From Craig Glenday, Editor-In-Chief in Gangwon Province, South Korea
Car maker celebrates the centenary of its founding with a spectacular party and record attempt at the Largest car mosaic
Louis-Joseph Chevrolet (Switzerland) founded his car company in 1911 and, despite the fact that he died penniless, his legacy lives on with a brand that is among the best known of all car marques.
Today, many of the Chevrolet vehicles driven around the world are produced in South Korea, and to mark the company's 100th anniversary - and to say thanks to staff and customers - GM Korea decided to throw a lavish party on Saturday aim for a Guinness World Records certificate.
The idea, hatched by the company's Vice President Ankush Arora, was to recreate the classic Chevrolet "bow-tie" logo using vehicles produced in South Korea. (I learn later that the logo is either an adaptation of the Swiss cross or, according to what may be an apocryphal story, inspired by a wallpaper pattern in a Paris hotel.)
The existing Guinness World Record stood at 1,086 Subaru cars arranged in a logo formation in Warwick, England, back in 2008, but Chevrolet was prepared to go into overdrive and smash the record with the help of staff and dealers attending the company's centenary celebrations at the Phoenix Park ski resort outside Pyeongchang City in Gangwon Province. And thus I found myself jetting off on my first trip to South Korea.
Phoenix Park is a complex containing a golf course, a water park and 12 international-standard ski slopes. It's also the venue for the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in 2018, although it's currently enjoying a warm summer, so the snow that the areas is famous for was nowhere to be seen.
Instead, I was driven through verdant valleys lush with pine trees and vast expanses of cabbage and daikon - ingredients in the country's famous kimchi dishes. The area is also famed for its superior beef cows, a fact I soon learnt for myself when taken for a delicious dinner of bulgogi and bibimbap. "In the top five bulgogi I've ever tasted," says my guide and translator Sunkyu Choi, a Seoul resident who was also on his first proper visit to this part of the country.
The attempt kicked off the following morning at 9.15 - 45 minutes ahead of schedule - as the thick mist that shrouded the valley only an hour before began to lift. A steady stream of two-door Sparks trickled its way from a holding zone into the Phoenix Resort car park, where the logo and the word "Chevrolet" had been demarcated. Volunteer stewards stickered each windscreen with a numbered disc before ushering the cars into a second holding area. Here, the drivers - along with their families and friends - unpacked their cars and handed over the keys to Intercon valet Jimmy Lee and his team of 32 professional drivers.
The next stage of the proceedings was, for me, the most impressive, as the valets edged the cars into their final position. For neatness - and ease of counting - different models were designated different parts of the logo, with each vehicle guided in with pinpoint precision.
Ingeniously, each valet wielded a stick with a stiff sponge cube at its tip against which cars needed to be nudged forwards or back - at 10 cm wide, the sponges ensured that the cars were exactly spaced. The entire operation was a model of meticulousness and efficiency.
Indeed, the logistics of the record were phenomenally complex. Getting the planned 1,108 cars to the site was just the start of the challenge - with traffic jams surrounding Pyeongchang as the participants made their way to the venue. The cars were then sorted by type - four Chevrolet models were selected: Spark (396), Cruze (422), Orlando (145) and Captiva (145) - before filing into the car park to be registered, stickered and counted. The drivers and their companions were then signed in and ferried by shuttle bus to their hotels, while their cars were driven into their allocated spot.
Every driver and passenger - an estimated 3,500 - had to be catered for and entertained, so the entire resort was commandeered, with roads closed or diverted, restaurants (usually closed for the end of season) opened, and even the cable car usually reserved for skiers put to work to keep the families' occupied. The whole time, golf buggies zipped back and forth carrying staff, VIPs and much needed supplies of water and energy drinks.
After roughly six hours, the main body of the logo was complete, giving me the opportunity to view the site from above - climbing a pair of perilous ladders on to the roof of a nearby 13-storey apartment block. From here, the view was stunning. It was also the perfect vantage point for photography. I managed to survive the equally-dangerous descent, although my dark-blue suit didn't fair quite so well and ended up a chalky grey from brick dust.
At this point, the event organizer revealed that more Chevrolets have arrived and asked if they could join the artwork. The record guidelines dictate that the design has to be pre-approved, so any changes would be problematic and would affect the aesthetic of the logo. However, being the lenient and judicious adjudicator that I am, I suggested that the figure "100" be added after the word "CHEVROLET", thus allowing 39 more vehicles to join in the fun.
Just before the sun set, the final car is driven into place and a helicopter drafted in to assess the image from on high. The end result is a triumph - the famous "bow tie" logo aligned with the words "CHEVROLET 100", all spelled out using 1,143 tightly parked Chevvys. My final task was to present the well-deserved Guinness World Records certificate to Vice-President Arora. Then all that was left to do was enjoy the party, the traditional banquet buffet and a spectacular firework display.