This year's Corvettes on Woodward moved to the impressive 87-acre M1 Concourse in metro Detroit that includes a racetrack and repair shops.
Neither hot sun nor rain stopped hundreds of Corvette owners from turning out on Aug. 17 to enjoy some fun and raise more than $6,000 to help the hungry at the annual Corvettes on Woodward gathering.
The big fundraiser was held at the new M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Mich., prior to metro Detroit’s spectacular 22th annual Woodward Dream Cruise.
Two food pantries – Open Hands Food Pantry, part of Royal Oak’s St. John’s Episcopal Church, and Woodside Bible Church – benefited from the event coordinated by Corvette enthusiast Larry Courtney.
Matick Chevrolet in metro Detroit, which sponsors Larry’s U.S. flag-wrapped Corvette, provided the van used to deliver donated non-perishable food to Open Hands.
A highpoint of Corvettes on Woodward involved a huge Corvette caravan, led by Oakland County Sheriff’s officials, driving from M1 Concourse through Pontiac and along Woodward Avenue to the Open Hands Food Pantry where participants delivered monetary and food donations.
Corvettes on Woodward this year drew more than 600 Corvette owners to the impressive M1 facility, an 87-acre complex featuring climate-controlled, private car condos, a racetrack, repair shops and restaurants.
One highlight of the annual gathering was a Corvette Caravan along the Woodward Dream Cruise route to deliver goods and money to a local food bank.
Brad Oleshansky, M1 Concourse founder, called the Aug. 17 event “amazing,” one of many back-to-back events at the facility during Pontiac Power Week celebrated during the Woodward Dream Cruise.
During the Aug. 20 Woodward Dream Cruise, Oleshansky says the Corvette remains the “dominant car on Woodward.”
For the Corvettes on Woodward gathering Oleshansky says, “We’ve finally given them room to accommodate their event.”
Bleachers were being erected near Woodward Avenue. He anticipated up to 25,000 guests for a drag racing exhibition at M1 on Aug. 19.
M1 is expanding quickly, and currently officials are taking reservations for the next phase of its car condos.
Corvette owners and their spit-polished cars were the stars of Corvettes on Woodward. Each paid $10 to enter, with the funds being donated to the food pantries.
Lucille and Dennis Thomas of Southfield chatted with friends before heading out to the infield, the main parking area for the Corvettes.
The Thomases have owned 7 Corvettes over the years, and now they drive a 2014 black Corvette Stingray.
“We bought the first Corvette after the kids left home in 1989,” says Lucille.
Dennis worked for Pontiac Motors for 39 years. The Thomas’ first Corvette was a 1989.
“They ride good,” says Lucille, who wore a red Stingray T-shirt that matched her husband’s.
Corvettes on Woodward had been held at a hotel in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., for years, but the venue could only accommodate 500 cars. So event coordinator Larry Courtney decided it was time to find a bigger space and M1 came to the rescue.
Courtney and volunteers even lined up red, white and blue Corvettes to create a large American flag during the day.
A drone was able to capture the image from the air above the M1 Concourse infield, filled only with Corvettes.
Courtney said Oleshansky and staff were welcoming. “We had a good turnout considering it rained. It’s a perfect venue and we will make it bigger and better every year,” he says.
Out in the infield Mike Reed of Southfield was in attendance with his 2006 yellow Z06 Corvette – his third Corvette. “I always like Corvettes since I was growing up,” says Reed, 56. “I thought they looked like muscles.”
Reed, who works for Chrysler, looked around at the dozens of parked Corvettes in the infield.
“They are all beautiful cars to me,” he says.
A few rows away, Ortonville resident Dennis Pillsbury walked around his 1957 red-and-white Corvette convertible, complete with a supercharged small block engine he built himself.
Pillsbury, a retired vehicle builder from GM’s Truck and Bus division, said a friend of his named the car “Alien” and that is the name that appears on the car’s front license plate. Pillsbury also owns a 1967 Corvette.
“They were perfectly made, the (two) prettiest cars they ever built.”
He said if he doesn’t sell the car, he will give it to his son, Scott.
Because of the car’s age and stick shift, Pillsbury admits the car can be “finicky” to drive. Pillsbury changed the hood so that it opens at the front instead of the back. “People asked me why I did it, and I said, ‘Because I could.’ It came to me in a nightmare,” he jokes.
First-timers to Corvettes on Woodward, Elaine and Steve Meltzer of LaSalle, Mich., drove their 2000 red Corvette convertible to the infield. After Steve, a retired airline captain, had a heart attack in 2007 and subsequent heart transplant, Elaine said the couple purchased the car in Florida after Steve was recuperating.
“It makes him so happy,” says Elaine, a former sales representative. “Steve is generally the car’s driver. It has a six-speed so I don’t drive it that much.”
Steve assessed the new M1 venue. “It’s awesome,” he says, and even drove the Corvette around M1’s new 1.5-mile track.
