At first blush, you might think a pink Corvette would be a Barbie version. Or maybe an award for a top seller of Mary Kay cosmetics. (And obviously someone with a penchant for performance, since a pink Cadillac is a bit more typical.) Then there’s Angelyne, a surgically enhanced SoCal celebrity of questionable talent whose main claim to fame is her bright pink Corvette.
Whatever your mental association with that luscious hue, it obviously stands out from the more common red Corvettes (and just about any other color you might prefer). At least that was our reaction when we first spotted it at Mid America Motorworks’ annual Corvette Funfest.
The first question that comes to mind, of course, is why did the Thompson’s pick out pink? Was it some sort of publicity stunt, along the likes of Angelyne’s bombastic billboard campaign? Hardly. There’s actually a deeper, more meaningful backstory here, with a rosy ending for a worthy charity. First, though, a bit of Tina’s story:
Tina Thompson: “I saw my first Corvette when I was 17 and fell in love, I decided that I was going to own one someday.”
Corvette Online: “Well, fair enough, as that’s a familiar tale for many Corvette enthusiasts. But why such an unusual hue?”
TT: “When I stared thinking about what I wanted I just knew I wanted something no one else had, but I wanted to keep it tasteful and just change the color, something that said ‘woman’.”
CO: Macho Corvette guys might not call this color scheme “tasteful”—but to each their own. After all, it’s her car, and she can express her creativity anyway she wants, as so many Corvette owners have over the years. “So we understand you both were already seasoned Corvette owners with some street cred when you started discussing this project?”
TT: “I had two C3s and originally we were going to paint one of them,” she recalls. “My husband knew I loved the C5 so he said, ‘Why don’t we look for a light-colored C5 and paint it pink?’”
After all, just because a Corvette project is “pretty in pink” doesn’t mean you can’t be practical about it, right? After test driving a C5, they found a one-owner ’98 convertible with low miles in Nashville back in 2009, so they promptly sold the two C3s. The seller probably didn’t know that his Corvette would soon be the same color as the pink slip he signed away.
But not so fast. It wasn’t a matter of simply slathering on Tina’s favorite shade of lipstick. Truth be told, Tim did have some reservations about the whole idea. Even so, every good husband knows the old saying, “Happy wife—happy life.” But he also had some personal tweaks in mind, to give it another level of personalization, one that would ultimately lead to some surprising results.
He had the skills to make that happen, since his hobby was restoring and customizing old cars in their home garage. While he runs a saw mill by day, Tim considers himself a serious car builder with a nearly professional-grade shop.
“My husband didn’t really want to paint a car pink,” Tina admits, “But that is what I wanted, so he started experimenting with different paint applications and let me pick the one I liked best.”
After several missteps spraying test panels with white and red pearls on top, Tim picked out five shades of pink and four different pearls. He then painstakingly painted 20 different sample combinations from them. After viewing them all in the sun, Tina decided on one in particular. Not just your basic coral color, but one with a distinctive, sparkling pearlescent sheen.
They then put the car in the garage and started tearing it down that weekend. Over the next six months Tina and Tim spent four nights a week and all weekend in the garage. They removed the entire body from the car (except for the rocker panels which are bonded to the frame). Tina hand-sanded each panel, and then each body part received three coats of PPG pale pink, three coats of House of Kolor red ice pearl, and then three coats of PPG 2021 clear on both sides and edges. Lastly, each part was color sanded and buffed to a show finish before reinstalling.
Under the hood, the smoothed coil covers and tank covers were painted to match the body. But not every piece received the same color. A stainless plenum cover was installed along with some stainless fluid caps. The battery cover was painted semigloss black to mute out that area, along with all fasteners as well. In addition, for some subtle finishing touches, Tim created a custom under-hood liner with an embroidered C5 logo and color-matched oval. This same design was added to a custom trunk lid liner. Custom floor mats were also stitched up with the same custom C5 logo.
For the interior, Tim and Tina ordered an entire pink cowhide from Italy, plus a full hide in Corvette black. The seats were sent to a local upholstery shop and recovered with the custom pink/black pattern. Tina removed other interior components and used them as a pattern for new pink/black ones. The steering wheel was sent to Houston steering wheel for a custom pink and black leather wrap.
The wheels were replaced with a chrome set of Z06 wheels, wrapped with Continental DWS sport tires. Brake rotors were upgraded with drilled and slotted ones, along with ceramic pads, and the calipers coated with a matching pink high-temp epoxy paint. The car was finally completed February 2010, after six months of time and effort.
“I cried when he finished it,” Tina Thompson said. “It truly was a labor of love. It is just beautiful.”
