A dusty collection of 36 Chevy Corvettes found in a New York City storage lot will soon be given away for charity.

The story of the fleet, featuring every model year from 1953 to 1989 (save for the 1983 model which wasn’t produced as Chevy readied for the 1984 C4), starts in 1988 shortly after cable channel VH1 switched from a music video format to one based on reality shows. A freelance producer from the channel hatched an idea for a show that would involve giving away the iconic American cars.

The producer, Jim Cahill, was given the green light and he was soon writing checks to gather the fleet. He spent just over $600,000 to buy the Corvettes which were most often not vintage collector models but everyday drivers.

Once assembled, VH1 setup a 900 number (remember those) that charged callers two dollars to dial. The network got $1.49 for each call and the network was quickly able to recoup their investment. The winner was a carpenter from Long Island who was flown to California and given a five-pound bag containing all the keys.

But wait, there’s more.

Famous artist Peter Max soon entered the picture (or painting, pun intended) and made on offer the carpenter couldn’t refuse. Max had the cars shipped to New York where, thanks to some legal troubles for the artist, the cars remained. The fleet had found refuge in the parking garage of an apartment building which didn’t sit well with the apartment dwellers.

Max was eventually talked into selling the fleet and a partnership with the Mazzilli (they own a comedy club) and two New York City real estate families bought the cars and started an organization called Corvette Heroes. Next year the organization plans to raffle off each car one by one, with the proceeds going to charity. Meanwhile the fleet is undergoing restoration.

You can find out more and enter the sweepstakes here.

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