1970-1971 - MY FIRST CORVETTE
My first Corvette was a 1964 Coupe, silver blue with blue and white interior and leather seats. Then a local guy who had his ‘59 stolen in Chicago came and talked me out of my ‘64. (By the way, he still owns the car!) I had a business to run and a family, I didn’t really have time for a Corvette at that point.
1972 - MY SECOND CORVETTE
I realized that, time or not, I had to have a Corvette! So I bought a 1958. The car needed a complete restoration. After some investigation, I realized that wasn’t going to happen without parts and what was available were of poor quality and overpriced. I’d already experienced the GM replacement parts program when I tried to get a nose emblem and the rear bumper for my ‘64. With no hope of restoring the poor old ride, I stored it in my mother’s garage so I didn’t have to look at it every day.
1973-1975 - THE PART THAT STARTED IT ALL
Here I was in the tool and diecasting business with a Corvette that needed parts. What to do? I bought a ‘56 grille bar with teeth and all the hardware to start my first project. I reviewed and authenticated all part numbers with Sam Folz over in Kalamazoo. Then it was just a matter of figuring out where to start. We chose to get to the teeth of the matter, literally. We completed our first batch of correct grille teeth and ran samples to send to plating vendors in the fall.
1973-1975 - REPRODUCTIONS LIMITED
It was time to attend my first swap meet as a vendor. Rockton, Illinois was the town and the trunk of my car was the showcase. I showed off my correct, newly cast and plated full set of grille teeth. The parts were well received, and it proved that there was a ready market for properly manufactured reproduction parts. As I traveled back to Michigan from the event, I created the business plan for what is now Corvette Central.
I was officially in the Corvette restoration parts business.
The decision was made to sell my part in the manufacturing business I co-owned, I but stayed on as a manager for the time being.
1976-1979 - BUILDING AN EMPIRE: CORVETTE CENTRAL
I worked with one of my tool makers to start his own shop to manufacture Corvette parts. All told, the business he founded in late 1976 netted over $9,000,000 in sales, while manufacturing close to 900 different Corvette parts. Our CC Manufacturing runs the bulk of his products today, but there are approximately 100 products he developed and produced that are now being re-sourced since his recent retirement.
The arena we were entering was uncharted territory. We had to figure out not only how we were going to make these parts, but then how do we get them into the hands of the Corvette owning public? To that end, we established wholesale accounts to distribute parts. Some of our earliest customers include Stoudt Auto Sales, T. Michealis Corvettes, Wilcox Chevrolet, J&D Corvette, A.D. Anderson Chevrolet and Zip Products.
1976-1979 - BECOMING CORVETTE CENTRAL
The company name was changed to Corvette Central from the original name, Reproductions LTD. My original concern was issues with GM on emblems and possible design patent. After several years, we had assurances they were ok with the use of their trademarks. As it turned out that was only temporary, more on that later.
1976-1979 - SELLING PEOPLE ON REPRODUCTION PARTS
By 1978 we had a small line of products that we could display at swap meets. One of our main hurdles was getting past the resistance to reproduction parts. Once people saw the parts and the standard of quality we had achieved, they were sold. Word of mouth spread and soon people were looking to us for their reproduction parts.
1980-1982 - WEATHERING A STORM
Hang on to your hat or something, we’re in the middle of a recession. Not the best timing for an up-and-coming parts manufacturer. It was a little scary, but it was my first lesson into the resilience of my business based on an automotive hobby. We weathered the storm and came out of it with a sterling reputation and solid foundation that our customers rely on.
1984-1985 - CROSSING THE ROAD
Hauling our parts wasn’t the only growing challenge. As we added staff, we realized we were outgrowing our space. The warehouse and offices moved to a new location in Sawyer, (not too far away, just across the street from our first home) to 5865 Sawyer Road, expanding from a 2200 square foot building into an 11,000 square foot building. I remember at that time making the statement that we had "more space than we’d ever need." Luckily, I turned out to be wrong on that one.
1990-1991 - WHAT'S IN A NAME?
GM changed plans on the use of their trademarks. During the 18-month transition, our trade name was changed to CC or C Central. Needless to say, we were frustrated and fought a small war to make sure our customers recognized we were the same company with a slightly altered name. Finally, the dust settled, and we were able to go back to our trusted name.
1991-1993 - BECOMING AN INNOVATOR
I had witnessed a number of attempts at building replica bodies of 54’s as well as 57’s. I always thought it was a good idea, but it was all about execution. We worked on engineering a sample to produce an accurate 1957 Corvette body. This included all metal mounts and supports, as well as all the required assembly fixtures. We completed the project by the end of 1992, and it still runs today. Most of our body structure parts fit all C1’s and many of the fiberglass components fit 56-60 Corvettes.
1991-1993 - EXPANDING PRODUCTION
We decided to move CC Manufacturing into a new location in Sawyer, just down the street from the original, expanding into an 8,000 square foot space. With this expansion, we added some new product lines; exhaust pipe bending and forming on special applications, as well as a number of activities from CNC machining to production of zinc die castings.
