By Stephen Williams
Of the hundreds of thousands of automotive enthusiasts around the world who worship at the altar of the sports car, very few can claim ownership of 2,014 Chevrolet Corvettes.
That’s 2,013 in Charles Mallon’s basement—contained in a display case and dozens of tote bags—and one in his garage: a 2005 LeMans blue C6.
One real Corvette is just enough for Charles Mallon.
Turning a hobby into a quest for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records isn’t something one plans overnight. Indeed, Mallon has accomplished just that. In June, he was certified by the Guinness folks for having the “Largest Collection of Chevrolet Memorabilia.”
He can trace back his affection for the marque to the age of 2, when, his mother tells him, he “could pick out a Corvette in a crowd, and run right over to it.”
Mallon’s Corvette-mania extends beyond just the miniature car models: He’s been assembling all bits of Chevy memorabilia since he was 14, from signs and books and posters to soda cans and Chevy belts. But his heart lies with the car.
“I started serious collection when I was 14,” he says. “I would bring home three models, then five models, and you get carried away. I’m into cars of all shapes and sizes, but growing up it was probably the look and the sound of the Corvette. It’s America’s sports car.”
Now 54 and a consultant working with auto dealerships on facility improvements, Mallon—who’s lived in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, all his life—still enlists friends to seek out Corvette miniatures on their visits to toy stores and flea markets. About 600, ranging in size from a few centimeters to more than a foot, reside in that display case in Mallon’s basement, and the rest are packed away in tote bags, “rotated on display periodically,” he says. Mallon’s wife, Gina, is particularly good-natured about the whole thing. “That’s his man-cave downstairs,” she says. “It’s not as bad as it sounds.”
Mallon formerly belonged to a Corvette owners’ club and is just now getting back in. “I traveled a lot and my kids were quite young so I didn’t keep up with too many events,” he says, but he’s planning to attend a meeting later this summer. He’s also planning to become more involved in the Corvette social media scene a community that embraces nearly 1 million fans.
One Corvette experience he’s highly anticipating is checking out the Corvette 427 Collector Edition with available 60th Anniversary Design Package for 2013. “Should be a blast to drive… all that power in a convertible. I can’t wait to collect all the miniatures produced for that special car.”
Earlier this year Mallon assembled his entire collection on the floor of a high school gym near his home, part of the process of establishing a benchmark for a new Guinness category. He submitted a formal application—“to validate my insanity”—and was awarded the certificate in June.
Mallon says he’s interacted with collectors who own many more miniatures than he does, but no one with as many Corvettes: “I catalog all of them on an Excel spread sheet; break ’em down by exterior color, interior color, wheel color.”
Isolating a favorite for Mallon is part science, part impulse. He enjoys a couple of high-priced Franklin Mint Corvettes given to him as gifts, as well as a collection of cars with National Football League logos (“Every team but the Detroit Lions…they’re owned by Ford”).
“A Betty Boop Corvette limited edition.”
The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.
Stephen Williams has written about cars and the automobile industry for The New York Times and Automotive News, and is a former staff writer and columnist for Newsday. He’s never owned a Corvette, but that goal remains high on his Bucket List.