(Chicago) – More than 30 years ago, the legendary pop artist Peter Max purchased a collection of classic Corvettes – one each from 1953, the year the iconic sports car was first introduced by Chevrolet, to 1989. He intended to use them as one-of-a-kind canvases, but instead they lay dormant, collecting dust, dirt and debris and falling into disrepair in a series of New York City parking garages for more than a quarter-century.
Now, thanks to the Corvette Heroes, these “Lost Corvettes,” widely considered the “greatest barn find of Corvettes in history,” are being restored, and six of them – ’55, ’56, ’57, ’66, ’67, and ’69 – are being showcased at the Chicago Auto Show Feb. 8-17 at McCormick Place, 2301 S. King Drive. (Please note that the media preview days are Feb. 6-7).
Corvette Heroes comprises a group of New York real estate and parking garage professionals as well as the co-owner of Gotham Comedy Club who bought the entire collection from Mr. Max. The cars are now being given away in a sweepstakes to benefit military veterans; proceeds go to the National Guard Educational Foundation. Tickets, which can be purchased at www.corvetteheroes.com or www.thelostcorvettes.com, are $3 each, with special deals for purchasing multiple tickets, i.e. 10 tickets for $25; 100 tickets for $100.
The six that are being showcased at the Chicago Auto Show in South Hall S125 are among the most iconic of the collection:
- ’55, one of 700 built and the first year a V8 engine appeared in a Corvette
- ’56, one of 290 in the rare color of Cascade Green; this car was driven by Jerry Seinfeld in an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Jimmy Fallon
- ’57, featuring its original 283/245 horsepower engine with dual-quads
- ’66 coupe featuring its original colors of Nassau Blue with a stunning White interior
- ’67 convertible, a replica of the world-famous Ko-Motion Corvette
- ’69 coupe, a replica of the rarest production Corvette ever built: the 1969 ZL1
About “The Lost Corvettes”
In 1989, the then nascent cable TV network VH1 was looking to make a public splash in order to greatly raise awareness and expand its viewership, and a marketing executive and producer at the network came up with the idea of assembling the collection of 36 Corvettes and then giving them all away to one lucky winner. Some two million people entered the contest, and the winner was a carpenter from Long Island. Mr. Max purchased the entire collection from that carpenter soon thereafter.
Five years ago, a representative for Mr. Max reached back out to Scott Heller, who for the past 15 years had been helping the artist move the cars to various garages around the city. The agent asked Mr. Heller if he was interested in purchasing the collection. Mr. Heller discussed this with his two sons Michael and Adam Heller, and his cousin Peter Heller, as well as real estate associates Gary, Adam and Fred Spindler.
Then they reached out to Gotham Comedy Club’s Chris Mazzilli, who is also the owner of Dream Car Restorations on Long Island and one of the world’s foremost Corvette enthusiasts and experts, to determine what it would take to bring the cars back to their former glory. Mr. Mazzilli compiled a detailed analysis for the group on what each car needed and the cost of repairs. Then the decision was made to purchase the entire collection.
“As soon as I met them and they asked me to look at the cars, I knew they were talking about the Peter Max Collection,” Mr. Mazzilli recalled. “And I knew that we had to do this. This is the greatest ‘Barn Find’ of Corvettes in history!”
It’s taken a few years to get the cars up to speed, so to speak. And it also took time for the Corvette Heroes to determine what they actually wanted to do with the cars once they were fixed up and in running condition.
Rather than sell them as one collection, the group decided to give away the cars in the form of a national sweepstakes, similar in fashion to the wildly popular sweepstakes conducted by VH1 back more than 30 years ago.
But the Corvette Heroes are putting their own spin on the sweepstakes this time around. First, rather than one winner there will be 36 winners, greatly increasing the odds of winning a car, and second, they have decided that proceeds from the sweepstakes will go to American military veterans through the National Guard Educational Foundation.
In addition, the History Channel and the FYI network aired a special series called “The Lost Corvettes,” documenting the history of the cars and the restoration efforts by the Corvette Heroes. The series aired in the Fall, and a second season is being planned.
To sign up for the sweepstakes – to be eligible, you must be 18 years of age or older — visit www.corvetteheroes.com or www.thelostcorvettes.com, as well as www. facebook.com/corvetteheroes/, or follow @CorvetteHeroes on Instagram and Twitter.