Corvette History through Ads: Malcolm Konner Commemorative Edition
This advertisement for the Malcolm Konner Commemorative Edition 1986 Corvette created quite a controversy among other Chevrolet dealerships. Corvette’s sales department realized the potential in creating special edition cars in 1978 when they successfully marketed the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car and the 25th Anniversary model during the same year. The sales for 1978 approached 47,000 units and the Corvette discovered a marketing tactic that they have used frequently to help build sales. But in 1986 the Malcom Konner Commemorative Edition Corvette was not produced to generate sales but rather to honor Malcolm Konner and the dealership he built to be the largest Corvette dealership in the country at that time, and as you can imagine that didn’t go down well with several other Chevrolet dealerships.
Konner passed away in 1983 and upon his death his sons contacted GM with the idea of building a commemorative edition of the Corvette to honor their dealership and father which had not only done so much for Corvette sales over the years but was also a good friend of many General Motors executives, including Zora Arkus-Duntov. Understandably, GM was hesitant of doing a dealer specific edition but nevertheless wanted to honor the Paramus, New Jersey dealership and the man who built it. Only fifty of the 1986 special Corvettes were produced which consisted of special silver beige over black paint, and commemorative badging on the car and cost $500. The RPO code was 4001ZA. Expectedly other dealership owners objected and wanted special editions built for their dealerships. But when the other dealerships voiced their concerns they were told that when they sold as many Corvettes as Konner then GM might consider it.
But there is more to the story than the fifty commemorative cars produced. As part of Konner’s son’s overall plan, the dealership wanted to pre sell all fifty cars, so they advertised the special limited edition Corvettes in several magazines using the ad shown above. Then the dealership chartered a jet and flew all fifty buyers to the factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to pick up their cars and then participate in a road rally back to the Konner dealership in New Jersey. This event was a recreation of the event Malcolm Konner staged twenty seven years earlier when he flew Corvette buyers to St. Louis to pick up their new Corvettes. In essence Konner set the stage for the popular Corvette Museum delivery option which is offered today.
While GM has produced special editions to honor individuals who have contributed to the success of the Corvette, for instance the Ron Fellows and the Will Cooksey editions, but never before or since an edition honoring a dealership. And by my count there have been twenty one official Corvette special editions since the introductions of the 1978 cars, including the Malcolm Konner Commemorative Edition. I am hesitant to use the term limited edition because some of those listed were not limited to a specific number. Like the Konner edition many of the special edition cars have been little more than paint and badging but there were several editions that were performance based cars. Car&Driver has a recap of most special editions here, though they missed the Konner edition: http://blog.caranddriver.com/something-special-highlighting-the-history-of-limited-edition-corvettes/