SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) — Americans love cars. For many, one iconic sports car has captured hearts for 70 years.
The Garage Automotive Museum in Salina is celebrating the Corvette. Here, 33 Corvettes represent 70 years and eight design generations. Every generation of this dream car is represented in the North Hall of The Garage, but only for a short time.
Matthew Miller-Wells, the director of education at The Garage, gave KSN’s Jason Lamb a tour of the display. It’s called simply “Corvettes: A Celebration of 70 Years of Evolution”. Two Corvettes (an original from 1953 and a current 2023 model) are displayed at the entrance of the exhibit.
“The first year for Corvette production was 1953. They only made 300 of them as kind of a test for an American sports car to combat some of the British sports cars coming over. And this one’s number 201 and lives out of Manhattan, Kansas at the Midwest Dream Car Collection,” said Miller-Wells. “Opposite of the ’53, that’s a 2023. It’s a 70th anniversary, specifically ordered in a nonmetallic white with red interior to match the ’53’s polar white with red interior.”
Almost all of the Corvettes on display are on loan from owners within the state.
“Each show that we do is a little bit different. So, this one right now might be a lot of Corvettes in and around Kansas,” explained Miller-Wells. “Yes, it’s surprising. Central Kansas, in general, but specifically Salina, is really bizarre and auto-centric. You know, we try to look outside of Salina as best we can to pull in people from all over, you know, Wichita, Great Bend, Hays, etc.”
The sports cars in the collection are roped off and are to remain untouched, except for one. The photo opp display car is a pink 1998 “Barbie” Corvette. It’s proven to be the most popular, probably because children are invited to open the driver’s door and get inside.
“I think for most people, it’s the ‘Barbie’ Corvette. The bright pink Corvette that helps that that’s a photo op car that people can actually get in and sit in with the fluffy seat, the fluffy steering wheel.”
It seems Americans have always had a love affair with the Corvette.
“The Corvette, it’s America’s sports car. For a lot of people, if you have a Corvette, for lack of better terms, you’ve made it. It’s speed. It’s power. It’s lightweight. It’s big V-8s, you know. It’s Beach Boys. It’s truly, innately America. There is nothing else like it. There’s nothing else meant to be like it,” said Miller-Wells.
For the most part, the Corvette collection is laid out in the gallery from the earliest models to the latest.
“There are a couple odd ones here and there, but for the most part, you do follow the generations, C1 to C8. And what’s fun about that is you actually get to see all the little changes over the years. So, when you look at the ’53 and then the 2023 in the lobby, it’s a really stark comparison. But then, as you walk through each decade’s generation, you see what’s been carried over. What’s been new in the trends,” said Miller-Wells.
The Corvettes will be on display at The Garage now until Dec. 31.
“Tying car people and non-car people together. I think that’s what makes the museum so fun is that we don’t cater to just the die-hard car enthusiast. We try to make it a fun place for people that don’t know a lick about cars either.”
The Garage is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays. General admission is $15 and $12 for seniors, students, military members, and veterans.
The Garage is also planning to host a Corvette Car Club Cruise-In Challenge on Saturday, Oct. 21, in its parking lots. Corvette clubs and owners from across the state can show off their rides and check out the museum. Various awards will be presented.