NORMAL — Having lived in Bloomington-Normal from 1982 to 1998, Tim Masten, 67, has always loved Corvettes and goes to the annual Bloomington Gold Corvettes USA auto show.
Dan Masten, who worked on the 1983 show while it was still being held at the McLean County Fairgrounds as the Bloomington Corvette Corral, said he would regularly help out in the office and take part in road tours each year in his 1966 Corvette 327 coupe.
After moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1998, Masten said he made plans to go to the show after organizers moved it to a different location. When she heard it was going back to Bloomington-Normal this year, she was determined to go back there.
“At the time, when you see a bunch of Corvettes driving around town that weekend, it’s hard not to have them,” said Masten. “Now I’m going back to the show and reconnecting with some old friends because I don’t go to Bloomington-Normal very often, so that’s another reason why I wanted to go.”
The Bloomington Gold Corvettes USA auto show will be held in town for its 50th annual celebration this Friday and Saturday at Illinois State University.
“This year is a little different with Bloomington Gold Corvettes returning to Bloomington after being away for more than 20 years,” said Guy Larsen, president of Bloomington Gold Corvettes USA. “There’s a fascination in Bloomington for people who aren’t even Corvette fans, that they want to see this show in the city, busy with Corvettes driving down the street.”
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More than 10,000 people are projected to attend the event, and about 2,000 Corvettes will be in Bloomington-Normal. There will be opportunities to buy and sell auto parts, along with new and used Corvettes, and have cars rated and certified by experts. The direct economic impact of Bloomington Gold is estimated at $1,029,350, based on participant projections and direct sales from hotels, food, gas, and shopping, according to the Bloomington-Normal Area Visitors and Convention Bureau.
‘World’s biggest Corvette show’
Bloomington Gold, which has become known as the largest Corvette show in the world, started in 1973 with about 125 Corvettes and 30 vendors. By 1977, the show had grown to become the largest Corvette show in the country and worldwide.
“The Corvette has always been an American sports car,” said Larsen. “People who have never had it still recognize it and they love to see it everywhere they go, whether it is on display or on the street.”
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Although the show was born in Bloomington, it left the area in 1991 for Springfield and later began traveling to different locations including St. Charles, Champaign and, most recently, Indianapolis.
Now, the event will be held on the ISU campus, at Redbird Arena, Horton Field House. The Bone Student Center ballroom and grounds in between, with a caravan of about 500 Corvettes taking a road tour along historic Route 66 to Bloomington Lake on Saturday afternoon.
‘Back to the roots’
Masten, who still owns the same 1966 Corvette 327 coupe, said he remembers taking a road tour where he nearly lost one of his wheels because the knock-off rims weren’t fully tightened. Another time, he brought visitors from Germany on their first trip in a Corvette.
Masten was even featured in a Pantagraph article from June 29, 1991, highlighting the ’66 Corvette’s body style, as the show was celebrating the generation’s 25th anniversary.
In addition to the new paint job, Masten has upgraded his Corvette but remains close to its original equipment, including a large 327 block engine, ignition transistors, disc brakes, air conditioning, power steering, Goldline tires, side pipe exhaust, as well as a telescopic steering wheel and real teak wood, he said.
“One of the biggest reasons I kept my C2 over the years was because of the unique styling that the Corvette had at the time,” he said. “Last year I took my car to Mackinaw City, Michigan, to the Corvette show there, and now this year to Bloomington, and now I’m not sure what show I’m going to bring my car to next year.”
Rich Weinhold, 80, of Wentzville, Missouri, said he had gone to every Bloomington Gold show from 1998 to 2010, which was when he retired and bought his first Corvette, a 2004 convertible.
Now he owns a 2020 Corvette, which is switching to a mid-engine layout, and although he can’t afford a convertible package, he was given the opportunity to attend Ron Fellows Performance Drive School in Pahrump, Nevada, for a two-day session with set courses and professional drivers, Weinhold said.
Weinhold said he took part in a weekend cruise and is planning a trip to Bloomington Gold this year with fellow Route 66 Corvette Club of St. Charles, Missouri.
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“We just had a meeting not too long ago and we recruited five more new members,” said Weinhold, who is the club’s treasurer. “I’m looking forward to this because we’re going back to their roots and because they keep showing us updates.”
Weinhold said he was also looking forward to attending several Gold School events, including one about collector car scams and another that looked at the judging practice for restaurant mods, which are classic cars restored but modified with modern parts and technology.
Bill Marquardt, 80, of Hopedale, says he first brought the ’67 Corvette Stingray 427 coupe to Bloomington Gold a year before the show moved to Springfield, but what most people won’t know is that the car was also used in the 1980s sitcom. “Cheers” as the main character of Sam Malone’s Corvette.
A member of the film transport union Teamsters Local 399, Marquardt, also known as Marc Christopher, said he served the film industry in Los Angeles and was responsible for transporting various equipment and actors to the set from 1969 until his retirement. in 2004.
Marquardt bought a ’67 Corvette in 1984, which was engineered and built by Zora Arkus-Duntov, a Belgian-born American engineer whose work on vehicles earned him the title “Father of Corvettes.”
As for how his car performed on the show, Marquardt said he was running errands and noticed they had two separate Corvettes set up to shoot some scenes. Once he found out that the showrunners were looking for a Corvette Sam Malone, he told them about his ’67 coupe and they told him to leave so they could take a look.
“They asked if everything worked out because they were going to do a night shoot,” Marquardt said. “Everything worked and they ended up using it.”
Parked on set as a prop for several episodes, his Corvette appeared in several episodes including “Diamond Sam,” “The Two Faces of Norm” and “I Kid You Not,” and later appeared in “My Classic Car” with Dennis. Gage. The sports car is on display at the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
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Marquardt was recently featured in an article in “Corvette Magazine” and has gone so far as to write and publish his own autobiography, self-titled, “Bill,” which documents his life from Bloomington to California and beyond.
Bloomington Gold is open to the public and will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Tickets are $25 if purchased before Friday, or $30 on the day of the event. Free admission for children 12 years and under.
Tickets are available at www.bloomingtongold.com.
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