The following was written in early 2005 when the C5 (fifth generation Corvette) ruled the Corvette road. Today the C6 is top dog (and for good reason - it's one of the BEST production sports cars on the market today) and the 'lizards' that Mr. Campbell writes about have now abandoned their fifth generation fiberglass shells to slither into the newest model of Vette. As Mr. Campbell tells us, "The lizards now look down their primitive noses at many of those who drive C5's - the lizards are all about being able to own the newest model Corvette and not about understanding the passion for the blood line of the car. Someday they will abandon their C6s for the C7 and never admit they once commandeered the cockpit of such a beautiful and powerful vehicle. For them, it's about the wallet....". For Mr. Campbell, it's all about the loathing......

 

For the uninitiated: C3 stands for the third generation Corvette, the 'Stingray', made between 1968 and 1982 and often referred to as 'Sharks'. C5 is the fifth generation Corvette and was in production from 1997 to late 2004 (currently the C6, destined to be a Corvette legend, is in production and will be seen on the streets in mass numbers soon...). Waving to a fellow Corvette owner, regardless of the car year, is a tradition that goes back to the early days of the Corvette.

The following is based on actual events, but is largely tongue-in-cheek. If you are sensitive to the C5 owner, or you ARE one, walk away now! You have been warned.
- The Editors

FEAR AND LOATHING IN PRIMM, NEVADA


We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when we started to overtake the red C5. Screaming along at 91 miles an hour, our Elkhart Green 1972 Stingray was shimmering off the hot asphalt like a deadly Green Mamba engaged in a strike. I remember turning to my attorney (who also happens to be my wife) and saying something like, “Give ‘em the wave,” when suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us, a loud, twisted, primal scream. It was the core-shaking sound of the SNUB. With a quick glance our way, then back to the sun bleached blacktop, the driver sent a clear message. We were not welcome. It would be a neon road marker of what was to come. This long and strange trip started a year ago in an aging bungalow on a weed ridden hill in what is know as the “Silverlake” area of Los Angeles. We bought the cursed structure a mere five years earlier, perhaps against our better judgment but within our financial means. It was an aging and neglected hovel of a house, built in 1927 and last updated in 1974. The kitchen still sported era imprisoned “wheat germ” wallpaper. It had not been touched since. It was cold, drafty, dark and depressing. It had become home.
The criminals surprised us very early one Sunday just after a very long and very tiring day of fishing. Taxing, surreal and terrifying, we had become statistics of the home invasion robbery. It was clear we had to put the soulless shack behind us, so we sold – and we sold quickly. After a handshake and a check, we moved into a rental property. The profit was enough to buy a nice set of wheels for these weary legs. It was my wife who played devil’s advocate and encouraged the purchase of “Zodiac”, the sleek-lined C3 shark. How I came to find and purchase the chrome bumpered dream machine is fodder for another story, but suffice to say, Zodiac had seduced me into the strange and weird world of the Corvette. The ‘fever’ festered. Now we found ourselves dizzy with oxygen deprivation, flying down highway 15 at the 4000 feet elevation marker and headed for our first Corvette meet. The red C5 left me confused, slighted and angry. “That bastard should pay”, I thought. Maybe I’d see him at the event. See him I would. Unfortunately I would see him in the form of 300-plus C5 Corvette owners – the ugly American; pompous, arrogant, and rude. Our paths were crossing at the 13th annual Corvettes of Bakersfield Gambler’s poker run at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm, Nevada, And it was coming into view in the distance ("13", I should have seen it as an omen). And we were arriving late.

The main Casino parking lot was sprinkled with shiny C5’s among road weary SUV’s and 4-door family taxis. I left my attorney wife to check us into our room and went in search of the event secured parking. I didn’t have far to drive, for just behind the casino shimmered a sea of GM’s finest, rows and rows of C5’s nestled between tents and confined behind orange “road construction” barricades. There were hundreds of the beautiful muscle cars reaching out in numbers capable of filling a football field and a half. I pulled in and started down the feed road looking for an empty spot. The area was devoid of C3’s, and I felt my stomach twist. The event flyer depicted a C1 and a C3 in front of a saloon, but what if that was merely a metaphor for the Corvette in general and this was a C5-only event? I paused to look down the rows of C5’s in search of a C3 when an official sporting a German-style armband appeared and pointed to the far end of the lot. There in the distance, like Siberia in the Spring, was a double row of C3 sharks – all backed in and motionless, like mounted Great Whites in a museum. The row was empty of people, and the wind could be heard cutting around the fiberglass bodies that hugged each space like a resting lion. I backed into an empty spot, stretched to shake off the 5 hours on the road, and looked over the vastness of the C5 collection that sprawled before me. A nip was in the air as the sun ducked behind a purple, swollen cloud. A storm was brewing, and it made me think of the red C5 I had passed earlier. I started the long walk back to the Casino alone and felt a cold chill run up my spine. It would prove to be the second sign of the day.

