Wendell Strode's Coverage Of The
Motor Trend Car Of The Year Ceremony

By now you have probably read our post of the two press releases and other articles concerning the announcement of the 1998 Corvette as Motor Trend Car of the Year. I thought I would share some personal observations of the day.

The ceremony was held at the plant and the program started at 10:15 am. We arrived about 9:45 and was escorted to what appeared to be about the middle of the plant.

A stage had been set up with dark curtains as a backdrop. As we rounded the corner of the stage, we could see several people setting there. I recognized John Middlebrook, Tom Pyden, Dave Hill, Will Cooksey, Billy Jackson, Dick Almond and John Cafaro. There were 2-3 others that I did not recognize.

The program started right on time as it was being shown by satellite live to Chevrolet Central and to all Chevrolet zones and dealers where they were set up to receive it.

Tom Pyden served as master of ceremonies and brought greetings. Included in his opening comments was a welcome to the Bowling Green Assembly Facility, where the world class Chevy Corvette is brought to life and with the National Corvette Museum is the Mecca for performance enthusiasts the world over. The national, state and local dignitaries were introduced.

Tom then introduced Lee Kelley, President of Motor Trend Magazine. Mr. Kelley very quickly made the announcement and then proceeded to show a video of the Corvette.

The video was just awesome - it showed the Corvette being driven in the country, on test tracks and in other locations. Sometimes the Corvette would be driving into a curve and would negotiate the curve a little
sideways and it was just like you inside and was almost tilting your body - the crowd loved it.

Mr. Kelley then introduced C. Van Tune. Van had been featured in the video with some comments and his joy in driving the Corvette was very obvious in the video and even more so in person. He was just so excited about the new C5 Corvette.

Comments like the ones below were made during the ceremony:

"A car has to be all new or significantly changed for that model year even
to be considered and must be on sale by January 1st".

"They are looking for a vehicle that sets the standard or breaks new ground
in its category. They look at what a car offers in terms of technical
innovation, performance, utility and value."

"The Corvette establishes a new standard whose influence will be felt
thoughout the automotive industry for years to come.

"A reinvention of the modern sports car".

"It is the fastest street legal car available under $40,000"

Lee Kelley and Van Tune then bring John Middlebrook forward and present to him the award. Middlebrook was extremely enthusiastic and had all the Chevrolet Corvette  Team come forward to accept with him and he lead the cheering. He gave the trophy to Wil Cooksey who is about a foot taller than anyone else on stage and Wil held the trophy over his head or as Middlebrook said "way up there".

The crowd continued in long applause - the ones that were seated rose and gave the Corvette Team a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

Middlebrook then made comments and some of those included:

"This is the first time in the history of Motor Trend that any manufacturer
has captured the calipers four years in a row."

He talked about building products with quality and value and that "when you
put your customer on your design team, you can't lose".

He referred to the Corvette as the "flagship".

He recognized the many people who contributed to this victory - (1) Dave Hill and his team, who took the Corvette vision and translated it to a performance car for the next millennium. (2) Brand Manager Dick Almond and his team who guided the marketing and brand identity of the new C5. (3) Wil Cooksey and the dedicated employees at the Bowling green plant. (4) The dealers who gave their input into the car's development. (5) The other partners within Chevrolet and (6) the owners who continue to say this is a wonderful car as there is over 5 months of backlog of orders.

Middlebrook then introduced Dave Hill who made comments that included accepting nothing but the best. Wil Cooksey and Billy Jackson also made comments.

We then came back to the museum while Middlebrook and others took a plant tour. They then came over to the museum for lunch back in the Skydome. Just prior to lunch, Middlebrook presented a duplicate of the trophy to the museum. I proudly and humbly accepted on behalf of the board, the staff, the membership and all Corvette enthusiasts.

We had rearranged the Atrium to display and feature the "Road to the 5th Generation" At the end closest to the Admissions Desk, VIN # 1 of the 1997 and the 1998 was angled and leaving the angled opening toward the Chevrolet Theater. We proudly display the Motor Trend Car of the Year trophy in front of these two beautiful Corvettes, both red, and for the world to see.

During lunch I was privileged to be seated with Middlebrook, Hill, Almond, Cooksey and Kelley and Tune from Motor Trend. We had a delightful discussion concerning the museum and the progress that working with many others has occurred this year. We also talked about some plans for 1998 and beyond and opportunities for the enhancing of the strategic partnership with Chevrolet while providing more value to the Corvette enthusiasts. That opportunity and the feedback I received was motivating.

Liz Hill then took everyone on a tour of the Museum.

It was indeed a great day!!


Wendell Strode is the  Executive Director, National Corvette Museum

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