive louvered hood vents. David Watson of Etowah often brings it to Corvette Nights. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Antique and vintage car shows are now weekly, free offshoots of the 16th annual Music on Main Street with Corvette Night every other Friday. Henderson County Tourism Development Authority’s 11-week summer Fridays series ends Aug. 19. Music is 7-9 p.m.
Dave Watson’s super-fast red 1990 model 2R is shown in front of Rich and Linda Howiler’s 2016 Laguna blue ‘Vette. Rich, at left, wears a red cap. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Remaining Corvette Nights will be 7-9 p.m. July 15, July 29 and Aug. 12. Classic Car Cruise-Ins of various eras and makes will be July 22, and Aug. 5 and 19.
The site is by the Visitor Center at 201 S. Main St. Show cars are parked on Main, between Allen and Caswell streets. Many are there at 5 p.m. when that stretch is closed to traffic, or 5:30 when concert lawnchair seating opens.
Vettes from the Sixties and later are lined up on Main. Behind is the Music on Main stage. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Separately, Hendersonville Antique Car Club hosts car-music events outside Firehouse Subs (825 Spg. Hwy.) every other Saturday evening — next on July 16. Carolina Faith Riders (CFR) motorcycle “bike nights” are at Fireside, Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.
Mike Peppers, retired Henderson County sheriff’s patrol lieutenant, heads and co-founded Corvette Nights. He said typical turnout is 55-76 Corvettes. “Some don’t mind the rain,” he said. “One time it was pouring for hours, but 20 Corvettes were here.”
Such dedication is a mark of a diehard Corvette owner/collector, Peppers said. This year, he helped start the 15-member Hendersonville County Corvette Club (HCCC) for “Corvette owners who are active enthusiasts. We drive our cars in the rain. We go to the shows. We do it all.” Peppers and not the club runs Corvette Night.
Regularly-participating Corvette clubs are from Upstate S.C., Asheville, Charlotte, and Rutherford County. Several Vetteowners are military veterans. Thus, people scoping cars at Corvette Night can “vet those vets’ Vettes.” Most are restored to up to pristine condition. Some are for sale. Most owners sit near their cars, and can educate about that model or era. The cars are a visual magnet, for downtown visitors to stay longer and dine there.
People stroll to vet the ‘Vettes, on June 17. The customized one at front left has a door that opens upward. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Peppers, an Asheville native, drove patrol cars for over 30 years. He owns a 2006 C6 Vette. He has owned six Vettes starting with a ’92 Stingray, and up to three at once. “I love how technology has changed so much,” he said. But he preferred the spacious C5 interior. “It’s like sitting on a recliner, in a cockpit. Everything is at your fingertips.”
Above all at shows, he enjoys seeing “Retro Vette” modifications — adapting earlier bodies to post-2000 suspension frames to blend classic style with modern performance and fuel efficiency. But he warns against incompatibility from over-modifying, to boost horsepower. “If you stray too far from the design, it can be problematic.”
Several at a recent Corvette Night told The Tribune they like the sporty two-seater’s sleek look, power, handling and rich history as an elegant muscle car. “The fender sweeps into graceful curves,” said John Collins, who often brings his 2001 Vette. Peppers lauded the Vette’s “beautiful lines.”
A new ’16 Vette shown has extra, 650 horsepower. A unique strong-engined Vette was a 1990 (C4) 2R hailed then as the “world’s fastest” street car at 190 mph, its owner Dave Watson of Edneyville said. He said he pushed it to 184 mph, and it even hugs curves. “It’s rock solid, at top speed.” Power is listed as 375 hp, but runs more like 530 hp, he said.
Its Lotus-designed engine adapts Mercury Marine boat motor technology, Watson said. The former Navy Seal helped manage Navy surface weapon (i.e. torpedoes) testing, in 1977-91.
