A love of vintage cars has driven several locals to join the National Corvette Restorers Society
By Katherine Coplen
»In 1974, Franklin resident John Waggoner saw a small advertisement in the daily newspaper for a National Corvette Restorers Society meet-up in St. Louis. The idea sounded fun, so he and his wife, Jennifer, and daughters, Jennifer and Amanda, climbed into Waggoner’s Corvette — a 1962 Honduras Maroon he had purchased in 1970 — and headed west.
Thus began Waggoner’s participation in NCRS, a membership that now has spanned more than 40 years.
The NCRS is dedicated to the preservation, restoration and enjoyment of older Corvettes, typically models from 1953 to 2006, Waggoner explains. “Our focus is on restoring the cars back to the way that they were when they came out of the factory.”
The group was in its inaugural year when Waggoner joined. A fuller recounting of the club’s history, including its growth out of another organization called the Classic Corvette Club, is available on NCRS.org. The organization has since grown to include 43 chapters from New Zealand to the United Kingdom and all across the United States. Indiana’s chapter boasts approximately 60 members. Individual chapters host yearly judging meets, seven regional meets and a national annual convention.
Judging cars is a major focus of the club. “We judge the cars very differently than most organizations do in that we’re looking for them to be as original as absolutely possible,” Waggoner says. “When you judge a Corvette at an NCRS meet, the judging process is from eight to 10 man hours of judging. You have five teams of two judges each. They judge different areas: interior, exterior, mechanical, chassis and operations. It’s very in-depth.”
The society’s constant focus on improving judging techniques makes it unique among car clubs. “The chapters will also hold judging schools, where we’ll all get together and somebody will present some portion of the judging process,” Waggoner says. “Maybe we’ll go through how to find part numbers on cars; maybe we’re going to look at paint. How do you determine if paint is original, or if it looks like a later paint has been applied? Is it an original color; has it been changed?”
What Waggoner has learned from NCRS, he has integrated back into his own Corvette. “When I found out about NCRS, I got interested in restoring it (his car) back to as original as possible,” he says. “It needed a paint job and an engine refresh. I did those things, cleaned it up. When I had it painted, I took every piece of chrome off the car, sanded it down to bare fiberglass and then had it painted from there. I put a new top on it. Ever since then I just try to keep it up. Whenever anything breaks, I try to put back as original a part as I can possibly find.”
Waggoner takes his restored Corvette out on chapter road tours and also participates in road tours to the national convention.
“Four years ago, we took the road tour to San Diego,” he says. “It took nine days. We make a lot of stops and visit different points of interest along the way. We basically try to stay off the interstates and take state highways and whatever. When they organize these road tours, a tremendous amount of work goes into organizing them, to find all the interesting things to see, then try to map a path so you can get to all of them.”
Mooresville’s Fred Neitzel got involved with NCRS in 1982 when he purchased a 1962 Corvette that needed restoration. “I had heard that NCRS was the place to get the information I needed,” he says. Neitzel presently owns three Corvettes: a 1977, a 1990 convertible and a 1999 convertible.
He describes membership in the group as fun. But it takes work, too. “NCRS chapters do socialize, but our main purpose is having what we call meets, where we judge our members’ cars,” he explains. “Social clubs around these parts have car shows where they do wash and shine judging but not to the degree that NCRS does. It can take hours for one NCRS team to judge a Corvette.”
Fred Wolfred of Greenwood became involved with NCRS in 1982. He had recently purchased a 1967 roadster and wanted to learn more about Corvettes. “I wanted information about originality because modifications abound in the Corvette business,” Wolfred explains. “I have learned to appreciate the help of determining originality that comes with an NCRS membership.”
Joining the club has helped Wolfred in other ways, too. “A couple years ago, I had an interest in purchasing a car in Florida,” he says. “Using the membership directory, I was able to discuss the vehicle with an NCRS member in Florida. He offered to review the car and send pictures of a car two hours from his home. This act speaks to people helping people and the underlying passion of the NCRS membership team.”
Shelbyville’s Ralph Kramer isn’t a member of NCRS, but he has been involved in the club since he was public relations director for Chevrolet more than 20 years ago.
“I think of John [Waggoner] and thousands of Corvette aficionados like him as angels,” Kramer says. “Expecting little in return, they nurture and protect their cars and their Corvette relationships with a near religious fervor. If you’re in the business of making and selling Corvettes, as Chevrolet is, they (club members) are priceless allies.”
Thanks to the efforts of NCRS club members, the history of this beloved car is now preserved. Kramer says NCRS officers preserved many years’ worth of Corvette memorabilia and paperwork, facilitating the creation of the National Corvette Museum in the early ’90s in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Ask any NCRS member to explain the allure of the Corvette, and you’ll come away with a multitude of answers. For Waggoner, the Corvette is “the only American sports car,” he says. “They’ve (the cars) always combined both good styling and, in later years, engineering enhancements. A lot of things you’ve got on your four-door sedan first came out on a Corvette.”
For more information on the local chapter of NCRS, visit ncrs.org/in.