ST. CHARLES, Ill. — Bloomington Gold is the annual gathering of not merely a few thousand owners of Chevrolet Corvettes and their cars, but of a few thousand Chevrolet Corvettes those owners have maintained as closely as possible in appearance and mechanical makeup to the way they were the first time each of them was driven away from a dealership.
So how does that explain “The Chief,” one of only 3,467 Corvettes built for the 1956 model year and most certainly the only one that left a dealership with an ornament in the shape of a Native American chief’s head sticking up through the car’s fiberglass hood?
“My father had a ’53,” said Steve Wallach, whose father, Eduard Wallach, was among the first customers for the original Corvette. “He traded it for this car.”
Eduard Wallach was a New York businessman who in 1944 had purchased the Kishawana Country Club in Brewster, N.Y., in a foreclosure auction. He renamed it Kishawana Farm and turned it into the family home.
The Kishawana was a Native American tribe that had occupied the area previously. The country club had a Native American design motif and Eduard Wallach not only kept that theme, but applied it to his new Corvette. He commissioned a metallic hood ornament and asked the dealership, Brady-Stannard Motor Co., which sold Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs, to install it before he took delivery of the car, making it perhaps the most unusual dealer-installed option in Corvette history.
Ever since, it seems, the car has been known as “The Chief.”
Oh, the hood ornament — once golden in color but now with a greenish patina, most likely from the presence of copper in its composition — wasn’t the only special option Eduard Wallach had Brady-Stannard install. The car also came with a “wolf” whistle, which, Steve Wallach said, still works.
Steve Wallach has been the “keeper of the legacy” since 1995. He now lives in Florida and drives the car at least once a week, though it still shows fewer than 34,000 miles on its odometer.
The car has never been restored, only maintained, and was at Bloomington Gold seeking “survivor” status, an official designation that the car had not been modified but remained close to its original factory spec.
Well, perhaps, except for that hood ornament, which didn’t seem to bother the judges at all.
“The Chief was awarded a ‘Survivor’ rating in all four areas of judging — exterior, interior, underhood and chassis — Steve Wallach said, adding that the judges had included a note on their written report.
That note read, “Unbelievable original.”
Hail to the chief!