Before subjecting the car, and himself, to the rigors of NCRS judging, Nieman tested the waters with some local car shows near his home in Huntington, New York. Buoyed by his success on that level, he stepped up to local NCRS competition in the Metro-Long Island chapter. The car did well, earning three Top Flight awards, which means it scored at least 4,230 points out of a possible 4,500. Nieman then moved up to the regional level, travelling to Boston in 2009. Again, the car was given Top Flight status.
At this point, Nieman was well on his way to achieving the McLellan Mark of Excellence Award, but he still had to get the C4 to pass the dreaded Performance Verification test and score a Top Flight award at a national NCRS event. The former was earned at a Gettysburg, Virginia regional event in May 2010.
That crucial hurdle cleared, Nieman trailered his Corvette to Charlotte, North Carolina for the NCRS National Convention in July. He had borrowed a friend’s trailer for the short hops to the previous judging events, but this longer trip required a rental, at a not-inconsequential cost of $1,200. “My wife almost had a fit,” says Nieman of sharing this detail with his loved one.
Any such sacrifices were forgotten when Nieman learned his Corvette had passed muster with the national judges, earning Top Flight status yet again. As a result, Nieman was presented with the McLellan Mark of Excellence Award in Charlotte. He had spent two years and a lot of sweat equity getting to this point, but the journey had actually begun much earlier, when his cousin first started in on the project. “The car is shown in John’s memory since he never had the chance to show it himself,” says Nieman. “I believe it is one of the nicest C4s around, and I am proud to have it—and keep it in the family.”
Nieman hasn’t driven his Corvette a lot since he inherited it—the odometer is only up to 19,200 miles—but it does get taken out for its weekly Saturday drive, weather permitting. The fact that the car is still rolling on its original Goodyear tires is reason enough to drive it gingerly, and he usually lifts off the throttle when the digital speedo reads 80 mph.
Given the car’s track-ready suspension setup, one would expect it to be overly stiff, but Nieman says otherwise. “It rides nice,” he says, “better than my 2002 Jaguar XK8; it feels fantastic!” Interestingly, he admits the adjustability of the FX3 suspension has little to do with this good ride quality. Says Nieman of the toggle switch, “It doesn’t do anything. You can hardly tell the difference.”
One difference he does appreciate, however, is the model’s appearance compared to previous C4s. In 1991, the Corvette received a face-lift, incorporating the ZR-1’s convex rear fascia and rectangular taillights, as well as a slightly resculpted front, new side-panel vents and wider side moldings. Having also owned a ’92, Nieman is particularly enamored of the design. “It’s the nicest-looking Corvette,” he declares.
Given the fact that Nieman already achieved his main goal with the car, what’s next for this C4? First up is a new set of tires; he’ll reserve the originals for display use. More shows are in its future, too. “I’m toying with Bloomington Gold,” says Nieman. He is also considering a run at the NCRS Chevrolet Crossed Flags Award, for 1984 and newer, unrestored Corvettes. If awarded, however, it means that the car can never be judged again at an NCRS event. A dedicated NCRS member, Nieman isn’t quite ready to put down his micro-fiber towel—prepping the ’91 for NCRS judges has become a way of life.