Thursday, May 11, 2017

NASCAR in the South, Part Four: May 11, 2017--The Gary Artis Collection

Gary Artis' Magic Garage
After breakfast at the hotel, the "Museum in Motion" caravan hit the road at 8:00 am and headed south towards the South Carolina boundary.  Our destination was a private car collection specializing in Corvette Indianapolis Pace Car replicas.  It is owned by Mr. Gary Artis, a successful entrepreneur in the business software industry.  

Upon our arrival we were treated to refreshments and received a printed booklet about all the cars in the collection.  Mr. Artis (noted on the booklet as "Curator & Janitor" of the collection) was most hospitable and clearly enjoyed having a group of enthusiasts with Corvette Religion who would appreciate his cars.

Mr. Artis' first Corvette was a 1977 Coupe purchased in 1985.  However, the Pace Car collection began in 2001 with the purchase of a 1998 Corvette, one of 1,158 Pace Car Replicas built that year.  It is highly distinctive, with its "Radar Blue" exterior colour and yellow wheels and it was purchased in celebration of Mr. Artis' 40th birthday.  He thought that a collection of Pace Car Replicas would be fairly easy to do as at that point there were only four different ones.  He clearly has had a lot of fun in spite of being wrong, but collecting tends to do this.

Where it began: 1998 Corvette Pace Car
Chevrolet made things more challenging as in the following seven years the Corvette was named Pace Car six times and the collection expanded.  And expanded.  With business being good, Mr. Artis started to add some other Pace Cars--Oldsmobile, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Viper, Pontiac Fiero (!)--until the day we visited there were 20 Pace Car Replicas in his 36 car collection.  Also at the time of our visit it was announced that once again Corvette would be the Official Pace Car at Indy 2017, with a nice red-white-and-blue Grand Sport flying the colours so Mr. Artis will have to dig into his wallet again to keep the set going. (And as I write this in January 2019, it would be remiss not to point out that the 2018 Official Pace Car was, yes, another Corvette: the super-fast ZR1.)

2007 Pace Car 

2014 C7 Corvette with lettering added to resemble the 2013 Pace Car, which was not available as the new generation was only being introduced at that time
2003 C5 50th Anniversary Edition Coupe with Pace Car graphics

This gorgeous 2004 Pace Car Convertible was used at the Indianapolis 500 as a "festival car," but is more celebrated as the survivor of the sinkhole collapse that wrecked eight cars at the National Corvette Museum in 2014, where it was on display at the time.

1978 Corvette Coupe--the first Special Edition Pace Car

2005 Corvette Pace Car, No. 8 used at the Indianapolis track as a "festival car"
Special Edition Corvettes: 1996 Grand Sport (foreground) and 2007 Ron Fellows Edition C6 Z06
Along with his terrific cars, Mr. Artis has lots of collectibles, including posters and lots of model cars.  One thing that really stands about the collection is that the cars were plugged into battery tenders and in fact are regularly driven.  A really nice C5.R replica, the only one produced by the company that was selling body parts, has more than 90,000 miles on the clock. 

1997 C5.R replica by C5West, designed to look like the C5.R that won its class at Daytona in 2000 and there driven by Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Jr., Kelly Collins, and Andy Pilgrim
We enjoyed a real family atmosphere with Mr. Artis and the neighbours he invited and spent the morning admiring the cars and talking Corvette.  The collection is a reflection of his personal interests and is nothing like a warehouse of untouchable cars.  We were grateful for the chance to see the cars and meet him; a Southern hospitality highlight of our North Carolina "NASCAR in the South" tour.

Chevrolet Camaro Pace Cars

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1996 Dodge Viper GTS Pace Car Replica

1970 and 1972 Oldsmobile Pace Car Replicas
Continue on to Part Five here...

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