Skip Hartlerode’s neighbor walked over to his house in 2008 with an intriguing invitation.
“I know a car you would look great in,” the neighbor said.
Curious, Skip decided to take a look.
The car turned out to be a 1994 Arctic white Corvette — and the neighbor was right.
Hartlerode bought the ‘Vette, enjoyed it for years and now drives a 2008 pumpkin-orange Corvette.
That unique car and 120 others will be on display July 23 at the Matick Chevy-sponsored North Oakland Corvette Club’s 4th annual Corvette Generations Car Show in downtown Birmingham, Mich.
The show, free to the public, takes place along a quarter-mile stretch of South Old Woodward in front of the Birmingham 8 Theater and its classic marquee. Several main streets are closed to vehicle traffic during the event.
Skip, a North Oaks Corvette Club member for years, oversees the show with co-chair Sue Miller.
The event, which runs from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, began six years ago with a group of Corvette owners during Birmingham’s “Day on the Town” event.
Four years ago, the North Oaks Corvette Club committed to attending the show.
During the event, regarded as the city's biggest shopping day of the year, local merchants offer sidewalk sales, music on three stages, restaurant deals and other giveaways. The Birmingham Principal Shopping District sponsors the event.
"Our Day On The Town was a great success again last year and the car show was a big part of the event. Sales at our stores and restaurants were strong throughout the day. It was great to see all of the Corvettes and their owners enjoying the celebration!" says John Heiney, head of the Birmingham Principal Shopping District.
The Corvette classics on display will date back to the 1960s and vehicles from each generation from C1 to C7 should be on display.
“All kinds of things go on that day,” says Skip, a retired Bayer AG employee from Macomb, Mich.
“Our show is entwined with what the (merchants) are doing.”
The North Oaks Corvette Club consists of 52 active members. “We’re like a family,” he says.
North Oaks club members have to fulfill club requirements, including having to attend three meetings and come to three of the club’s annual events, such as one of the dinner cruises or Birmingham car show.
The friendly car club members will raise money during the day with more than 50 door prizes. Part of the proceeds go to the Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition, a non-profit group that works in drug and alcohol abuse prevention among teens.
Skip says many of the car owners, their wives and girlfriends enjoy this outing because they can grab lunch in town and shop for bargains.
“It’s fun for the whole family,” he says.
The car owners vie for best of show trophies, chosen by participants attending the big Birmingham Day on the Town event.
Racecar driver Danny Kellermeyer may have a racing Corvette on site.
“We would like to have even more Corvettes at the show and park them on the next street over,” says Skip.
That Arctic white Corvette started it all for Skip, who had never owned a Corvette until he bought his 1994 beauty.
“It had a damage title because it had been driven into a lake 15 years before,” he says.
The man Skip purchased the car from worked as a mechanic and bought it “for peanuts,” he explains.
The mechanic tore the car apart over three years, totally revamping the car. He drove it 10 years.
“I offered a ridiculously low amount and he took it.”
“I never had problems with it and won eight or 10 awards with it.”
Then in 2012, Skip placed a “For Sale” sign on his Corvette at a classic car show at Bakers of Milford, Mich.
Minutes later, a man stopped by, looked at the Corvette and bought the car the next day.
But Skip still wanted a Corvette.
“I always wanted a later model,” he says.
“And I didn’t want a car like everybody else’s. Most people have red or yellow Corvettes and I wanted a Daytona sunset orange or atomic orange Corvette.”
He looked online in 2012 and found a 2005 orange Corvette in Ohio. He drove down and bought it.
“Once you have one, you realize what a tremendous value they are for the money,” he says, adding that he has owned all varieties of vehicles in his lifetime, including a BMW.
“When you get one, you feel different. Everybody talks to you. You can go to car shows, and always meet someone who has one. They’re a lot of fun to drive, a great road car. And the C6s and C7s ride like Cadillacs.”
He says his orange ‘Vette is not a “garage queen.”
“My wife and I put 5,000 miles on it in the summer.”
The car even has a personality.
A North Oaks member once joked that the car looked like a big pumpkin and started calling it the “Evil Pumpkin,” Hartlerode recalls.
He decided to work with that image and found a Kentucky-based artist draw a pumpkin on the car’s hood blanket on the underside of the hood.
“The pumpkin has the Corvette logo as its eyes,” he says.
In August, 2014, while taking part in the National Corvette Caravan, a tractor turned into the Pumpkin, tearing up the car – and Skip.
He’s endured several surgeries, he says.
Matick Chevy took possession of the damaged car and fixed it, he says.
“The people there are just wonderful,” the Corvette lover says.
After a year of repairs, both owner and driver were back on the road in June.
Skip hopes people will come out to the Birmingham show.
“They'll see pristine Corvettes in all colors,” he says.
Owners will talk about their cars with the passersby, rain or shine.
“It’s a big deal, one of the premier events in the city, and I’m excited for another year of the show,” he says.
Visit the North Oaks Corvette Club's website to register. NOTE: Scroll down the entire page.
All blog photos by Robert Brodbeck.