As a judge and a winner of the Top Flight and Founder's Awards, Elaine Renner is well known throughout the NCRS community. But her status was not something she ever set out to achieve. It was a simple matter of one thing leading to another. Elaine has undergone a metamorphosis from Corvette owner to Corvette enthusiast in a way few people have. It began with the purchase of this '82 Corvette coupe near her home in Smithtown, New York.
"The car belonged to a friend of someone we knew," Elaine says. "He worked for a shop and was getting rid of the car. He was the original owner, but he had lost interest in it. At the time, I owned a '76. I was always into cars, and so were a lot of the guys I knew. I got the '76 because I thought it would be something fun for me to work on."
The '82 started out the same way. Elaine bought the car as a driver, without any inclination of it becoming the decorated award winner it is now. "I would just put in the key and go, and I still do," she says.
Elaine began taking the '82 on road tours across the United States. As she went, she backed into the concept of a Top Flight Corvette just cultivating the relationships she made on the tours.
"I went on a road tour from New York to Bowling Green," she says. "That's what got it started. There were several breakdowns along the way, and that got the conversation going. We bonded and I really enjoyed that. There were editors from the NCRS magazine on the tour. I wrote up something about the tour afterward, and since that was one of the prerequisites for the Founder's Award, I started to find out more about what it was."
In addition to a written submission about her trip, Elaine's '82 had to earn a Flight award, undergo operations checks, and endure some heavy road driving. It must complete the last 500 miles to an NCRS national event to qualify.
Other than service replacement parts (i.e., belts and hoses), the '82 is completely original. It features dark-red leather interior and red carpet, an ETR stereo with cassette player, and power seats. The aluminum wheels wear BFGoodrich 255/60-15 tires. Under the hood is a stock, 350ci L83 engine. "It still has even the original ball joints," Elaine adds. The car had roughly 70,000 miles when she purchased it. Now, it carries over 173,000 and is a member of Mid America's 150,000 High-Mileage Club.
The car met all its requirements and was presented with the NCRS Founder's Award at the end of a road tour to Galveston, Texas. Once credited with the Founder's Award plaque, a car can qualify three additional times. After tours to Monterey, California (via Route 66) and Hershey, Pennsylvania, Elaine needs only to earn the award again in Ontario, Canada, in 2004 to complete the plaque. "As far as I know, no woman has done that," she says. "If that's true, I would like to be the first."
Elaine's involvement with the NCRS grew, to the point where she is now judging. "At first, it was just a social thing," she says. "I had no idea what Top Flight meant when I bought the ['82]. But, when I went to shows, I would take pictures of everything and send them to people, just because I liked to do it. But, at the same time, I was getting an idea of how the process worked. Pretty soon, I started tabulating and, eventually, started judging."
Elaine's ever-increasing involvement with the NCRS is a natural bi-product of her enjoyment of the club. "When you go to events, you're meeting people from all over the country, and I've made a lot of nice friends," she says. "It gets expensive sometimes. The hotels, food, fuel, [maintenance on the car], and all those pictures I take come out of my own pocket. But, when you get involved in it, it's fun."