It’s hard to forget that fateful day in February 2014 when the ground opened up beneath the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, swallowing eight irreplaceable Corvettes spanning nearly five decades in age range, each valuable for their own respective reason. Now the first Vette recovered from the deep abyss has made its triumphant return to the spotlight at the 2014 SEMA show.

This 2009 Corvette ZR1 represents the pentacle of Corvette engineering in its sixth generation. Sporting a supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 making 638 horsepower and 604 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the ZR1 could hit 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds.

When the car landed some 30 feet underground, it suffered a number of bumps and bruises. The passenger side rocker panel had a large chunk missing, much of the carbon-fiber ground effects were ripped off, the passenger front fender and both doors had cracks in their exterior fiberglass, the windshield, hood window glass, and passenger headlight were all cracked, the driver side rear control arms were bent, and the oil lines feeding the engine’s dry-sump system were damaged.

The ZR1 stood untouched in the Corvette Museum for another seven months on display before being returned to Chevrolet for restoration. The car’s fiberglass body was almost completely disassembled for repair and the entire car was repainted the same electric shade of blue.

The ZR1 will be joined by two other car are slated to be restored — the 1 millionth Corvette, a white 1992 C4 convertible and a black 1962 C2 Corvette coupe, both dressed with red interiors. Unfortunately for the other five cars, they were too far damaged for restoration. Chevrolet will keep them in their current mangled state for a historical display at the National Corvette Museum.

Click past the jump to read more about the first ‘Sinkhole’ Corvette restored.

Why it matters

First "Sinkhole" Corvette Restored in Time for SEMA
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Restoring these three cars helps preserve their historical significance to the Corvette lineup. Conversely, keeping the other five Vettes in the same crushed condition they were pulled out of the hole in also helps preserve the historical event. While its sad the cars will never be in good condition again, restoring them would mean replacing nearly every part on the car, essentially taking the car’s significance away.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

First "Sinkhole" Corvette Restored in Time for SEMA High Resolution Exterior
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The Corvette ZR1 is the high-water mark for the sixth-generation Corvette. Its power came from a supercharged, 6.2-liter, LS9 V-8 that made 638 horsepower and 604 pound-feet of torque. The engine helped the lightweight Corvette dominate the track, even beating the then-new 2013 SRT Viper in a MotorTrend comparison test.

Pricing for the ZR1 started at $106,880 for the base trim level and $116,880 for the upper trim level.

Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read More
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Press Release

Chevrolet today unveiled the restored 2009 Corvette ZR1 that was damaged earlier this year when a sinkhole developed beneath the National Corvette Museum. It’s on display this week at the SEMA Show, before heading back to the museum in Bowling Green, Ky.

First "Sinkhole" Corvette Restored in Time for SEMA
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The ZR1, nicknamed the “Blue Devil,” is the first of the eight cars swallowed by the sinkhole to be restored. One of two show cars used to introduce the all-new Corvette ZR1 in January 2008, the car was on loan from Chevrolet to the National Corvette Museum when the sinkhole developed.

Museum personnel were alerted about motion detectors going off in the Skydome area of the facility on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 12. They arrived to find a sinkhole measuring about 45 feet wide, 60 feet long and up to 30 feet deep – and it had swallowed eight Corvettes.

Three weeks later, the ZR1 was pulled out of the sinkhole. Despite falling nearly 30 feet, it started and drove out of the Skydome under its own power.

“After that unprecedented event, the ZR1 was the first car to be lifted out of the sinkhole,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president, performance vehicles and motorsports. “It was great to recover it, bring it back to Chevrolet and begin the restoration of this significant Corvette.”

First "Sinkhole" Corvette Restored in Time for SEMA
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The ZR1 remained on display at the museum until September, when it was returned to Chevrolet for restoration. The damage included:

Cracked carbon-fiber ground effects and a broken passenger-side rocker panel
Damaged passenger front fender, as well as cracks in both doors
Cracked windshield, hood window glass and passenger headlamp assembly
Bent rear control arms on the driver’s side
Cracked oil lines to the supercharged LS9 engine’s dry-sump oiling system.

Six weeks after work began, the restored ZR1 was started for the first time at the General Motors Heritage Center.

First "Sinkhole" Corvette Restored in Time for SEMA
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Two other cars will be restored next year – the 1-millionth Corvette and a 1962 Corvette – while the other five will remain in their as-recovered state to preserve their historical significance. They will become part of a future display at the museum.

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