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Gathering brings back the glory days of muscle cars

Posted by donaldwhite on September 18, 2008


Gathering brings back the glory days of muscle cars

WASAGA BEACH, ONT. — As the haunting strains of Don Henley’s Boys of Summer wafted over Wasaga Beach’s main drag, various editions of that vehicular icon of summer — the Chevrolet Corvette — began to converge.


The Wasaga Beach gathering attracted every vintage of Corvette, most fully restored to showroom brilliance.They ranged from pristine originals to modified monsters, from high-tech late-model Z06s to little red Corvettes minted a halfcentury ago. The cars were polished to perfection, with chrome gleaming so vibrantly in the midday sun that admiring eyes had to squint.

As the coupes and convertibles began assembling near the longest freshwater beach in the world, Henley’s melancholy lament for both the passing of a season and of youth itself was drowned out by the rumbling chorus of idling motors. And, yet, at times it almost seemed as if the hundreds of Corvettes were revving in harmony, their big-block V8s playing a different kind of heavy metal song — one that whispered about the days of made-in-America muscle car glory and cheap gasoline.

Certainly, the scenario that unfolded on Wasaga Beach was the stuff of dreams. The fragrance of coconut tanning butter lathered on sun-kissed bodies mingled together with the mouthwatering aroma of gyros sizzling on a grill and the bittersweet scent of engine coolant dripping from a leaky radiator. In the distance, small white-tipped waves crashed upon Wasaga’s legendary sandy coastline.

As it does every August, the Wasaga Beach Corvette Club staged its weekend gala, reminding everyone why Corvette Summer is a season to cherish.

Indeed, for a while, this chunk of Ontario real estate resembled a piece of California, what with the bikinis and boogie boards and classic cars radiating in the 29C sunshine.

Vanity plates abounded, too, ranging from bravado (FAST 63) to the philosophical (LVN42DAY) to the suggestive (KLYMAXR) to the downright cheeky (TAX RTN).

Every Corvette has a story, such as the gorgeous 1962 beige roadster belonging to Tom Doerner.

Doerner owned a different ’62 Corvette back in 1976 when he started dating the woman who would eventually become his wife.

That Corvette had to be sacrificed when the couple bought a house, although Doerner vowed he’d eventually acquire another one.

Such an opportunity came in 1996. After nearly three years of searching (approximately 14,000 ’62 Corvettes were manufactured, and it’s estimated that fewer than 2,000 exist today), Doerner found a 1962 model in Oakville, Ont.

It was a dilapidated wreck, missing such incidental equipment as the motor and transmission.

Yet Doerner gladly wrote a cheque for $23,000 and began the long, arduous process of a fullon restoration. Step one involved sandblasting the body with crushed walnut shells — a substance that’s allegedly ideal for removing paint without harming fibreglass.

To date, Doerner has spent more than $250,000 on his summertime toy — with more work slated for the off-season. When will the car be finished?

“Never,” says Doerner — a reality that appears to be both a blessing and a curse for auto aficionados in their obsessive pursuit of perfection.

Still, in addition to looking as if it has just rolled off an assembly line, Doerner’s Corvette sports a fearsome 510-horsepower motor, more than twice the power generated by the original V8. The result: this roadster is capable of exoticar speeds. Doerner says his car can do the quarter-mile in 11.3 seconds, which compares favourably with the likes of a Dodge Viper or a Porsche 911 Turbo.

Doerner buries the accelerator. The result: the car bolts forward; necks whip backward. “We just put down six feet of rubber,” Doerner proudly proclaims, admiring his handiwork via the rear-view mirror.

Back at the beach, Max Rolph proudly displays his monster ’Vette. While it resembles a typical late-model Corvette from the outside, within the car’s mirrorlined trunk lurk three purple tanks containing nitrous oxide. Rolph insists he only employs chemical enhancement when he’s at the race track.

But when he does, the end result is 860 horsepower — enough muscle to raise the car’s front end several centimetres.

Still, Rolph laments that he tends to attract unwanted attention from law enforcement — all the while insisting it has nothing to do with a lead foot.

“You wouldn’t believe how many times I get state troopers pulling me over just because they want to check out my car,” he says.

Membership in Corvette Summer, it would appear, has both its privileges and its pitfalls.


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