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Atomic City Corvettes gear up for big event

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By Carol A. Clark

A dedicated group of Corvette enthusiasts gather monthly to eat pizza, talk cars and plan events. Mike Ragsdale founded the Atomic City Corvettes Club in October of 2006 and serves as club president.“For many years there were only a few Corvettes in town but over the last few years I noticed an increase,” Ragsdale said. “Any time you have that many owners, there’s got to be an interest.”Ragsdale felt it was a lot more fun to organize the owners and participate in activities as a group so to get things started he ran ads and passed out flyers and asked for an impromptu “show and shine.”Los Alamos Police Lt. Chuck Ney is a member of the Atomic City Corvettes Club. He has had an interest in Corvettes since he was a small child – the car’s curves caught his eye. “Growing up in the 1970s with the extended fenders on cars, the Corvette with its curves was so different,” Ney said. “It’s the only true American-made sports car.”Ney owns a white 1998 Corvette with gray and black interior and said he has owned three Corvettes over his lifetime.During a Jan. 17 meeting at Home Run Pizza on 15th Street, Ney recounted his first encounter with Ragsdale. “I saw him driving a brown 1965 Corvette with ‘Fuzz Bait’ on the license plate,” he said. “So I pulled him over and we talked about Corvettes.”Ragsdale owns four of the popular vehicles and laughed at Ney’s story, saying he hasn’t had a ticket driving a Corvette in 30 years. Club Vice President Jack House owns two Corvettes. House, Ney, Ragsdale and Club Activities Chair Tom Nolen are all Los Alamos High School graduates.Secretary/Treasurer Bill McKerley and the rest of the club are planning their second annual “Corvettes in the Jemez Car Show” set for May 3-4. Corvette owners will shine up their cars and display them on Central Avenue in front of Mesa Public Library on May 3. A car rally will take place on May 4. “It’s important to mention that it’s a fun rally and not a high speed rally,” said Ragsdale’s wife and club webmistress Cathe Ragsdale. “Our events are family inclusive, wives and daughters come out and join in the fun.”A member’s daughter who attends LAHS is restoring a Corvette.Club members say they like to travel together to various places in a caravan. “We’re like a trail of Easter eggs going down the highway,” Nolan said. “Kids love it. It’s clean, it’s fun, it’s what baby boomers are doing.”Club member Roger Goldie said there are six generations of Corvettes manufactured to date with typically six to eight years between each generation. All six generations are represented within the club’s 66 members and 75-80 cars, he said. “The first ’vette was produced in 1953 and has been continuously produced every year since with the exception of 1983 when there was a labor strike and the manufacturing plant changed locations,” Goldie said.To raise funds, the club plans to auction off an Atomic City Corvettes jacket, signed by Al Unser Sr., at their Feb. 7 meeting at the White Rock Home Run Pizza. The public is invited to participate in the auction, which starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m. The beginning bid is set at $25.The Corvette has been manufactured by Chevrolet in Flint, Mich. and St. Louis, Mo., and, according to Wikipedia, is built today at a General Motors assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky.Taking its name from the corvette – a small, maneuverable fighting frigate – the first Corvettes were virtually hand built in Chevrolet’s Customer Delivery Center in Flint.The outer body was made of then-revolutionary fiberglass. Underneath the radical body were standard Chevrolet components, including the “Blue Flame” in-line six-cylinder truck engine, two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, and drum brakes from Chevrolet’s regular car line.The oldest surviving production Corvette is serial number E53F001003. This historic, one-time GM “test mule” is the third 1953 Corvette to ever come off the Flint assembly line and is known as “double-o-three” to Corvette fans. It was sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction on Jan. 21, 2006 in Scottsdale, AZ for $1 million. “The car sold for about $3,000 in 1953,” Ragsdale said.The oldest Corvette in existence is believed to be the EX-122, a pre-production prototype that was hand-built. That car can now be seen at the Atlantic City Showroom and Museum of Kerbeck Corvette.Another noteworthy 1953 Corvette belonged to actor John Wayne, delivered to him on Oct. 7, 1953.Anyone who owns a Corvette can join the Atomic City Corvettes Club with full voting rights, Ragsdale said. Anyone who admires Corvettes but doesn’t own one or who lives outside Los Alamos County can join the club as an associate member without voting rights.General meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. the first Thursday of each odd month at Home Run Pizza in Los Alamos and at 6:30 p.m. the first Thursday of each even month at the Home Run Pizza in White Rock. Visit www.AtomicCityCorvettes.org.