For folks who have never been to the Golden State, the idea of California sometimes plays out better in theory than in reality. One trip through Los Angeles or Sacramento will douse any sunny notions of The Beach Boys, palm trees, and the “Promised Land” quicker than you can say “gnarly, bro,” or “which way to the freeway?”
Maybe the vast parts in between is where the California dream is hiding these days. North San Diego County in SoCal is about as close to a West Coast paradise as it gets, with areas like San Diego, Oceanside, and Carlsbad embodying everything great about California — minus the ills that seem to trouble nearby urban areas.
SoCal folks love their Corvettes too, so when you combine our favorite car with one of the most beautiful areas in the U.S., it’s a combo that is about as good as it gets. The North County Corvette Club (NCOCC) hosted it’s 39th Plastic Fantastic car show at the beautiful Embarcadero Park on San Diego Bay, and even though it was overcast in the morning, what a sparkling backdrop it was for the very best examples of America’s sportscars in the Southwest.
The park features two man-made peninsulas that shield the neighboring marina from unruly waves and is right next door to Seaport Village, a quaint collection of little shops just east of the park. Rumor has its days are numbered and developers are circling this waterfront parcel as a site for condo development. Oh well, that’s “progress” for you.
But Corvettes were the order of the day, so here’s the backstory. We talked with Rick Toomey, NCOCC president, who rolled out the red carpet for us when we visited. It was really nice to have him show us around and introduce us to some members with killer Corvettes. Rick told us, “North County Corvette Club has been around since 1974, has roughly 50 members/families, and holds many events and get-togethers for members and Corvette fans throughout the year. We are a social club with a love and appreciation for America’s greatest sportscar, the Corvette. We host the largest all-Corvette car shows on the West Coast.”
“Along with hosting Plastic Fantastic each year, we enjoy a wide variety of other activities involving Corvettes including attending car shows, going on cruises (the kind with cars not ships), having picnics and dinners, doing winery tours, having poker runs, and of course an annual Christmas Party, to name a few,” he continued. “Our members also support a wide variety of local community activities and charities like Wounded Warriors and San Diego USO.” They also partner with Bob Stall Chevrolet a local dealer in San Diego.
At least 425 cars were registered for the show and it seemed like most turned up. Everywhere you looked there was slinky, candy-coated fiberglass, and gleaming hardware. Swoon. With so many cars at the event, it was hard to pick our favorites, but three stood out to us as extra nice.
1971 Corvette Coupe: Dave And Karen Baker
Dave and Karen Baker from Escondido, California brought their very nice 1971 Corvette coupe in Steel Cities Gray and walked off with First Place in C3 class and Best of Show. We knew something was special about this car when it drove in. It was laser straight, immaculately clean, and extremely well presented.
Baker recounts the story of this Corvette — a classic “one that got away” story with a happy ending. Dave told us he purchased an identical coupe brand new in 1971 but sold the car just a year later because “my wife and I were expecting our second son.”
As the years and other Corvettes passed by, the 1971 still lingered in Dave’s mind. When the family serendipitously located a similar car near Bowling Green, Kentucky the bug bit again. This car had been repossessed and bounced around between several lawyers before it changed hands to the Baker’s. Dave says it was in pretty much the condition it is today with few non-stock items, like the big-block hood and LT1 pinstriping. We say kudos for bringing it to the show and for shepherding the car into the limelight for all to enjoy.
1957 Restomod Corvette: Jim Nielsen
Next up, Jim Nielsen from San Clemente, California brought his killer 1957 restomod Corvette and wowed us with the meticulous build and great combination of old school cool and new age mechanicals. Formerly a drag car from Hawaii, Jim bought the dilapidated C1 in 2001 and spent the better part of five years bringing the car to the condition we see now.
A trailblazer in the early days of the restomod movement, Jim worked closely with famed chassis designer Paul Newman to construct a modern foundation that would accept C4 suspension bits and the old ’57 body. The car was just a tired old frame and body when found, so before anyone squawks that a ’57 shouldn’t be cut up, know that Jim saved the car from oblivion. He did a lot of the work himself, so this was truly a labor of love. The old saying “new lease on life” absolutely applies here.
With the chassis sorted out, Jim found an LS1 and six-speed manual transmission out of a wrecked 1998 Camaro and went to work creating a new home for it in his ’57. Many custom tweaks were needed to make the motor fit, but he got everything plumbed, running and up to snuff.
Jim did a lot of the work on the car and recounted what it took to bring the car to where it is today, “The body was in pretty rough shape with radiused wheelwells and major stress cracks from hard use as a drag car. I drilled out all the stress cracks and laid down fiberglass mat over the entire car, including doors, trunk lid and hood, and then cut new openings with tight tolerances and gaps.” This really paid off as body and paint are super straight and look better than any factory ’57 ever did.
Sometimes, one detail on a car will make or break it and Jim’s ’57 is no exception. Instead of custom wheels, he went with steelies and ’57 Biscayne dog dish caps that takes the car to another level. The wide track and beefy wheels, courtesy of the muscular new chassis, give the car a killer stance. He really hit the bullseye, here.
Jim also added rally lights to the front end to give the car a skosh of a vintage racer look to it, but other than that the car appears stock with a hint of steroids. We loved it. Look for a deep drill down on this incredible ‘Vette soon in Corvette Online.
1979 Shark Coupe: Dan Moore
Last but not least was Dan Moore’s fresh 1979 Coupe. Dan and his girlfriend, Pam, were looking for a Corvette and found the red on red beater coupe and decided to visit the seller to take it for a test drive. While underway, Dan punched it and literally blew the exhaust system off. Undeterred, Pam cooed, “I want it …”
They bought it for $3,000 and the rest is history.
Fourteen years later, a color change to burgundy and a black interior rethink, the car is fresh, clean, and a great example of what you can do with a rubber bumper shark. Dan did most of the work himself, and you can tell he took his time to lovingly nurse the old Shark back to life.
The detail that really impressed us was the fit and finish of the rubber bumpers. Dan used Flexiglass bumpers (straying from stock a little bit with the updated 1980-’82 style rear bumper) and took his time sanding and massaging them to fit. Anyone who has had to replace rotting urethane bumpers knows what a pain in the rear it is! To get a replacement bumper cap to fit an old fiberglass body that’s been curing for the last 40 years is no easy task. Look again at the meticulous work that Dan pulled off.
Random Observations From The Show
- New Corvette sales are healthy. There were dozens of C7s at the show with a surprising number of brand new Z06s, many with temporary licenses.
- C5s and C6s turned up everywhere and were lovingly detailed and presented.
- Old school Corvettes were present and accounted for, but clearly in smaller in numbers compared to late model ‘Vettes.
- NCOCC is well organized and pulled off a great show. NCOCC members were very friendly and loved to talk about their ‘Vettes.
- Earth to C4, do you copy?
We want to say thank-you, to Rick Toomey and the gang at NCOCC. We’re looking forward to next year’s milestone of the 40th Plastic Fantastic.
For those folks searching for “California Dreamin'” like you’ve heard about in pop music (even though Mama Cass is long gone,) add Plastic Fantastic 2017 to your ‘Vette bucket list.
Go here for a list of all the winners