Marlene Maxon has always been interested in cars -- she grew up on a farm listening to her uncles talk about them. Now, she does the talking about her modded 2008 C6R Corvette to anyone who wants to chat, when she takes it out each week for Cruz Night.
Maxon has been participating in the event, held on Thursday nights by the Northern Cruz Car Club, for a number of years. The group meets in the Gordman’s parking lot on 32nd Avenue South to hang out, talk cars and answer questions any interested onlooker may have. Maxon can talk at length about the Corvette, a treasured vehicle she bought with her husband, Robert.
“I tell them about all the things that we did to the vehicle, like put in a supercharger with titanium pistons and pushrods, and about the wheels and the tires and the brakes, and all those things that we changed on it,” Maxon said.
The “atomic orange” Corvette has had a slew of modifications, not the least of which is the front license plate. Push a button and it drops down and slides underneath the front of the car. Maxon says it’s “sacrilege” to put a front plate on a Corvette, but keeps it there to avoid getting tickets when she travels.
“It doesn't look cool, but there are some states where you have to have a front plate,” Maxon said, standing in her driveway in the sunny late morning of June 29 -- her orange ode-to-muscle-cars parked beside her.
The car’s LS3 engine has 39,000 miles on it and has been kitted-out with a Magnuson supercharger, sold to the couple and tweaked by Reeves Callaway, an engineer who specializes in aftermarket performance products. The car next went to Watertown, South Dakota, where it was put on a rack for a process called dyno-tuning -- having the horsepower measured by the rear axle. Further tweaking got it up to 680 horsepower. Custom-made Forgeline wheels and Baer extreme racing brakes still don’t account for all of the modifications -- there’s also the exhaust system.
A “mild-to-wild” switch toggles the system back and forth between the roar associated with a muscle car, and a dull rumble, where you can hear the whine of the supercharger. Maxon prefers the roar.
“You can push the button and open it and straight pipe it, and drive loud and nasty, which I do most of the time,” Maxon said.
Those family conversations when Maxon was a child, growing up on a farm between Mayville and Portland, N.D., sparked her interest in cars. She bought her first one after college, a new 1965 Chevelle in Tahitian Turquoise. She found out later it had the same 427 engine used in a Corvette, the car her husband loved.
In the 1980s, Maxon met Robert in the office of the real estate firm where she worked. He was an Air Force officer finishing his career at Grand Forks Air Force Base and was searching for investment properties. The two made a connection while she was showing him different locations. Ultimately, they got married.
It was Robert’s idea to buy the Corvette and undertake the modifications, after seeing the cars parked by Gordman’s and speaking to some of the owners.
“We’d stop by and they're a good, friendly bunch of people that are interested in whatever car you have or any vehicle,” Maxon said. “It could be a pickup or a motorcycle; they don’t care. If it has a motor and tires, they’re there.”
When Robert died in 2010, Maxon continued to participate in Cruz Night, out of the sense of community she developed with members of the club. She keeps his hat and Corvette jacket in the car with her when she goes.
“Actually, I feel closer to him in that vehicle than I do anywhere else,” Maxon said.
Proud of her vehicle and happy to show it off, Maxon has become a voice of authority when she speaks with newcomers interested in her Corvette. Young men, she said, ask questions about her car, before walking away telling each other their future hopes of owning such a vehicle.
“I was a meek and mild schoolgirl, who the teachers couldn't hear,” Maxon said. “I grew up one day.”