Hilton Head Island Concours d'Elegance: Little red Corvette

'Everybody of (my) generation who likes cars loves corvettes'

October 25, 2009 

Hilton Head Islander Peter Mahr poses with his 1990 Corvette ZR1 which will be on exhibit among a variety of other Corvettes in this year's upcoming Concours d'Elegance car show.

JAY KARR/THE ISLAND PACKET

  • Thursday - 9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Savannah/Hilton Head Speed Classic Test & Tune Day, Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, Hutchinson Island. $5 parking fee, $5 entry at gate. - 5 p.m.-8 p.m.: Happy Hour in the Square, Johnson Square, downtown Savannah. $15 for First City Club members, $25 for nonmembers. Friday - 9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Savannah/Hilton Head Speed Classic at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. - 1-3 p.m.: Southern Belle Fashion Show, Windows on the Waterway, Hilton Head, $40. Must register, www.hhiconcours.com. - 5:30-7:30 p.m.: Friday Night Driver's Reception, the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, $65. Must register, www.hhiconcours.com. - 6-7:30 p.m.: Friday Night Opening Cocktail Reception, Mary Ann Peeples Pavilion, The Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn, Hilton Head, $45. Must register, www.hhiconcours.com. Saturday - 9 a.m.-5 p.m.: Savannah/Hilton Head Speed Classic at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa. - 9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Motoring Midway: Memory Lane to the Fast Lane at The Coastal Discovery Museum. - 9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Car Club Jamboree at The Coastal Discovery Museum. - 7-9:30 p.m.: Flavors of the Lowcountry Oyster Roast & Buffet, Windows on the Waterway, Hilton Head, $125. Must register, www.hhiconcours.com. Sunday, Nov. 1 - 9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Motoring Midway: Memory Lane to the Fast Lane at The Coastal Discovery Museum. - 9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Concours d'Elegance, The Coastal Discovery Museum. Details: 843-785-7469 wwwi.hhiconcours.com

Peter Mahr has always loved cars. Back in high school, he drove a 1955 Thunderbird. Over the years, he's owned Porsches, BMWs and other cars, but never a Corvette -- until about five years ago.

He was surfing the Internet one day when he came across a 1990 Corvette ZR1 for sale in Charleston. While he didn't necessarily think he would buy the car, he thought it would be fun to get out of town for a day and take a drive in it.

A few days after testing it out, Mahr called the owner of the car and made an offer. About a week later the man called to accept.

Mahr remembers admiring Corvettes when he was in high school and college.

"Everybody of that generation who likes cars loves Corvettes," he said.

Now semi-retired at 62, Mahr of Hilton Head Island enjoys driving around town in his shiny, red Corvette. But he says much of the joy of owning the car comes from the social aspect of being part of the Corvette family.

"I've really enjoyed having it," Mahr said. "And part of the enjoyment is the car, and the activities that go along with it are the other part, which is the Corvette club."

Mahr, whose car will be featured from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Car Club Jamboree portion of the Hilton Head Island Concours d'Elegance at The Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn, is active in Corvettes of Hilton Head.

The group of Corvette enthusiasts gathers a few times a month for socializing and cruising. Some members caravan around the country, entering their cars into car shows.

Mahr has entered his car into a few of those shows and has done well, bringing home the National Corvette Restoration Society's McClellan award. The award is named after Dave McClellan, the chief engineer of Corvettes in 1990.

He said experts judge every aspect of the cars, which are supposed to be as close as possible to what they were when they first came out of the factories. Mahr's Corvette was one of only seven of the model to ever receive the award.

He said the ZR1 is a unique model because it was so far ahead of its time when it came out in 1990. The qualities of modern cars -- sophisticated power and pollution controls, for example -- were incorporated into this engine for the first time.

He said the manufacturers worked hard to make an engine that was both low emissions and high power. At a time when cars were relatively low power and manufacturers were struggling to make cars with low-

pollution engines, the manufacturers of this model succeeded at both. At the time, Corvettes had an average of 250 horsepower, but the ZR1 model has 375 horsepower.

Chevrolet and Lotus worked together to develop the ZR1, and the motor was assembled by Mercury Marine, both of which are unusual occurrences. This was the only Corvette with a motor not designed and manufactured by General Motors.

In addition to that, Mahr said only about 4,000 of the cars were ever made.

"So it was hugely powerful compared to normal cars of the time and hugely expensive," Mahr said. The 1990 ZR1 was double the price of a standard Corvette at the time.

Mahr's red ride will be among 12 other cars proudly displayed by members of Corvettes of Hilton Head at Saturday's event. And despite being relatively new to the Vette set, club president Bill Schmitt said Mahr is "a real Corvette guy."

"Normally, people who do this park their car in a garage and turn it into a museum piece," Schmitt said. "(Mahr) drives it every day. ... And he still maintains this museum-quality kind of standard."

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