The lizards were waiting. I found my wife-slash-attorney back at the check-in line, almost through the maze that had been set up to accommodate the mass numbers of ‘Vette owners that had descended upon the tiny fringe Casino squatting on the border of California and Nevada. I glanced about and noticed large groups of men and women in ‘Corvette’ garb milling around, filling the card tables and pumping quarters into aging slot machines. Proudly displaying my ‘Stingray’ T-shirt, I left my attorney to finish the check-in process while I rubbed elbows with fellow Corvette enthusiasts. It was an honest mistake, but a profound one.
It all started unraveling when I approached a group of guys at the bar in the center of the casino who were talking some sort of gibberish. “Hey, there sure are a lot of beautiful ‘Vettes out there”, I said with a smile. “Anyone here drive over in a C3?” The group went quiet. They studied me up and down, and, without a word of acknowledgement, looked back towards the bar and mumbled something about my ‘Stingray’ T-shirt and black denim jacket. They seemed to get a good laugh out of this and casually went back to talking their gibberish. “What the hell?” I thought. Dumbfounded, I wandered over to a blackjack table, “Any luck over here?” I asked. Again, I was scrutinized up and down before being blown off and ignored as before. I noticed all had C5 pins and club affiliations. I attempted one last time. Again, I was simply glanced at with stares that went thru me like the icy chill from the parking lot. Again I overheard the word “Stingray” under mumbled breaths. Another chuckle. It was as if I was wearing a “Screw America” T-shirt and carrying a “Ban the V8 engine” poster. There was no welcome basket in store for me from this crowd. I was not of the flock; my car was not under warranty; and my doors did not have the optional gull-wing kit. I did not rate, and thusly, had become an unwelcome outsider in a convention of self-important sports car owners. It was a clique with no tolerance for those outside its golden circle. I watched with morbid fascination, for these were, after all, fellow Corvette owners, not spoiled Porsche drivers. They were like withered lizards, slowly roaming the casino in their dull shoes and shiny Rolexes. They sported the club costume, new leather bomber jackets and silk threaded C5 logo patches. It was that C5 logo that was the secret handshake in this pompous fraternity. The C5’ers were blood brothers and everyone else could go to hell. They made no bones about it. The women lizards dressed in matching vests adorned with garb from vender booths and, like den mothers on a field trip, they barked garbled orders and packed together like lemmings on a mission. The men ruled the drivers’ seats in this crowd, so the women seemed to have a need for control on the stable pavement of the casino floor. Stunned by the snubbing, I had been standing in one place too long, and suddenly I found myself surrounded. The lizards bumped into me and shoved past without so much as a hollow apology. The visual overload of C5 imagery swarming around me like angry bees in search of a queen sent me on a bourbon binge of monumental proportions. I hovered around the bar as if it was the last holy site in a vast sea of vanity and sin. “The bastards would never dare step into a shrine that the likes of me would find refuge in”, I said to myself. I was right. A few lizards headed in my direction only to catch a glimpse of my ponytail and ‘Stingray’ T-shirt, and, without a second of hesitation, recoiled and darted away. I had become a leper. With a plastic cup of Jack Daniels in hand, I cursed them and started for the elevators. My wife was snubbed by the C5 den mothers early on while waiting in the check-in line and now found solace with a group of hard-drinking second grade teachers on a seminar run from Lancaster. They were holding court over at the Pai Gow table and seemed impervious to the self-important and disapproving stares of the lizards. She was safe. I was the marked one, the bum at the Royal Wedding.
One-on-one, I was sure I would have the upper hand, as I seemed to repulse the lizards. But what if they packed together and sent the most rabid ones to do their bidding? I started perspiring with fear as they squinted and threw eye-daggers my way. Where were the other C3 brothers who, like me, found themselves the outlaws of the event? I flashed my ‘Stingray’ shirt in an effort to send a signal. Nothing. I would have to make the run to safety on my own. My cup now empty, I needed backup. I headed for the package store to buy a pocket’s worth of bourbon-filled airplane bottles. The woman behind the counter smelled my fear and guardedly watched the door while I counted out my money. She then gave me a nervous smile and wished me luck. I was off. The walk to the elevator was a tense one. Stragglers from the lizard fraternity made their way down the long hallway, walking toward me defiantly until we were just a few feet apart; then they would shoulder-hug the wall in repulsion. I decided to try to blend in. I removed the bandana from around my head, covered the ‘Stingray’ shirt with my denim jacket and gave a full head nod to the next lizard to pass me. He looked down at the floor and passed quickly by. Another came out of a room a few feet ahead. This time I managed a forceful “hello,” but not so much as a grunt was returned. It was cause to worry. The S.O.B’s actually SMELLED the C3 on me! The going was getting weird. And it had only been a few hours….

