There’s a white 1992 Chevrolet Corvette taking up space in the Mechanical Assembly room at General Motors’ Design Center in Warren, MI, in a shop that’s normally reserved for the building of concept cars and prototypes. It’s in the process of undergoing a complete restoration, and obviously it’s not just any Corvette. In fact, this car, the 1 millionth Corvette built, has one of the most extraordinary stories of any of its peers.

Almost a year and a half ago, the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY, suffered a dramatic and unexpected catastrophe when a sinkhole opened up inside the museum and swallowed eight of the Corvettes on exhibit. The recovery of the cars was headline news for car guys for months afterward. All eight cars were eventually rescued from the hole in the ground, in varying states of distress, and the museum and Chevrolet announced plans to restore the three most salvageable cars. The white 1 millionth Corvette is the second of those three to go in for repairs.

It’s a fitting place to work on a historic Corvette. In addition to concept cars, the Design Center was responsible for restoring the 1938 Buick Y-Job, first of the auto show dream cars. The Design Center’s iconic Dome has also been used as the staging area to approve the final design of nearly every GM product since the 1970s. The task of reassembling the 1 millionth Corvette is being taken just as seriously, though. The emphasis is on originality. Early critics wondered if replacing all of the damaged parts on the crushed car would render it just another 1992 Corvette, so efforts are being made to salvage everything. The car’s twisted windshield frame is being salvaged and reused instead of replaced. The numerous signatures applied to the car by workers at the Bowling Green plant as it went down the line will all be preserved as well.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

The entire operation has been a heartwarming show of solidarity for the museum, from Corvette fans and non-fans alike. General Motors and many volunteers stepped up to assist in the recovery and rebuilding of the museum, which experienced its highest attendance figures ever in the year following the catastrophe.

The first sinkhole car to be restored was the 2009 Corvette ZR1 prototype nicknamed the “Blue Devil.” This car escaped the worst of the collapse and was the first to be recovered, perched atop the wreckage. It has been returned to its original condition. The 1 millionth Corvette is more of a challenge, due to more significant damage. The third car slated for restoration, a 1962 Corvette, is considered to be worse off still, and the Corvette Museum will assist Chevrolet in rebuilding it. The other five cars damaged in the collapse will be displayed as-is, as the National Corvette Museum turns its misfortune into a part of the Corvette’s history.

The restoration is expected to be finished by Labor Day weekend.

Emmy Jackson
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Press Release

Craftspeople and technicians at the General Motors Design Center are painstakingly restoring the historic 1 millionth Chevrolet Corvette damaged nearly 16 months ago when a sinkhole opened beneath the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky.

Sinkhole-Swallowed 1 Millionth Corvette Ready For Restoration Exterior
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The restoration crew is part of GM’s Mechanical Assembly group at the Design Center, which typically spends its time building prototype and concept vehicles. The white 1992 Corvette is a challenge because rather than build an all-new vehicle from the ground up, the workers are trying to preserve the original appearance of a production vehicle.

It is the second of three sinkhole-damaged Corvettes that Chevrolet has pledged to restore. The first, a 2009 Corvette ZR1 prototype known as the Blue Devil, was only lightly damaged and was returned to its original condition last fall. The National Corvette Museum will oversee the restoration of the third car, a 1962 Corvette.

Sinkhole-Swallowed 1 Millionth Corvette Ready For Restoration Exterior
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Five other Corvettes swallowed by the sinkhole will remain in their as-recovered state to preserve the historical significance of the cars. They will become part of a future sinkhole-themed display at the museum.

Sinkhole summary

On Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, at 5:44 a.m., National Corvette Museum personnel were notified by their security company about the burglar alarm going off in the Skydome area of the museum. Upon arrival at the museum, a sinkhole measuring about 45-by-60 feet wide and 30-foot deep was discovered.

Security camera footage showing the Skydome floor’s collapse has been viewed more than 8.5 million times on YouTube.

Eight historic Corvettes – two on loan from GM and six owned by the museum – were swallowed that day:

Sinkhole-Swallowed 1 Millionth Corvette Ready For Restoration Exterior
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1993 ZR-1 Spyder (on loan)
2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil” prototype (on loan)
1962 Corvette
1984 PPG Pace Car
1992 1 millionth Corvette
1993 40th Anniversary Corvette
2001 “Mallett Hammer” Z06
2009 1.5 millionth Corvette

On March 3, 2014, the 2009 Blue Devil was the first car recovered and despite significant damage was started and driven out of the Skydome. The 1.5 millionth Corvette and Mallet Corvette were the last cars pulled from the sinkhole, on April 3 and April 9, respectively – after workers were initially unable to find them amid the collapsed earth.

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