Rain Didn’t Dampen Spirits
Skies blackened after 3 p.m.at the event, sending some people to a large tent at the event entrance.
Barbara Walsh of Washington Township, Mich., stayed near her 1990 white Corvette. She works in the automotive weather stripping business and maintains her own vehicles. “This is my sixth Corvette,” she says. “This one is a C4 with only 17,519 miles on it.”
After being complimented for her skills, Walsh said she had recently replaced the gears in her headlights in the past week. When she runs into a situation where she needs help she says, “YouTube (how-to video) is great.”
A rare bird among the many younger owners at the event was 20-year-old Carl Rygwelski of Washington Township. He drove past a 1992 white Corvette coupe listed for sale along a road last year and ended up buying it. “I got it for $8,000,” Rygwelski says happily. “It only has 51,000 miles on the odometer. It’s been a dream car for a year.”
He said his father co-signed papers to help him get the car.
“I’d been driving my dad’s old Ford F-150,” Rygwelski says. “The Corvette’s my first car and the coolest thing ever.”
Rygwelski maintains two jobs – working as a videographer and Kroger employee. He’s also a student at Oakland University studying finance.
The new M1 Concourse complex was deemed “pretty sweet” by Rygwelski. “I’m impressed with it.”
Rygwelski was asking owners he met to sign the free Corvette yearbook Larry Courtney distributed to all who brought their cars to the Aug. 17 event.
One site caused many attendees to stop and ask for a photo – the Chesterfield Township man who pulled his tiny miniature Maltese dog Brutus on a wagon. The dog named Brutus serves as the Vietnam veteran’s service dog.
A cloudburst hit at 3:30 p.m., sending many scurrying to that large tent at the entrance. The event DJ cleverly played the Cascades’ 1962 hit, “Rhythm of the Rain,” to lighten the mood.
Inside the tent, Harlan Charles, GM’s Corvette product and marketing manager, chatted with guests. “This is my first time here at M1 and it’s a great facility and a great place to have this event,” he says.
Charles drove a 2017 white Grand Sport Corvette to entice Corvette fans.
He shared that the Corvette division doesn’t have to do much research on how to improve or upgrade the product. “The owners always give us suggestions,” he says. “The Grand Sport is what the customers want.”
He joked that people in the market for a new Corvette should “order early and order often.”
Buyers can purchase the new Grand Sport in Admiral blue, Black rose, Watkins Glen grey or Sterling blue.
Monalee Kubik of Sterling Heights, Mich., came to the event with husband John Kubik. She was looking forward to the Corvettes on Woodward caravan to deliver the donated food and funds to Open Hands Food Pantry.
She shared that she has enjoyed riding in the family 1994 red Corvette convertible. “I like the wind in my hair,” she says, moving her head to simulate the feeling. “It’s a fun ride, and fun to meet people who are new to Corvettes.”
After the rain let up at the event, people ventured back outside.
Tom Fielitz, a writer with Vette Vues, admitted he left his Corvette at home because of the chance of storms.
“I’m impressed with how brave people are to come out in the rain,” he says. “But when Corvette people get together, everyone is smiling.”
Rain lasted less than 30 minutes during the Corvettes on Woodward gathering of more than 600 Corvettes.
Wearing a striking long dress, turquoise necklace and sun hat, Rosie Richardson of Pontiac walked near her sleek black 2016 Corvette, which she purchased this summer.
The car was a present for herself. Once her children completed college, she says, it was “Mommy time.”
In early August, she convinced her childhood girl friend to hit the road with the new car. “We went for a week and two days down to South Carolina, just stopping wherever we wanted along the way. The car handled so well. It was so cool,” said Richardson, chair of the Pontiac Library Board. “I enjoyed every bit of it.”
Tom and Joan Psillas of Milford stayed near their two Corvettes. Joan sat in her 2002 convertible coupe, and Tom hovered near his 1961 beauty.
“I love the car’s peppiness, rarity and it’s style,” says Tom of his 1961 wheels. “It’s just outstanding.”
The car, equipped with a plate that read “It’s A61,” stood out in Honduras maroon with Ermine white coves.
“It was the first year Corvettes had dual tail lights,” says Tom.
Joan’s plate read “O YESSS.”
Joan loves driving in the 2002, says Tom. “She found out Corvettes have air conditioning,” he says, laughing. Joan adds, “And mine has lumbar support.”
Money Donated Goes To Help The Hungry
The majority of funds and non-perishable food donated at the event went to St. John Episcopal’s Open Hands Food Pantry. Three representatives watched the proceedings as the food was transferred from the Matick Chevy van.
“Everything goes directly to our clients,” says Bruce Donigan, chair of Open Hands. Chuck Tucker and Pete Baird assisted him.
Created in 1984, the pantry, which is open two days a week, serves 14,000 people every year, says Donigan.
For every dollar raised, organizers can purchase 10 pounds of food.
“Unfortunately, the need is growing,” Donigan says. “We’re seeing more families.”