I like to tell people I’d gone full circle, right back to my manufacturing roots.
1995-1996 - CATALOG CHANGES
As our inventory grew and the catalog got bigger, we knew the time had come to make a move toward a catalog for every generation of Corvette. We also knew the new horizon for shopping was going to be online, so we started an aggressive plan to get all our products onto the world wide web with an online store with good information and accurate pictures.
Our last Master Catalog for 53-82 was completed and we began to think about a generation series for the future of our catalogs.
1998-1999 - SO THAT'S HOW THEY DO IT!
We took an exciting trip to the Corvette Plant in Bowling Green, KY where we were able to follow our 1998 Pace Car down the C5 assembly line and get a real close-up view. I even got to do a bit of the assembling! Being a manufacturer myself, I found the chance to watch from beginning to end educational and entertaining.
1998-1999 - SHOWTIME 2000
As we raced toward the new millennium, we developed an all new show program, “Showtime 2000”. The idea was better displays of more products and quick computerized ordering with free delivery on most orders. Many customers, including foreign, were accustomed to being able to place an order ahead of time and pick it up at the shows.
2003 - HAPPY ANNIVERSARY
This year was a big celebration year for all Corvette fans, the 50th Anniversary of the first Corvette! Corvette Central was a major sponsor of the National Corvette Museum 50th Anniversary Tour featuring one car representing each production year. The Historic Motorama started in Flint, MI and ended at Bowling Green, KY, current home of the Corvette plant. On the way, a pit stop was planned at Corvette Central with a picnic and tours. Our ’62 was one of the cars that participated in the tour as well as at the GM 50th Event in Nashville, Tennessee.
2003 - EXPANDING MARKETS
After much research and negotiation, we signed a contract with Amazon which started our 17+ year relationship as a third-party seller through Amazon, featuring mostly accessories. We would grow to include parts as the years went on.
2004-2006 - BOOMING!
Due to a good economy, more interest in the Corvette and more production, we again needed to grow. From the very beginning, I wanted to have all our divisions on the same campus. To that end, we enlarged our warehouse by 11,500 sq. ft. and built a new adjoining 25,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility. For the first time in 30 years, Corvette Central had our entire operations in one location!
2004-2006 - KICK-OFF MEETINGS
We also started to hold our Annual Company Kick-off Meeting, where we presented a theme for the year on how we could better serve our customers. All interactions, transactions and actions were tempered with the ideas presented and carried through to make the customer experience the best one possible. To this day, we hold periodic meetings with our employees to reinforce our commitment to you, our customers, and to giving you the best possible Corvette parts buying experience we can!
2008-2009 - CHANGES
Our country faced great economic challenges in 2008. While few were prepared for the effects of the downturn, we learned about the loyalty of our customers and the resilience of our business as we navigated a real financial mess.
2008-2009 - OUR CUSTOMERS
While we did feel the impact, we were lucky that it was not harder than it was. Once again, we learned that the Corvette parts business is a resilient and strong force. In times when things look difficult, we all need to have an escape from the pressures. Corvette restoration and collecting, even just day to day tune-up and maintenance, fills that void for many people and we are proud to say we are here to help.
2008-2009 - MOTORAMA 08
The highlight of the year was the Historic Motorama 2, a reverse of the 2003 50th Anniversary road trip. This time, one car from each production year made the reverse trip from Bowling Green, KY to Flint, MI to help celebrate GM’s 100th Anniversary. We again hosted a stop with a backdrop photo op featuring “The Drop” by Dana Forrester.
2010-2019 - TECHNOLOGY
Our race to keep up with technology has seen changes in the way we do almost everything. New equipment and systems continue to help us provide the best Corvette part shopping experience for you. We have refined our exhaust and now have a precision bender to give you the very best fit.
2010-2019 - SO MANY WAYS TO SHOP
We continue also to add new catalogs for the new generations while keeping our current catalogs updated, especially online. With offerings on our website, eBay and Amazon, we have continued to expand the opportunity for you to find just what you need.
Our newest online category goes back to our roots, the Swap Meet. In a virtual setting, you can browse everything from hard to find parts to parts you didn’t know you needed, from NOS and gems found in our old warehouse stock to scratch and dent returns!
2010-2019 - UPGRADING OUR SYSTEMS
In November of 2017, we switched to a new computer system (ERP) called Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Our previous system had become antiquated and held us back from such things as showing stock on our website. We have definitely had some bumps along the way with getting NAV implemented and customizing it to do things the way we wanted, but it’s helped us move on into 21st century technology.
2020 - THE ROAD AHEAD...
I can’t say much for 2020. It has been a challenging and interesting start, with our entire company having to relearn how to keep day-to-day going. Some people have stepped back into jobs they had when we first started, and some are learning a new way.
45 years. 3 locations. Thousands of parts. Millions of customers. Many employees, some still here, some moved on…or gone. How did we manage to get to this amazing point? And what new adventures, innovations and discoveries await? What hardships or pitfalls? No one can know. I’ll just leave you with a quote:
“Some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic, but I’ve had a good life all the way.” – Jimmy Buffett “He Went to Paris”