By Donald Wittkowski
Vicki Rago has two keepsakes from a 2008 road trip from Bowling Green, Kentucky, to her home in the Jersey Shore town of Ventnor.
One is a 196 mph speeding ticket. No, not 96 or 106. The Kentucky state troopers who pulled her over on I-65 at 5 a.m. that day clocked her at 196 mph, but told her they suspected she was actually doing more than 200.
The other memento from that trip is the canceled check for the $760 fine she paid for the ticket.
Few street cars are capable of hitting such extreme speeds, but Rago drives a 2007 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 that packs a potent 505-horsepower engine.
On Sunday, she proudly showed off her bright yellow car, one of nearly 400 Corvettes that lined the Boardwalk during Ocean City’s annual display of the American supercar.
Now in its 26th year, the event is organized by a club called Boardwalk Corvettes of Atlantic City. Although the club’s name says Atlantic City, it is Ocean City’s Boardwalk that provides the beachfront setting for the show.
“It’s the venue — the Boardwalk,” Edie English, the event co-chairwoman, explained of the show’s popularity.
And the cars, of course. Onlookers marveled over an awesome display of modern-day Vettes as well as some historic models dating back to the early 1950s, when the Corvette was introduced to the public.
Angie and Len Cava, of Sicklerville, Camden County, took time to admire a 1999 Corvette decked out in a patriotic, flag-like red, white and blue color scheme.
Len Cava once owned a 1965 Corvette. Asked whether the Boardwalk show would inspire him to buy another Vette, he shook his head and joked, “I can’t afford one now.”
Corvette owners have a fierce loyalty to the brand. Rago, for instance, has owned 15 Vettes over the years.
“It gets into your blood for a while,” she said.
Rago noted that Corvette’s legendary performance is a huge temptation for drivers on the open road. In addition to her encounter with the Kentucky state troopers, she said she has been ticketed going 165 mph in Maryland and 145 mph in West Virginia.
The engine of her car is adorned with the autographs of engineers from the Corvette Racing team. One of her prized possessions is a cap autographed by other members of the Corvette Racing team, including former drivers Johnny O’Connell and Ron Fellows of American Le Mans Series fame.
But Rago is not some would-be race car driver. She is a 73-year-old retiree who once worked as the postmaster of the Ocean View Post Office in Cape May County.
John Loeper, who’s also in his 70s, bought a Corvette when he was a teenager growing up in Ocean City in the 1950s. He still owns the same car, a 1954 roadster that drew a lot of attention during the Boardwalk show.
“I bought it in 1959 for $800. I gave it to myself for my 16th birthday,” said Loeper, who is chairman of the Ocean City Planning Board.
Loeper noted that he scraped together the money in 1959 by working at two jobs on the Boardwalk.
He doesn’t know how much the car is worth today, but stressed that it is not for sale.
“To me, it’s an $800 car,” he said, smiling.
Loeper’s Vette gleams with an Arctic white paint job trimmed with sea mist green racing stripes. He has heavily modified the car to give it a hot rod look.
It has a five-speed manual transmission mated to a six-cylinder, 265-horsepower engine. The diminutive car weighs just 2,000 pounds, so it has plenty of power for its size.
Loeper said he drove it at 115 mph on a race track in Tennessee, but cranked it up to 168 mph one day on the Atlantic City Expressway.
But unlike Rago’s run-in with the Kentucky cops, Loeper didn’t get caught speeding on the expressway.