Roger Mittendorff, retired Ford electronics engine control specialist, is nearly done restoring a ’64 Vette. His late brother owned it long ago and was a daring modifier. He installed cow knee bone as gear shifts. As a former helicopter pilot, he utilized copter parts. An activation button was formerly a machine gun trigger. Roger removed such quirks.
Rich Howiler brought his 2016 Vette, from Simpsonville, S.C. Its Laguna Blue debuted in ’14, with the latest/seventh (C7) incarnation. Many like its more intricate rear design, and spoiler. It has 460 hp, and zooms from zero to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds.
He at times brings his 2013 60th anniversary limited-edition Corvette pace car with checkered-flag emblem — just like what football coach Jim Harbaugh drove to start the Indy 500.
Howiler is versed in Vette history. Corvette is named after a maneuverable naval escort ship. It evolved from G.M.’s EX-122 concept car with Jaguar-like curves, under G.M. chief designer Harley Earl.
Production began June, 30 1953 in Flint, Mich. All 300 initial Corvettes in ’53 are all red and white, Car and Driver magazine noted. It has a Fifties-styled bulky grill. It has a 150 HP straight-six cylinder engine, and two-speed manual transmission. Sole options are a heater and AM radio. In year two, ’54, merely 3,640 Corvettes are made.
Its V-8 engine debuts in ’55, and is enlarged. It is 265 cu in/4.3-liter in ’56, 283 in ’57 with fuel injection an option, and 327 cu in/5.4L in ’62. The optional big block engine was 396 cubes as the L78 in ’65, and 427 in ’66, It was tested at 500 hp as the cast-iron L88 in ’67. Power was listed as 435 hp for the inaugural C3’s 427cu in/7.0L motor in ’68, then 390 hp from 454 cubes in 1970-74.
Distinctive, louvered vents adorn the Vette hood in 1958-63. Four round taillights emerge in ’61. First-year options include a convertible roof and seatbelts in ’56, and optional four-speed manual in ’56. An AM/FM radio was standardized in 1979, when a record 53,807 Vettes were sold.
The perky Corvette Sting Ray revolutionized the look of American sports cars in 1963, a summer ahead of the arch-rival Mustang. This was a much smaller and lighter (as fiberglass) Vette, stylish for the Sixties. It had innovative electronic ignition, and James Bond-like hidden headlamps.
In 1969, the name Sting Ray was condensed into Stingray. Many called its XP-755 prototype the “Mako Shark,” for having a pointy snout, short fins and its speed. Then-chief designer Bill Mitchell caught such a shark. He initiated the Sting Ray name and shape, in a 1959 racer. Larry Shinoda designed the concept car in ’61. The Sting Ray has a rocket ship-like, torpedo-shaped back, as a “split window” fastback solely in 1963. The Sting Ray was the second-generation Vette, in ‘63-67.
The C3 began in ’68, and lasted 14 years. It was sculpted smoothly like G.M.’s Mako Shark II show car of ’65. An option was a “sun seeker” T-top. A safer-tested plastic nose replaced chrome, in ’73.
Scandals in 1974 included Watergate, and for many G.M. replacing Vette rear chrome “bumperettes” with a body-colored “blob” that offended “purists,” Car and Driver declared. Peppers cautions that in the Seventies and until 1984, “they tried crossfire injection but had engine problems.”
Back in ’63, Howiler was 18 as he first craved a Vette. “I feel born to drive Corvettes,” he said. He likes the car shows’ “camaraderie and fellowship” among Vette owners.
As for the music portion, Flashback from Charlotte spans early R&B, beach and rock. If it is raining, the concert is postponed up to an hour to 8 p.m., then cancelled if rain persists.
For the concert and car show schedule, call TDA at 693-9708 or check http://visithendersonvillenc.org/music_on_main.htm. Call Mike Peppers at 674- 9211 for more about Corvette Nights, or the local Corvette Club. Call 699-4929 for more on the Hendersonville Antique Car Club, or classic car shows it is active in.