On the road, Karen Bedell’s sleek black Corvette Grand Sport gets a lot of attention.
The 57-year-old grandmother’s everyday ride has a powerful engine, aerodynamic body and boastful license plate — NEVERL8.
“It’s ferocious. I love it when people drive up and rev their engines,” said the tall blonde with a sly smile. “Let’s do it.”
Customized from the headlights to the taillights, Bedell’s car has received dozens of trophies at car shows across the country and been featured on several Corvette fan websites.
There are lights in the gills — the vents on the fenders — that seem to breathe when she drives, and red hash marks along the front fenders that Bedell references as a design element throughout the car.
She has personalized her seat belts and the car’s console, sewing leather work to match the red stripes.
However, you won’t see the most eye-catching feature of Bedell’s Vette until she comes to a full stop and pops the hood. There, on the underside, in all its majestic glory, is an eagle flying through a thunderstorm. Bedell painted the scene so that at car shows people would be wowed by more than just the 480-horsepower engine.
“Seeing that old ugly liner won’t work,” she said.
It’s not the first time she’s turned a hood liner into her canvas. On her first Corvette, a used model she bought in 2008, Bedell handpainted an eagle with stars and stripes decorating the wings. Since then, other enthusiasts have asked her to paint their hoods. She’s created several for members of the Baton Rouge Corvette Club. Many are eagles, one was LSU’s Mike the Tiger.
At shows, she shines a blue strobe light on the eagle. It draws people in, and little embellishments throughout the car keep them looking.
The engine features extra chrome and fuel rail covers painted red to match the car’s stripes. Her chrome fuse box is emblazoned with the skull symbol Corvette lovers call “Jake.”
Bedell said that since she was a young girl, she has loved fast cars — a trait she blames on her brother. Born 11 months apart, as a teenager she learned to handle a sports car driving his Pontiac Trans Am turbo. They raced against the clock at autocross events — time trials on road courses — and Bedell learned to drive with both feet like a race car driver.
After buying her Corvette, Bedell even took race driving lessons to up her game.
Whenever the Baton Rouge Corvette Club takes a trip, Bedell is usually asked to lead the cavalcade.
“I don’t want to say how fast she drives,” said Mark Jurey, the president of the club, “but, sometimes, it makes me nervous.”
But Bedell does not drive recklessly. Even with the attention-grabbing license plate, she said she’s never received a ticket in the black Corvette.
“I respect it, and I learned to drive vehicles pretty well,” she said.
Her respect for the car extends to its black paint job, which can show every particle of pollen and speck of dust. She builds 30 minutes of cleaning time into her morning commute from her Denham Springs home to her job at Southern Medical Corp. in Baton Rouge.“That’s what I enjoy about the black,” she said. “It makes me do it.”
Her office is a testimony to her meticulous talent. Her desk is surrounded by trophies she’s earned showing the Vette. One is so tall she had to put the top down just to bring it home from Slidell.
On her wall are pictures of her travels around the country to Corvette shows and gatherings. In one taken in Florida, the Vette is parked on an aircraft carrier.
“I’ve been lots of places, done lots of things,” she said. “It’s like a Corvette bucket list.”