The next day found me hung-over but hopeful. Unfortunately the room above us was occupied by a vanload of screaming school children, apparently put there by the lizards to keep me from sleeping, and thus, out of the event. All night long I was kept awake by the sounds of the motel mattress Moon Bounce. My eyes were bloodshot and my nerves were frazzled, but the poker run awaited and I looked forward to the open air of the road. I slipped on the second of three ‘Stingray’ shirts I had packed for the trip and, in a moment of weakness, considered changing into a casino-themed shirt instead. “Don’t let the Bastards win”, I told myself. ‘Stingray’ it would be. I popped a C3 logo ‘Corvette’ hat on my head in the fashionable backwards style, grabbed my Attorney slash Poker Run navigator and left for the elevator. It was a new day. In the roped-off parking area, small groups of cars were clumped here and there, and the lizards that were not yet on the road pawed over open C5 hoods with a cup of coffee in one hand and a crowbar in the other. We ducked down and sprinted to the far end of the field and found Zodiac almost alone with only a mere handful of C3s scattered about. Where did my brothers go? Were they, like us, foolhardy enough to brave the C5’ers on their own Poker Run turf? Or did they catch wind of a bloody C3 sacrifice by the better-than-thou predators and take to the desert to lay low until the lizards abandoned their chokehold on this God-forsaken town? “You’d better buckle up tight”, I said to my Attorney, “this could get ugly”. We peeled out of the lot with a squeal and fishtailed around the corner, causing the parking lot lizards to spill their coffee and raise their crowbars in a sign of anger. We were officially a C3 on the run. Twenty minutes into the trip I noticed enough smoke coming from Zodiac to hold a barbecue rib party. It was the damn valve covers again; new gaskets had loosened the bolts and they needed a quick tightening. So I pulled onto the shoulder and propped the hood open. Down the road I saw a white C5 making its way up to our mile marker. “Get down!” I yelled. My attorney slumped down in her seat. The C5 slowed, and I watched the passenger window slide down to reveal a smiling lizard. He found my engine problems worth a chuckle, and I watched him give me a sarcastic salute as he barreled down the road and out of sight. I dropped the hood and scrambled back onto the highway. This twisted scene was getting sick, and I was feeling mean. It would take another hour on the road to calm my mind. It seemed that the lizards were trying to make me snap.
An hour and a half later we returned to the parking lot, now full and buzzing with lizards shining and dusting their beautiful monsters. We rumbled slowly past the rows of C5’s, drawing annoyed stares and frowns. Down at the far end of the lot, like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, sat the two rows of C3’s and the elusive brothers I’d been missing. I backed into my spot, now flanked by a cherry 1971 convertible and a tight 1976 coupe. We were home. We got out of our fiberglass gem and were greeted by fellow owners and bonded immediately. Among the brothers swapping road tales and enjoying the C3 sights was James, a very vivacious guy with a dirty little secret. “I had a C3, same color as yours, Elkhart green”, he confided to me with a wisp of sentimentality, “but my wife talked me into selling it and getting a C5. It’s here, over in the ’02 section. But I hate it. Rather spend all my time with you guys. Those guys are too stuffy”. He had joined the elite ranks of the lizard and, in one breath, had publicly denounced them! He was our hero. Everyone nodded in agreement. We all had felt the wrath of the lizard, and it was uplifting to meet this fugitive from the lizard farm. I wanted to buy this man a beer. But that would have to wait, for soon it would be time for the car show, and everyone got busy buffing and dusting the sensuous curves of their C3’s. Overhead, the sky darkened with more storm clouds. My attorney and I made for the room to rest up for the evening’s activities. With a false since of security, I had the belief that things were looking up. I had forgotten the first rule of war: never underestimate the enemy.....

