Our 1953 Commemorative Edition Corvette Story


Juris & Pat Raudins, Hudson, OH


    On a lazy Saturday morning, July 21, 2001, my wife and I were enjoying a cup of coffee while watching the Today Show.  They had a segment about celebrating the 75th anniversary of Route 66.  Part of the segment consisted of an interview with two gentlemen, with an unusual, white Corvette in the background:

    The interview ended with nothing said about the car! I was beside myself.  When I calmed down, I commented to my wife that maybe GM was "floating" a prototype 50th Anniversary car to get public reaction to it.  I also added, "That's what it should look like."

    For the past nine years, I've been the proud owner of a nice 1972 Corvette convertible, Ontario orange, saddle interior, and chrome bumpers.  Nonetheless, I didn't waste much time in putting my name on two dealer lists for a 50th Anniversary car.  I wasn't going to take any chances of missing out on a car like this.  Little did I know..

    Waiting for the 50th

    Waiting for the 50th Anniversary Corvette was difficult, especially when one starts as early as I did.  Then too, you have to give GM credit for keeping everything under wraps, but why? What was the big secret?

    All the while that I was waiting, I was also searching on the Internet, and telling my Corvette friends about this unusual, '53 look-alike that I had seen on TV.  Months went by, nine to be exact, and my searching still had not yielded any results.  Then, on or about May 17, 2002, I saw an article in Vette-Vues on that '53 look-alike that I had seen on TV the previous summer.  That was all good and well; I learned more about the Commemorative Edition, but not enough.  The article, much like the TV spot, did not point to the source.

    The following week I wrote to the editor of Vette-Vues asking for specifics.  The response was that my inquiry had been forwarded to the writer who had "covered the story." Fortunately for me, that person responded quickly, a few days after Memorial Day, with all the pertinent information -- Advanced Automotive Technologies, and Steve Pasteiner's name and phone number.

    This information was timely, because GM had recently unveiled the 50th Anniversary Corvette..

    ..in time for pacing the Indy 500.  To say that I was disappointed in the 50th Anniversary model would have been a gross understatement.  It was an easy decision to make; call Steve Pasteiner to get all the information about the Commemorative Edition Corvette, and how to get started in making the dream come true.

    On June 6, 2002 I received the brochure and video from AAT.   I decided immediately that I wanted to see the operation first hand, and we made the necessary arrangements with Steve to visit AAT on Monday, June 17.   It is 220 miles from Hudson, Ohio to Rochester Hills, Michigan, and the anxious anticipation of seeing that car in person made the trip seem even longer.  We found the place easily, but were disappointed by the fact that the prototype car had not returned from a weekend car show in Oklahoma.   Nevertheless, Steve gave us the tour and did his best to answer all of our questions.   We also saw three cars in various stages of the "makeover."

    Searching For My Donor Vette

    I liked what I saw and heard at AAT, so the next day, June 18, 2002, I started my search for either a 1998 or a 1999 white Corvette convertible, with automatic transmission, a fair number of options, less than 20,000 miles, and a black top.  (All the original 1953 Corvettes had black tops.) It didn't seem like I was looking for anything unusual, but I was.   For example, in 1999 there were only 622 white convertibles made.   I wonder how many of them were automatic with a black top.

    The local search was fruitless.   Thank God, or is it Al Gore, for the Internet.   I checked my favorite sites every day, sometimes spending two or three hours at a time searching for that perfect car.   When I did find a white convertible, it seemed as though there was always a problem: overpriced, too many miles on it, or it was a 6-speed.

    In the meantime, on July 17, 2002 we visited AAT a second time.   The prototype car was there.   It was nicer than what the brochure or the video depicted.   How could a Corvette person not like it?

    One month of searching had yielded three cars that met most of my criteria:

    1. A '98 in Texas with 11K miles, few options and a white top
    2. A '98 in Florida with 20K miles, average options and an oak top
    3. A '99 in Minnesota, with 17K miles, all the options and a black top

    When I considered all the factors, the 1999 car was head-and-shoulders above the other two and it was not the most expensive.  There was another easy decision to make and I made it; to buy this car on July 21, 2002.

    Pick-up and Drop-off of My Donor Vette

    I bought a one-way ticket on the Greyhound Lines and left for Minneapolis Sunday evening, July 21, 2002.   I was scheduled to arrive in Minneapolis on Monday about 11:00 am, sign the papers and be on my way sometime mid-afternoon.   Not so.  This turned out to be a "trip from hell." The straw that broke the camel's back was when the bus transmission quit in Menomonie, Wisconsin about 70 miles from Minneapolis.   By the time I got to Minneapolis the banks were closed.   This caused me to stay overnight for which Greyhound still refuses to reimburse me.   Tuesday morning, July 23, we signed the papers and I took possession of the white 1999 Vette with 17,765 miles.

