One of the joys of living in Southern California is being within reach of a multitude of different landscapes. For example, where we’re based (here in Temecula Valley), we’re sandwiched between the coast, a range of mountains, and several deserts.
This makes for near endless opportunities in the world of motorsports and cathartic driving – cruises up the coast could be had every weekend, adrenaline-fueled mountain-runs are less than an hour away and escapes to the desert with a trailer full of toys are common practice. And, thanks to the affluent commercial hubs like Los Angeles, San Diego and many of the beach cities, there’s no shortage of well-to-do enthusiasts and their automotive eye candy for us to gawk at.
These are some of the reasons that California is widely considered to be one of the centers of car culture in the United States – which, of course, is fantastic news for us. We’re never lacking any sort of auto expositions, show ‘n shines or track events to satisfy our gearhead cravings.
So, seeing as how it had been a while since we last treated ourselves to a Corvette show, we took a drive up Big Bear Mountain to meet up with the Corvettes West club for their annual Big Bear Bash. Brought together by six diehard enthusiasts back in 1974, Corvettes West is a ‘Vette-exclusive club totaling over 100 members and 42 years of action.
The yearly Big Bear Bash, which has been drawing Southern California’s Inland Empire Corvettes for 34 years now, is not only the club’s premier event, but is also what it claims to be the largest all-Corvette gathering in the Western US. While it’s not quite the size of Corvettes at Carlisle over in Pennsylvania, or of a less-exclusive Goodguys event, the Big Bear Bash makes for an intimate but nonetheless spectacular gathering in an unarguably flattering landscape.
The event is a weekend long get-together broken into three days of activities: on Friday, a scavenger-hunt-like “Horseshoe Rallye” and laid-back show n’ shine; on Saturday, an informal, novice-friendly autocross, a scenic cruise around Big Bear Lake, and an after-cruise dinner and awards presentation; and on Sunday, another adventurous “Poker Rallye” that makes up the whole day.
Wanting to browse all of the Big Bear Bash’s ‘Vettes in one place, we cruised in for the car show on Friday. In our opinion, half the fun of the whole event would be the drive up; simply navigating the windy, highly-technical, hour-long road up the mountain makes the trip worth it.
After all, the biggest crime you can commit to your Corvette is not getting it on the road – America’s sports car was meant to be driven.
Most of the ‘Vettes we encountered gave off some residual engine heat and wore a thin but fresh layer of dust – hinting at the spirited driving they had recently endured. Similarly, as late-comers continued to arrive and settle into their parking spaces, their cars seemed to pant as engine fans worked to temper the V8s, metals ticked as they cooled and contracted, and the smell of hot brakes radiated from each corner.
This, of course, was all too welcome; we were encouraged to see that the ‘Vettes – ranging from low-on-the-totem-pole C4 all the way to Corvette-royalty C6 ZR1 – were put through their paces on their way to the show. To us, this speaks volumes not only about the Corvettes West club in particular, but about the Corvette hobby in general.
Rather than coddling their priceless sports cars, putting them on display as more trailer-queen than road warrior, it was apparent that each ‘Vette owner there was able to truly appreciate and savor their car. After all, the biggest crime you can commit to your Corvette is not getting it on the road – America’s sports car was meant to be driven.
Speaking to the show-goers, we could tell they felt the same way. The informal, easy-going air at the meet made it incredibly easy to get caught up in conversation with a fellow die-hard fan. Diverse hometowns, professions and walks of life distinguished each attendee, but the one thing that was unanimous was a lifelong passion for the Corvette. While we’re certainly fans of large-scale, 1,000-car events and expositions, it’s the enthusiast fellowship at small, intimate shows like Corvettes West’s Big Bear Bash that we have a special appreciation for.
Check out the gallery below to get a closer look at some of the fine rides we encountered.