The countdown to the introduction of the next-generation Corvette has begun. Chevrolet recently announced that the new Vette will be built in Bowling Green and unveiled in 2013 as a ’14 model. If history is any guide, it will likely make its public debut at the National Corvette Museum’s April 2013 C5/C6 Birthday Bash.

The first Bash was held in April 1998 and was the brainchild of C5 Registry founders Dan Adovasio and Jake Drennon. Both men were passionate C5 enthusiasts when they started the Registry—with a total of 13 members—in 1997. By 1998 membership had grown to 600 C5 owners. To celebrate their success, the pair decided to hold a Registry “birthday party” at the NCM, the idea being to commemorate the day the C5 was introduced to the public. The 1998 party included Dave Hill and his Corvette team, who brought along a number of new Selective Ride Control Corvettes for participants to sample.

The Bash crowds continued to grow with each successive year, and introducing new Corvette products became a staple of the event that continues to this day. Some of the cars and options first shown there include the ’99 Fixed Roof Coupe, Millennium Yellow paint, the ’01 Z06, the ’03 50th Anniversary, the ’04 Commemorative Edition, the ’05 C6, the ’06 Z06, and the ’09 ZR1.

Taking center stage at the 13th Birthday Bash were the ’12 editions. The Corvette team was well represented, including Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter and Product and Marketing Manager Harlan Charles, who brought out a large selection of ’12 Vettes for attendees to sample.

The big news this year is the Centennial Edition, which will be available on all Corvette models. All Centennial cars will be painted Carbon Flash Metallic, a jet-black hue that pays homage to Chevrolet’s early racing days. Special Centennial badging and a body-colored ZR1 rear spoiler are also included.

The interior features Ebony leather with suede accents, as well as red stitching for the steering wheel, seats, console, shifter, and parking brake. Both seats are embossed with a Centennial logo. F55 Magnetic Ride Control is included, as are red brake calipers and standard black wheels. (Other wheel finishes are available optionally.) Ordering began May 2, with production following on June 20.

Elsewhere in the lineup, four brake-caliper colors—gray, silver, red, and yellow—are now offered. A total of 10 paint choices are available, including two new offerings, Carbon Flash Metallic and Carlisle Blue. (The other shades are Torch Red, Supersonic Blue, Velocity Yellow, Blade Silver, Inferno Orange, Arctic White, Cyber Gray, and Crystal Red. The last two are currently facing a supply problem due to the March disaster in Japan.)

Other changes include the availability of two different transmissions on the ZR1. The ME2 is standard and features taller Fifth (0.71) and Sixth (0.5) gears for better fuel economy. The MH3 close-ratio unit uses 0.81 Fifth and 0.67 Sixth gears, and is included with the PDE performance package. New Michelin Pilot Sport Cup ZP (Zero Pressure) tires will also be offered on ZR1 and Z06 models. These will be mounted on new, lightweight wheels embossed with a “Corvette” script and available in a choice of black or silver.

In addition to the ’12 model intro, Bash activities included a lunch with the Corvette race team that featured Program Manager Doug Fehan, Crew Chief Dan Banks, and driver Tommy Milner. A seminar on the new Michelins was also conducted by engineer Lee Willard.

With the C7 set to bow for 2014, odds are good that a commemorative-edition ’13 C6 will be introduced at next year’s Bash. Mark your calendars now to witness the final send-off for the sixth-generation Corvette.