Finally, after the years of planning and the weeks of packing, traveling, eating out of gas station rest stops and sleeping in so many different beds, we arrived at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Photo shows a wall of Corvettes – a collage of thousands of small pictures made into one.
The first things we saw were displays of our favourite vehicles, offering participants a ride in a new one or the chance to win one of four. Unfortunately, Canadians couldn’t enter the draw. Well, they could, but they would have to take cash. Rules forbid Canadians from bringing a not-previously-owned vehicle across the border.
Corvette Central holds a huge atrium with more cars on display; a well-stocked souvenir/clothing store for Corvette knickknacks and apparel; a cafeteria-style diner that looked much more inviting than it was, the actual museum and now-famous sink-hole; then down the road, the assembly plant.
The four-day 20th Anniversary events were also very-well planned with seminars by top notch Corvette specialists, how to insure your vehicle (for Americans), Seventh Generation Navigation, History of the ’83; Design Overview, Michelin, various performance products, plus book signings by prominent authors, and the opportunity to drive on the new NCM Motorsport speedway, either in the “parade of Corvettes” or individual “hot laps” (driving in your own vehicle on the new track). The event also included inductions into the Corvette Hall of Fame and dozens of on-site vendors.
Photo: the one and only ’83 Corvette brought forward some of the most far-reaching design changes in history according the sign that describes this iconic one-of-a kind vehicle. “Many changes included high technology that had not been proven for automobile application such as: computer-controlled LED crystal instrument panel, a high strength/low alloy galvanized steel uniframe, a basecoat-clearcoat paint application, one-price sheet molded body construction, and magnesium/aluminium metals for lightweight and erosion-free chassis and suspension. As a result of the Corvette organization insisting that every new design be defect-free and of the highest possible quality, production was withheld and the cars were serialized as 1984 models. Forty-three production models were built and 33 were assigned to Corvette engineering and GM proving round activities to certify every aspect of this re-designed Corvette. The remaining ’83 Corvettes stayed in Bowling Green for development purposes.”
Some people attended the special awards dinner for inductees but we did not. Heard it was a fabulous dinner. Sorry, I don’t know who was inducted or why.
The NCM Motorsport Park was scheduled for the ribbon cutting on Sept. 16.
We picked up our goody-bag and wandered around the area until closing time then headed to our hotel in Franklin which was about halfway to Nashville from Bowling Green.
Photo of the crash-test Corvette. If you ever wondered why you are safer in a Corvette than any other car, take a look at this. The car was demolished but the driver and passenger section were totally intact.
Details of the Sinkhole incident:
On Feb. 12, 2014 at 5:39 a.m. the burglar alarm at the museum was triggered. The museum’s security company was notified and a staff member arrived within minutes. No one was at the museum at the time. Another staff member arrived, and both entered to find what they thought was smoke and the smell of gas. They called the fire department then went to investigate, finding the sinkhole.
The fire department then arrived to secure the scene. And inventory of cars was taken and of the 28 cars in the room it was discovered that eight had fallen into the hole:
- 1993 ZR-1 Spyder (on loan from GM)
- 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil” prototype (on loan from GM)
- 1962 Corvette
- 1984 PPG Pace Car
- 1992 white convertible – the one millionth Corvette built
- 1993 40th Anniversary Corvette
- 2001 “Mallett Hammer” Z06
- 2009 1.5-millionth Corvette.
A facilities team carefully removed the 1983 Corvette but left the other 19 cars. A construction company who did the museum expansion was called and within hours, the place was swarming with structural, geotechnical and, civil engineers; insurance personnel and members of the West Kentucky University cave and karst studies.
The oval-shaped sinkhole’s actual size is 33 feet deep, 60 feet long and 45 feet wide.
The museum was built in 1994 over top of one of Warren County’s 200 mapped caves. A geological survey of the cave, which is about 50 feet underground, was conducted prior to the building of the museum. The cave was found it to be thousands of years old but at the time, there were no issues of concern.
Why it suddenly collapsed – several theories suggested that, over time, groundwater and storm water washed away dirt and rock. It could have occurred when the clay soils above the cave roof became saturated from heavy rain, causing significant extra weight.
On March 3, the first car to be removed the Blue Devil ZR1. It had very little damage.
The second car to be pulled out that day was had been donated by Hill and Karen Clark. The 1993 Ruby 40th anniversary Corvette had been sitting on a lift-display, hence fell the farthest.
The third car was the 1962 Tuxedo Black Corvette, donated by David Donoho.
On March 5, the white ’92 convertible, which had been hanging on above a cave opening, was saved and with the PPG Pace Car. Unfortunately, it had been “judo-chopped” by a 10-ton slab of concrete.
There were still three cars remaining in the hole when crews stopped the recovery efforts in order to stabilize the building.
In late March, while digging for the ZR1 Spyder, they found the 1.5 millionth Corvette. The Spyder was pulled out on April 1, and despite its condition, was started up and driven out of the showroom. The 1.5 millionth was rescued two days later.
Eight weeks from the day the sinkhole occurred, the last vehicle, the Mallett Hammer was rescued. It had been donated to the museum in December by Kevin and Linda Helmintoller.
The crew continued to salvage every piece and part they could find, no matter the size.
On Aug. 30, just days after the last Corvette from National Corvette Caravan left to go home, the museum’s board of directors voted to completely fill in the sinkhole. Originally, they were going to preserve a portion of the hole as it caused such a tourist attraction. But the cost outweighed the benefit. The hole would be left though until after the Vets ‘n Vettes event Nov. 6 to 8, 2014.
Plans are currently in the works to restore three of the Corvettes that were damaged: the Blue Devil, the one-millionth (white convertible), and the 1962 Corvette. The other five cars were considered to be beyond restoration. They will be kept in a future display at the museum. Construction is expected to take approximately six months during which time, the museum will remain open. Plans are also in the works to create a meaningful sinkhole exhibit within the Skydome featuring the cars involved, 3D interactive images of the sinkhole, videos, photos and more.
Besides a 70 per cent increase in the number of visitors to the museum, as of the end of August, the security camera footage of the vent has been viewed 8.3 million times on YouTube.
The Museum is located at I-65, exit 28 in Bowling Green, KY – just one hour north of Nashville, TN and less than two hours south of Louisville, KY. Open daily, 8am-5pm CT, admission to the Museum is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors age 65 and over, $5 for kids age 6-16 and children age 5 and under are free. Guests who enter the Skydome to view the sinkhole must be age 8 or older. For more information on the Museum, visit their website at http://corvettemuseum.org/or call 800-538-3883.
(It will be another week or two before I can add the rest of this whirlwind journey. Stay tuned for a description of the assembly plant and driving on the race track with a professional driver. Then, I plan an overview of the trip home.)