Westfield heiress Betty Klimenko and her little red Corvette


Betty Klimenko has always appreciated powerful cars. A Westfield heiress and a businesswoman in her own right, Klimenko has broken down and through many barriers. For starters, she was the first woman to own an Australian V8 supercar team, but her favourite car is a sporty 1959 red Chevrolet Corvette.
Betty Klimenko. | Image source: Supplied

Betty Klimenko has just returned from Bathurst where she’s picked up what her doctor calls the Bathurst Plague – a nasty cold developed from meeting too many people and yelling too loudly. But it was worth it.

Klimenko, an adopted daughter of Westfield co-founder John Saunders, is the first woman to own a V8 Supercar team. She bought the Stone Brothers Racing team in 2013 and renamed it Erebus Motorsport after the Greek god of darkness.

When it comes to cars, Klimenko has done everything from promoting women in motorsport, fronting a nationwide Women in Auto Trades campaign, and working as a global ambassador for the Australian arm of the Dare to be Different initiative, which aimed to increase involvement of women at all levels of motor racing.

The 63-year-old says she’s now in a phase of her life where she just wants to do – and own – things that make her happy. Looking after her four dogs and spending time with her six grandchildren and husband of 33 years does the trick. But so does cruising around in her 1959 red Chevrolet Corvette.

“I was looking for a red corvette for a long time, and I wanted one from 1959,” the year she was born, she says. And it had to be red, because of the song by Prince, Little Red Corvette. Klimenko says the story of how it came to be in her possession is just as good as the car itself. “I was looking for about 20 years,” she remembers. “Around 2019, we were in Bathurst and came out of where we were eating, and funnily enough, right in front of me there was a 1959 red corvette. I said, ‘Oh my God. That’s my baby’.”

Betty Klimenko’s 1959 Corvette. | Image source: Supplied

The owner told Klimenko the car was for sale, but she didn’t even bother asking for a price. “I just went into overdrive, I didn’t care, it would be worth every single cent. He told me the price and I said, ‘Sold, sold, sold’.” That price was $120,000. For context, when they first came on the market a new corvette cost about $3,800. But Klimenko says she didn’t bother haggling and is happy she didn’t because the owner told her the money would be used to pay for his wife’s chemotherapy.

“It’s just one of these cars … It’s an emotional journey more than what’s under the hood. What’s under the hood is beautiful, it’s a beautiful drive, but this takes you back to a time when you just cruised along… you get there when you get there.”

It’s a different feel for Klimenko, who is used to the thunderous engine of a Holden GTS. “You want the music in that car to be da-da-da-da-dum,” she says, singing the tune to George Thorogood
& The Destroyer’s Bad to the Bone.

But in the Corvette? “You want beachy songs, stuff from the 50s and 60s; you just want to cruise, and that’s exactly why I love it because my life is very fast.”