If you are seeing double, triple, or even more roadsters in Beckley the week of June 18-24, it isn’t your eyesight. Owners of Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky vehicles from throughout United States and Canada have gathered for the 18th North American Solstice and Sky Annual Meet (NASSAM).
The City of Beckley and Visit Southern West Virginia will welcome the car club to the area during the week of June 18-24. Several groups of car club members will be doing daily rides around southern West Virginia ranging from 100 to 200 miles. Evening activities are being planned for club members as well. Over 180 vehicles are expected to line the streets in downtown Beckley for the Solstice and Sky Car Show on Thursday, June 22, from 5:30 – 8:00 pm. In addition to welcoming club members to the community, residents and visitors can check out the cars and enjoy music. Daniel Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers will perform from 6-8 pm at Word Park. Randy Gilkey will perform on Main Street from 6:00-7:30 pm, sponsored by United Bank. Downtown restaurants/businesses are encouraged to be open during the evening and a few food trucks will be set up for the car show.
You wouldn’t necessarily think of our curvy roads as a big tourist draw. But that’s one of the reasons the event chose Beckley as their hub for the week. “The decision to come here was largely based on Beckley’s proximity to twisting highways and byways,” says Pontiac Solstice owner Jim Lyddon, the event organizer. Over 180 cars are registered for the event, making this the third largest NASSAM event since its inception in 2006.
WHAT IS A KAPPA?
Kappa was General Motors name for the platform upon which the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky were built. The Solstice was first on the market, having had one of the shortest gestation periods in GM’s (and much of the car world’s) history, going from computer math design to foam model in 21 days. Just 15 weeks later it rolled onto a Detroit stage as a concept car. It was the darling of the 2002 North American International Auto Show, snagging the Best in Show award. The public loved it, too, and GM began the process to make the concept a reality. It began production in Wilmington, Delaware in mid 2005 for the 2006 model year. The Sky was introduced in 2005 at the auto show and went into production in 2006 for the 2007 model year. On April 14th, 2005, the Solstice was featured on the reality TV game show “The Apprentice,” starring then future U.S. President Donald Trump. A special 10-day online offer, announced during the show, giving viewers the chance to register to buy one of the first 1000 vehicles, sold out in 41 minutes. Nearly a million people visited Pontiac.com over the four days after the announcement. By April 17th, over 36,000 people had registered to participate in the 10-day presale program.
The Wilmington plant closed in July 2009, after 62 years of production, under General Motors bankruptcy reorganization. A little more than 100,000 Kappa’s had been produced over 4 plus model years. Approximately 2/3 were the Solstice model and 1/3 were the Sky. A GXP version of the Solstice was offered starting in 2007 with a 2.0 Liter turbocharged engine, the highest specific output engine by cubic inches in the history of General Motors. A Coupe version of the Solstice was introduced in 2009 and only 1266 total units were built, making it a very rare vehicle. The Solstice was featured as “Jazz” in the 2007 film “Transformers.”
“The biggest thing that came with these cars is the people,” says Mike Fraser, President of the Michigan Kappa Club. “We have become this big Kappa family.” “The owners are so passionate about these cars that a dozen Michigan members own two Kappa’s.” Owners throughout North America gather for a week once a year in June for the Meet. That gathering moves around the country so members can experience a regions best roads. “It is a family reunion that you WANT to go to. The cars are fun to drive and were much more affordable than a Corvette or other high-end sports car.”
So how did a Michigan Car Club end up hosting an event in West Virginia? Club member and Squire, WV native Weldon Robinson said he “would love to see a ride developed in his home state of West Virginia.” Research was begun, and planning has evolved over the last 2 years with tremendous local support from the City of Beckley and Visit Southern West Virginia, culminating in this week’s events. Weldon owns two Saturn Sky vehicles, and both Lyddon and Fraser each own two Solstices.