How the CCA Came to Be
The Corvette Club of America was founded by John Ralph and Charles Eyre who organized the first club meeting on July 17, 1956 at the Rosenthal Chevrolet dealership in Arlington, Virginia. While it is likely that some club activity existed before this date, this first recorded meeting has become the official birth date. The club has been in continuous existence since that time and annually holds a Founder’s Day Picnic on July 17th to mark the event.
In the beginning, no name was selected for the club. The CCA is very fortunate to have the minutes of meetings going back to the first year. Sometime in late 1956 or early 1957 the club began using the name Capital Corvette Club but this was not accepted as official. By mid-1957 there was a strong desire to expand and formally establish the club. A meeting to work out the details was held on the first anniversary, July 17, 1957. Volunteers were nominated to fill club officer positions until an election could be held. The volunteers were: John Ralph (President), Jack Davis (Vice President), Barbara Davis (Secretary), Frank Brassfield (Treasurer), Fred Windridge (Events Committee), and Jim Bain (Events Committee). A Bylaws Committee was formed consisting of Bob Rosenthal, Jack Davis, and Jim Welch. Very interestingly, the minutes report that a Mr. Bell, GM promotion salesman for Corvette in the Washington – Baltimore area, was in attendance at the meeting. He stated that "with the increasing interest in the Corvette and the current sales record of the Corvette Division that Detroit is very interested in the formation of clubs such as this." He further stated that "this club would be the first of its kind in the country and that in due time the organization could become national with this club as the charter organization."
Other interesting business items at this meeting included a statement that the club would need a name. While there is record of having used the name Capital Corvette Club, the heading for the meeting minutes simply state "Corvette Club." No decision was made on a name at this meeting. A motion was passed that dues would be $10 per year. A motion passed to hold meetings every month on the second Wednesday. No permanent meeting place was established but Bob Rosenthal offered his dealership until a permanent meeting place could be found. A discussion was held on whether the club would only be open to Corvette owners but no decision was made. John Ralph stated that Bark Henry, Dick Thompson, and Fred Windridge would be available to help owners interested in competition driving. The meeting adjourned at 9:55 PM and a movie, "Big Winner" was shown.
The formation of the Corvette Club of America was greatly aided by the sports car environment in the Nation's Capital following WWII. The Washington D.C. area was a hotbed of sports car activity. The very first region to join the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) back in 1948 was the Washington D.C. Region. The Porsche Club of America (PCA) originated in Washington, D.C. in 1955 and quickly became a national organization. The Nation's Capital Jaguar Owners Club (NCJOC) was formed in 1956. The Morgan Car Club of Washington, D.C. was formed in 1959. These clubs were all in close communication with each other. As of 1958, the Greater Metropolitan Area Sports Car Council (GMASSC) members were the SCCA, PCA, MG Car Club, Quantico Sports Car Club, Triumph Association, and the Corvette Club of America, which had adopted the club's eventual name by that time. Early club and inter-club racing became very popular. CCA records indicate that the club developed electronic timing equipment that was first used at GMASCC events at Andrews Air Force Base and Marlboro Raceway in 1958. Being located in the Washington, D.C. area also enabled the club to have influential members from congress and industry in the early days. Club records show Al Gore Sr., and Ed Cole, VP of General Motors, became honorary members on February 9, 1959.
The CCA and Corvette Racing
The CCA is closely tied to the very beginning of Corvette racing history at the international level. Corvettes were first entered at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1960 by Briggs Cunningham. He brought three Corvettes to France for the race. While they were not official GM entries due to a corporate policy at that point, Zora Arkus-Duntov the father of the Corvette at GM participated with the team. The #2 Corvette was driven by CCA founding members Dick Thompson and Fred Windridge. Dick Thompson became known as the Flying Dentist and went on to win many national championships. He was elected to the National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame and the Le Mans Hall of Fame.
Today, the CCA is the custodian for The Dick Thompson Award which is a perpetual trophy presented annually to the CCA member best representing the spirit of Dick Thompson and his love for competitive autosport and high performance driver education. The centerpiece for the award is a silver bowl that was presented to Dick in July 1957 as the overall winner at the first national competition held at Marlboro Raceway by the Washington DC Region of the Sports Car Club of America. The CCA is honored to have received this historically significant bowl from Dick and Eve Thompson. The club is fortunate to have a full record of the races that day because the event was covered by Sports Illustrated. The perpetual trophy is on display at our club sponsor, Sport Chevrolet, in Silver Spring, MD.