    I left Minneapolis about noon.  It was a nice, sunny day, 75 degrees, just right to have the top down.  The drive across Wisconsin was perfect and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the C5 rode and handled.

    The plan was to drive the car from Minneapolis to Rochester Hills, Michigan, drop it off and continue home.   Having taught mathematics for thirty years, I am very familiar with the Euclidean theorem -- "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line." So, in order to execute this plan, I drove from Minneapolis straight across Wisconsin to Manitowoc; 335 miles, easily done in the C5:

    There I boarded the Lake Michigan Carferry (called the Badger) and took the "red-eye" straight across the lake to Ludington, Michigan.   The car ferries that I am familiar with are floating barges that hold about 30 to 40 cars on an open deck and everybody drives his own car on it.   Not the Badger.   This is a former troop transport ship with multiple decks.   It holds about 100 cars in the belly of the ship that the crew load and unload; it has a cafeteria, a bar, a movie theater, state rooms, and sitting rooms with live CNN coverage.   We left Manitowoc about midnight.   It is a four hour trip across the lake, and I was able to nap for about three hours.   The trip was uneventful (but a new experience) and by the time we disembarked at Ludington and unloaded the ferry the first rays of daylight were visible on the horizon.

    I like driving early in the morning and since I had about 250 miles more to go I left the dock immediately.   The drive across the upper part of the Michigan peninsula was nice and relaxing which was in stark contrast to driving I-75 south to the outskirts of Detroit.   Nevertheless I arrived at AAT midmorning.   Since Steve was expecting me, dropping off the car and signing the papers did not take very long; by noon I was ready to start my last leg of this marathon endeavor, the trip home.

    Steve Sr.  ruled out any and all thoughts of me going home on the Greyhound bus! We drove to a car rental agency nearby and learned that renting cars for one-way trips was not possible because of 9/11.   So Steve Sr sacrificed the rest of his day and drove me home.   We talked cars.

    Waiting for Bo (#10)

    When I dropped off my donor Vette, there were two others ahead of me, in various stages of completion, so I knew that I had a little wait ahead of me.  That didn't bother me, because I had already been waiting more than a year for the 50th.

    After signing the agreement with Steve and Steve, I was eager to determine the number of my car.  I must have been the first such nut, because Steve had to "count backwards" to figure out which one I was.  As poetic justice would have it, I was number 10 this was going to be my Bo!

    While I was impatiently waiting, I was asking Steve for photo updates.  Here are some of the typical transformation photos that you will see in all the individual car "histories" they should be self-explanatory:

    I spent most of my "waiting time" going to as many cruise-ins and car shows as possible.  At one of the cruise-ins, someone had a new ZO6 with the hood up.   My eyes were immediately drawn to the bright red engine covers (technically called, fuel rail covers).   When I got home, I emailed Steve and asked if he could order those for me; I thought that they would be a nice extension from the torch red interior to the engine compartment.  I have them, and I think that they add a nice touch to the car.

    As you can see from the photo, I also replaced the accordion air coupler with a smooth, bright red one.

    During my six week wait, Steve and I had many discussions about emblems and/or the word "Corvette" appearing somewhere on the car.  (The original Vette had the word "Chevrolet" scripted on the front fenders.) Finally, I decided to copy Ted's idea and have two 50th belt buckles made into emblems for the front fenders.

    Another idea that I "borrowed" from Ted was his display sign.  I had my modified sign made while my car was in its final stages of completion.  I wanted to "hit the road running" as the saying goes.

    As the finishing touches were being applied to my car, Steve and I decided that it was "born in the USA on 9/9/02." (This is rather eerie since three of our family members have birthdays on 5/5, 7/7, and 11/11.  As a former math teacher, do I believe in numerology? I'll never tell.)

    I didn't want to drive my car home, 200 miles on the Ohio Turnpike behind countless 18-wheelers, so the decision was reached to deliver it.  Steve Sr.  drew the short straw again.

    The Delivery

    The delivery of the Commemorative Edition #10 was set for September 13, 2002; estimated time, about 2 PM.

    This turned out to be one of the longer days of my life.   I was ready at 7AM; that meant I had to endure a seven hour wait.   Two o'clock came and went.   Three o'clock.   At four o'clock, Steve called.  I thought that he had just gotten off the Ohio Turnpike, and needed one or two more directions to my house.   Wrong, Steve had just gotten ON the Ohio Turnpike by Toledo.   That meant two more hours of waiting! Bummer.   (That day of waiting reminded me of some Christmas Eve waiting that I experienced as a youngster.)

    At 6PM, I spotted the truck and trailer slowly making its way around our one-way circle..

    finally, it was here! (Since we live in trees, at 6PM in September, there is not a lot of daylight, hence, some of the pictures may be a little on the dark side.)

    Here's Steve preparing to unload #10!

    ..and here she comes!

    Here's Steve, me and #10:

    No champagne bottle broken across her nose, but..


    Watch this space!

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