We were now prepared for the evening’s main events: buffet dinner, trophies, awards, and the ever-popular raffle. We hurried to the Arena where the event was being staged. As usual, we were running late. It struck me as odd how punctual the lizards were, for the casino seemed empty without the arrogant presence of the snub-nosed C5’ers. I pulled an airplane bottle from my pocket and took a long pull before entering the Arena doors. This was a moment to savor and celebrate, our first Corvette gathering….
The sight just beyond the heavy steel doors was both exhilarating and frightening. There, in a huge rectangular pit, HUNDREDS of heads bobbed in mirrored lines that stretched along the edge of the hall, lines that led to tables of buffet style food. The floor of the stadium-sized Arena was packed with large round tables, most adorned with Corvette club designs and strewn with car accessory brochures and advertising. Auto part company banners were plastered all along the sides of the hall, much like the track wall of a stock car race. At the far end of the Arena was a stage packed with stacks and stacks of goodies, from shiny stainless steel toasters to cases of warm wine coolers; obviously, this was the raffle booty. A C6 sales video played on a blimp sized screen above the stage. Crowd noise filled the air. But most overwhelming was the sheer number of C5 logos that screamed at us from every nook, cranny and corner of the palatial space. I shuddered. We were now in the soft white underbelly of the beast itself, the snake’s den of the lizard. The weekend had come to a head…. We descended down past the bleachers, into the swirling crowd of lizards and took up the tail end of the dinner line. No one spoke to us as we made our way through the line and stood, plates in hand, looking through the sea of heads for a chair. We were the last to grab dinner, and now the lizards were all seated and busy with the task of social eating. We approached a half filled table and started to sit. An arm quickly thrust out to block us. “Saved”, the lizard said flatly. The scene quickly repeated itself until we had snaked across the arena. It was obvious we were being directly shunned. Whether because of club affiliation or Corvette car year, we had become the man without a country. It was good that the casino was wise enough to check all firearms at the door, as I was a mere table away from losing it.
It was at that moment, a split second before “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU BASTARDS?” could come spilling out of my lungs at full decibel, that a brother C3’er from the parking lot gave us an “over here” hand swipe. At the table sat three couples, none of whom wore the usual club garb, or, more importantly, silk-threaded-premium-woven-officially-licensed-trademark C5 logos. This table did not reflect the event’s status quo; instead it held the outcast, the shunned and the snubbed, the victims of car discrimination on a level very few drivers will ever (or should ever) experience. “Welcome to the no-club table”, my new friend Steve said with a toothy smile. “We were turned away from tables too, until we started our own.” No club felt as close-knit as this anti-club did. We spent the evening sharing C5 lizard horror stories and bonding like soldiers on leave. The awards came and went, and the raffle yielded a casino sweatshirt for me, obviously a plant from the lizards in an effort to cover my ‘Stingray’ t-shirt. Bastards. Soon it was over. The C3 outlaws parted stronger, having deconstructed the lizard into a small insecure rich boy with no social skills outside of his own fraternity. We had been empowered by the event’s lowbrow image of the C3. It was not a curse, but a savior. It was OUR religion, and they couldn’t defeat it. The walk back to the room was a sweet one.

Come morning it was time to hit the long road home. I pulled on the third of my “Stingray” shirts, my C3 cross-flag hat and my devil’s head belt buckle. I was ready to take on the lizards if need be, and, with my attorney in tow, we hit the parking lot with a smile. The storm broke sometime in the night, perhaps during the arena events, and, like a cleansing of the damned, the remaining C3’s sparkled and shined in the dawn’s sun light. With a quick turn of the key, my Flowmasters rumbled and popped and Zodiac jumped to attention. The sun’s rays lit the I-15 on-ramp like a jet navigator on an aircraft carrier, and we glided onto the highway effortlessly. Behind us, a line of C5’s made a tightrope of color in the rear view mirror. Ahead of us a lone yellow C5 hugged the lane to our right. I slowly leaned on the accelerator and we started to overtake it…. Zodiac seemed to flip a figurative finger at the Tonka-toy yellow muscle car, passing with a roar instead of a whisper, as if to say, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”. Without warning, the C5 responded with our first wave of the trip. The desert sun blinked in dismay, and the road ahead opened like an Edelbrock carburetor starved for fuel. Box-style cars parted to allow our dark green fiberglass C3 to take its place as the leader of this privileged parade. An Anaconda stretch of muscle, we slithered through the desert as one. The ugly American had morphed back into the soul of a car that shared a rich history with those that had come before. Maybe it was sleep deprivation; maybe it was the altitude; perhaps it was just the wave. But I found myself thinking, “Maybe I’ll do this again next year.” Zodiac gave a slight shudder. I’d better sleep on it.
-END


By Lizard Haten' Mr. Kalynn Campbell

Apologies to the late Hunter S. Thompson
C5 owners, email the author - not us!

 

ZODIAC SITS UNDER GATHERING STORM CLOUDS ON A CASINO PARKING LOT SOMEWHERE IN PRIMM, NEVADA.