The CCA and the NCCC
Racing was not the only focus in the early days. The CCA saw the value of having a national association of Corvette clubs possibly because of the club’s close relationship with the SCCA and PCA. The desire of the club was obvious from the eventual choice of the club name. The path was not easy however and by 1959 it was decided that there needed to be a national association for Corvette owners but that it would not be the CCA. Instead, the CCA used its connections to host a national meeting on May 16, 1959 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. which laid the groundwork for the National Council of Corvette Clubs (NCCC). Details of the meeting were recorded in the May-June 1959 edition of the Corvette Courier, the club's newsletter. The CCA newsletter has been continuously published since May 14, 1958.
The meeting at the Mayflower Hotel was hosted by the CCA Board of Directors and attended by seventeen Corvette enthusiasts from five Corvette clubs. The attending clubs included the Corvette Club of Baltimore; Courere d’Corvette of Santa Ana, California; Northeastern Corvette Owners, New York; Corvette Club of Michigan; and the CCA. The name, National Council of Corvette Clubs, was selected at this meeting. "It was agreed that such a name and idea would immediately suggest an organization designed not to detract from the autonomy of existing local Corvette associations but rather a council form of organization which might prove effective in situations where the strong voice of a thousand or more Corvette owners might carry considerable authority." A temporary Board of Directors was established at the meeting with John Ralph of the CCA serving as the Chairman. The Corvette Club of Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh) and Corvette Cleveland had intended to attend the meeting but needed to change their plans at the last minute. The Pittsburgh group was able to provide a detailed outline of their desires which were included in the plans. Minutes of the meeting at the Mayflower were provided to all known Corvette clubs throughout the country asking for their consideration and suggestions.
For a variety of reasons, the CCA did not join the NCCC until July of 1966 and was awarded club number one for its efforts in establishing the organization. Today the NCCC has about 19,000 members and it is the largest non-profit association of Corvette Clubs in the United States. In July of 2016 the CCA notified the NCCC that it would be terminating its membership at the end of the year after a fifty year association. There were a number of underlying factors in this difficult decision but the club members and Board of Directors felt that focusing our limited resources on the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky would provide more benefit for the Corvette community as a whole.
Corvette Enthusiasm & Education
A major focus of the club through the years has been on education related to all things "Corvette." Monthly "Shop Night" meetings are held at Sport Chevrolet supported by the professional service staff at the dealership. This gives members a chance to learn more about their cars and perform basic maintenance themselves. The club has a long history of participating in High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) events, both as students and instructors. HPDE events are held on closed road courses, not on public roads, and teach high speed car handling with a major emphasis on safety. Through the years the CCA has also held low speed autocross events. These are held in large, closed, parking lots and involve making timed runs around a course marked by traffic cones. Again, the emphasis is on safety. Drivers learn how maintain their cars to pass a technical inspection. And most of all, they learn to improve their car handling techniques at speeds limited to about 60 miles per hour. A unique feature of these CCA autocross events is that they are open to the public. You are not required to own a Corvette or be a club member to participate. For the past several years the club's autocross events have been held at Lincoln Tech in Columbia, Maryland. The CCA also supports the Traffic Safety Education Foundation which is focused on all aspects of teaching safe and distraction free driving to the young and old.
Another focus for the club through the years has been in the area of philanthropic support and giving back to the community. Current CCA charity programs are listed here on the website and range from support for Gaithersburg home town charities to contribution to the National Corvette Museum and NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The club also takes pride in maintaining an endowment at the University of Maryland to annually help support a student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Join the CCA
Clearly, the most important aspect of a car club is its membership. Through the years CCA members have been dedicated to making it an outstanding, fun, productive, and responsible car club. The CCA is proud to have very active membership today and honored that the club is able to benefit from the efforts of members that came before. The club is fortunate to have had excellent sponsors, from Rosenthal Chevrolet in the earliest days to Sport Chevrolet today. Without their help the club would not have been possible. The CCA is always looking for new members. If you would like to consider joining the club and becoming part of our next page of history, please check out the membership section here on the website.