After being shown to the public for the first time that same month at the Carl Casper custom auto show in Louisville, Kentucky, the reaction from the public was unbelievable. That weekend the car took on a life of its own. By the end of the three-day event, they had invitations from ISCA promoters in five different states to display the car in their shows and requests from a dozen breast-cancer groups wanting the car to attend fund-raising events.
Maybe Tina and Tim had been wearing rose-colored glasses, because they didn’t realize how much attention the car would get just because it was pink. “That first show we were on the end of the aisle,” Tim recalls.
“I would watch people for their reactions. Groups of guys about 100 feet away would spot the car. One would point and you see them all have a laugh. You could tell one of them said, ‘What crazy person would paint a Corvette pink?!’ Then as they got beside the car and were just going to walk on by, the ice pearl would catch them. That same group that was having a laugh now all had their cameras out to take photos!”
Tina noticed similar responses: “Everywhere we have gone people have reacted very favorably to what we have done,” she claims. But what about all those macho Corvette owners who insist on a more masculine look for their rides? “I have been told that the Corvette is a man’s sports car,” Tina acknowledges. “But I will have to say she isn’t.”
Also, when a charity angle entered the picture, it gave this pink project a much larger purpose and more serious impact. “While we were customizing the car into the creation I really wanted, I had two aunts diagnosed with breast cancer. So I put breast-cancer awareness license plates on the car for them.”
Fortunately, both aunts are cancer survivors today. But the charity efforts continue on. Since that first show in Kentucky where the car debuted, the Thompson’s Corvette has been used at breast cancer awareness and fund-raising events in four different states. Images of the car have been used on flyers and T-shirts, and the car was used in a breast cancer awareness video filmed by the Veterans Administration. With a “Driving for the Cure” license plate, the Thompsons often appear at Relay for Life events around the area to draw attention to the need to raise more money for breast-cancer research. Tina mentioned, “It is an honor for me to give support and honor all women who have or has had breast cancer.”
How have other dyed-in-the-wool Corvette enthusiasts responded to this pink project? Well, Robert Parcell, plant manager of the Corvette Assembly Plant in Bowling Green, had this to say at an event where the car made an appearance with a number of other Corvettes.
“I thought I was a fan, but these people are real fans,” he observed. “This is my first homecoming and I think it’s fantastic,” Parcell added, as he eyed the Thompsons’ pink pearlescent Corvette. As a celebrity judge, he said the pink really drew in him and his wife, Jean, who just happened to be wearing a pink shirt. But it’s the little girls, who might have a pink Corvette for their Barbies, who marvel at the car, Tina Thompson points out.
Tim Thompson says the car is a photo magnet wherever it appears. “Most people say they really love it,” he says. “Even the guys come up and say they really love the color.” The DIY approach of Pink Ice inspires others to try working on their own cars. One of the most typical questions they get is, “Who painted the car for you?”
“When we explain that we did at our home,” Tim says, “You can see their eyes light up and they begin to ask questions about the process and leave with a can-do attitude about their car. As a result, when we return to certain shows each year those same people show us things they have done on their cars over the past year.”`
The car has also opened doors for Tim to fulfill a longtime dream. Growing up in the ’60s, he says this time was the heyday of custom car culture, creating such memorable rides as George Barris’ Batmobile, the Munsters Koach, Big Daddy Roth’s Beatnick Bandit, and Carl Casper’s Ghost. These cars, along with tons of Hot Wheels and models designed by Tom Daniels, fueled his desire to someday build his own custom cars.
Pink Ice opened that door, but not just to travel and show the car in many different venues. In 2010, while attending the Mid America Corvette Funfest for the first time, George Barris pulled up on a golf cart and picked the Thompsons’ pink Corvette for a Celebrity Choice award. Not only that, George spent almost an hour with Tim going over the car in great detail. “George Barris was down to earth and enjoyed talking about how we did the work in our home garage,” Tim notes.
“He was very complimentary of how we flowed the pink through the interior and engine bay without overdoing it.” Since that experience, Tim has been able to spend time with many more of the early custom car builders, along with some of the newer builders on the scene today.
All told, what started out to just be a unique homemade weekend driver has created such a reaction from the public. Just a stop to get gas can turn into a mini car show with people wanting to get their photo taken with the car and occasionally a story from someone’s life touched by breast cancer.
Over the past five years the car has been shown at close to 50 major car shows in eight different states–but it’s no trailer queen, the car is driven regularly. Tina has put 25,000 miles on it over the past five years, and that’s not only to drive for a cure but to keep her Corvette in the pink of condition.