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Celebrating an American icon

August 14, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

They're sleek. They're fast. And they're coming to Hagerstown.

More than 500 Corvettes will purr through Washington County during the 44th annual National Council of Corvette Clubs convention - which will be held Friday, Aug. 15, through Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Hagerstown. Corvettes at Carlisle (Pa.) will follow from Thursday, Aug. 21, to Sunday, Aug. 24.

"The Corvette is an American icon," says convention director George Gallant of the Bel Air (Md.) Corvette Club. "The production of the Corvette has steadily grown in quality and respect over the past 50 years."

The Corvette was the brainchild of General Motors chief stylist Harley Earl, who was impressed with the foreign sports cars he saw at a 1951 race in Watkins Glen, N.Y. The first fiberglass Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Flint, Mich., in 1952, according to the National Corvette Museum Web site at www.corvettemuseum.com.

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Three hundred Corvettes - which were named after a fast type of Royal Navy warship - were produced that first year. All the cars were white with red interiors, and the fastest 1953 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster was clocked at 105 mph. The base price for the '53 'Vette was about $3,000, according to the Web site.

A 50th anniversary edition Corvette coupe costs about $50,000.

Many car lovers dream of owning a Corvette, Gallant says. Most Corvette owners are middle-age, middle-class men, he says.

And hundreds of these Corvette enthusiasts will show off their sports cars during the 50th anniversary parade of Corvettes beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 17. About 200 Corvettes arranged in order from oldest to newest will travel south from Longmeadow Shopping Center to Oak Hill Drive to Potomac Street, parking at the central lot near Public Square in downtown Hagerstown.

The convention schedule also includes a "Corvette Mall" at the hotel and conference center, a car show at Hoffman Chevrolet in Hagerstown, a skills competition, a Corvette rally around Washington County that departs from Valley Mall and races at the Mason-Dixon Speedway east of Hagerstown and Summit Point Raceway in nearby West Virginia.

"Corvettes will be seen throughout the Hagerstown community the entire week," Gallant says.

The convention is expected to bring about $750,000 to Washington County - and that's a conservative estimate, says Ben Hart, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He bases his estimate upon an average expenditure of $180 per day - including transportation, food, lodging and shopping costs - for each of the convention's 600 delegates.

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