Matick Chevy Detroit Grand Prix Corvette Caravan 2019.
A rainbow of shiny Corvettes lined up at the main entrance of George Matick Chevrolet in metro Detroit early on June 1 means only one thing — time for the annual Detroit Grand Prix Corvette Caravan Experience.
Matick Automotive Group Sales Director Paul Zimmermann said 130 Corvette owners purchased Matick-discounted ticket packages for two to attend the event, which every year includes a delicious starter’s breakfast at the Redford Township dealership, a police-escorted caravan to Detroit’s Belle Isle racetrack and a day of Grand Prix racing and activities on the island.
Matick Sales Director Paul Zimmermann greets the crowd of more than 250 Corvette lovers.
“This is our eighth annual caravan, and our seventh Corvette Caravan,” he said, adding that for the first event owners with any type of car were invited to participate.
“It’s always a great event when you see all these Corvettes together,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite days of the year.”
There were many first-time attendees, including Deborah East and Deborah Raines, both Corvette owners from Detroit.
Raines admitted being excited “because maybe we can drive the track at the end,” she said. The Matick experience allowed 100 ticket-holders to take hot laps around the track, weather permitting, at the end of the race day.
Deborah East and Deborah Raines loved the event.
Event participant Steve Farinola of Lake Orion walked into the dealership with his father, Lou Farinola of West Bloomfield.
Lou, a repeat Caravan attendee, shared why he keeps coming back. “The breakfast, the cars, the seats at the track. What’s not to like?”
Fred Gallasch and Bob Stoler share a long history of enjoying Corvette adventures.
Corvette Hall of Fame inductee Fred Gallasch of Franklin was headed to the breakfast bar with friend Bob Stoler of Farmington Hills.
“We’re very good buddies,” said Stoler, “And we’ve always loved Corvettes.”
Gallasch, former assistant brand manager with Corvette, currently owns six of the sleek cars.
“I’ve liked Corvettes since 1975,” he said.
Stoler said his parents took him to Detroit’s GM building when he was around 13 or 14 years old. “I got into a Corvette and my feet hit the pedals and I knew right then I was going to own a Corvette,” he recalled. "I have a Z06 now. I just like that car, and now I’m eager to see the C8.”
Attending for the third year, Bradley Cochran of Redford Township sat observing the large crowd after breakfast with his niece, Britney Pearson, also of Redford.
Cochran said family members got him hooked on attending the Matick Corvette Caravan. He especially loves the Corvette rally heading from the dealership to the Grand Prix.
“The Matick team makes it easy for the Corvette drivers to get in and out of the parking lot, and then we go single-file down to Belle Isle on the expressway. You’ll see people stop on the ramps on the way down and take video of us as we drive by.”
Guests roll out to experience the Detroit Grand Prix Corvette Caravan.
He also gets a kick out of driving the track after the Saturday races. “You can’t pass, but you’re still moving pretty good,” especially around the turns.
If there was a prize for coming the longest distance to the caravan, Stephanie and Wayne Knight of St. Louis, Missouri, would have won the award. “I searched online for various Corvette club activities and we were linked to this event,” said Wayne.
Stephanie noted the couple came into town Thursday night. “We were looking forward to the whole experience,” adds Wayne.
Max and Linda Moore of Milford drove their 2015 Z06 to Matick Chevy. “It’s our second time here,” he said. “I love the cars and the people. I’m a racing nut. Really enjoy the camaraderie of the Corvette people.”
Matick Chevy's Alan Johnson provided last-minute details on the rally to Belle Isle.
Alan Johnson, Matick Performance Vehicle Sales Manager, scanned the crowd as time neared to leave and said the event is “as exciting as it ever has been. I look forward to spending time on Belle Isle and being with the Corvette family.” He expected the day to end around 7 p.m.
Kevin and Janice Moir of Northville drove their 2018 Admiral Blue Corvette Stingray to the Redford dealership. “We bought the car last year. I did the racing school at Spring Mountain, Nevada. It was all Corvettes. That’s a great event.”
Janice loved the social gathering with all the other owners. “It’s fun driving with a big group of people,” she said.
Some attendees knew each other from previous Corvette caravan events. Chuck and Renee Dardas of Rochester shared stories with Tom and Cindy Stroup of Northville.
The Dardases drove their 2017 Grand Sport Coupe on Saturday. Chuck’s company builds the Corvette frame, he said. “I’m a big racing fan,” he beamed.
Guests enjoy the Matick Chevy Corvette Caravan Experience, which began inside the dealership's huge indoor showroom, a large space that normally features some 100 performance vehicles.
Tom Stroup admitted he crashed a 2000 Corvette convertible last year at the Waterford Hills race track. So he went out and bought a 2007 Corvette.
“My wife said if I mess up this one, I’m going to be driving a Yugo.” That made others at the table laugh.
Troy resident Juan Gutierrez, who works with Corvettes at GM, was sitting with his friend Ryan Smith of Royal Oak. Gutierrez said a friend told him about the Caravan. Smith said he was happy to be at the event. “Corvettes are my dream car,” he said.
Explaining this was their first Caravan, Chelsie and Veronica Cruz of West Bloomfield drove their 2018 Stingray convertible. Veronica was anticipating the “overall experience, checking out all the other cars and meeting new people.”
Chelsie was “excited about the cars and the racing. I love cars. It will be cool to ride down to Detroit with the other Corvettes.”
Erving Felder of Eastpointe was chatting with friend Willie Cheatham of Detroit, who drove his 2007 red Corvette convertible, which he purchased at Matick Chevrolet.
“I was a supervisor at Chrysler and I’m enjoying my retirement,” says Cheatham. “Today I’ll be enjoying myself and having a good time with all the other people here.”
Barry and Jan Griffith joined the caravan from Ontario.
Barry and Jan Griffith journeyed to the event from St. Thomas, Ontario, about a three-hour drive, and they stayed over in Livonia. “We’re driving a 2015 Z51 and we’re newbies to the caravan,” said Jan. “I’m just going to take everything in today.”
Barry added that he wanted to see the Indy drivers signing autographs.
Performance car collector Ken Lingenfelter chatted with members of the Competition Corvette Club of Michigan – Rod Grimes of Clinton Township, Mike Cook of Livonia and Wayne Little.
Competition Corvette Club members (left to right) Rod Grimes, Mike Cook and Wayne Little with car collector Ken Lingenfelter (light shirt).
Little explained how he enjoys the camaraderie at the caravan. “We all get along. When you have a Corvette, you are a part of a family.”
Lingenfelter, whose collection is in Brighton, drove his 2019 ZR1 on Saturday. “I come every year,” he said.
After breakfast, Matick’s Zimmermann welcomed the crowd and Johnson explained last-minute caravan details. Then attendees headed outside into the 70-degree sunshine to get into their Corvettes.
The vehicles’ colors ran the gamut — from navy blue to yellow to maroon.
The Matick Chevy Detroit Grand Prix Corvette Caravan 2019 line-up.
On Telegraph Road in front of the dealership, people could see the flashing lights of the police escort.
Polly and Bob Girkin of New Hudson climbed into their 2001 red Corvette. “I think we’ve only missed one of these (caravans),” he said. “I’m looking forward to no rain!”
Engines rumbled to life. Matick staff waved cars out onto the main road, urging drivers to “Have a great time!”