Bowling Green, Ky. – After more than four months and 1,200 man hours, the restoration of the milestone 1 millionth Corvette – a white 1992 convertible – is complete.
The automobile was unveiled at the National Corvette Museum, where it remains as part of the permanent exhibit. The car was damaged on Feb. 12, 2014, when it and seven other rare Corvettes tumbled into a sinkhole that opened beneath the museum’s Skytome area.
General Motors pledged to restore the vehicle.
“We felt it was important to restore this extremely significant car in Corvette’s long, storied history,” said Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. “When we disassembled it, we found that each employee involved in building it had signed a part of the car, which was fantastic and moving to see. It brought the history to life, and reinforced the importance of the project.”
After recovery from the sinkhole, the 1 millionth Corvette was moved from the museum to the Design Center on GM’s Technical Center campus in Warren, Mich., for restoration. Approximately 30 craftspeople and technicians from GM Design’s Mechanical Assembly group, along with GM Service Operations, took on the project.
Despite extensive damage, the team vowed to preserve and repair as many original components as possible – a decision that involved posterity as much as history. That’s because under the skin, the 1 millionth Corvette carried all those signatures from the Bowling Green Assembly workers who built the car.
Only two signed components couldn’t be saved, so the team had the autographs scanned, reproduced as transfers and placed on the replacement parts.
“We went to great lengths to preserve every autograph,” said David Bolognino, director of GM Global Design Fabrication Operations. “In the end, we saved every one of them, which was an unexpected and important element to the restoration.”
One component with a single signature from Bowling Green Assembly employee Angela Lamb was too damaged to save or even accurately scan for her autograph. Chevrolet worked with the National Corvette Museum to secure a new signature from Lamb on the replacement part, so the 1-millionth Corvette will be historically accurate down to the last signature.
Among the parts replaced were the hood, front fascia and the lower panels between the front wheels and doors, as well as a number of ancillary supporting components under the hood. The replacements came from a vehicle of the same vintage and color, ensuring authenticity of the parts and materials involved with the restoration.
A few other components, such as the rear fascia and front exhaust system, would have probably been replaced in almost any other restoration project, but the team repaired them because they were also covered in signatures.
The 1 millionth Corvette is the second sinkhole-damaged Corvette that Chevrolet has restored. 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 a third car, a 1962 Corvette.
The other five 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.