A little over three years ago, on Feb. 12, 2014, viewers tuning in to their morning news witnessed and heard a nearly unbelievable story – a sinkhole had opened inside the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., leaving eight Corvettes lying at the bottom of a deep gaping hole.
Fortunately, the cars and building were the only things damaged since the cave-in occurred in the early morning hours before anyone was in the museum. The story captivated those who watched it, and while the museum initially planned to put the past behind them, the interest in the sinkhole and damaged Corvettes was undeniable.
Last year, the museum commemorated the second anniversary of the international headline-making event with a ribbon cutting for a new exhibit: “Corvette Cave In! The Skydome Sinkhole Experience.” The exhibit features eight sections, from a recap of what happened the day of the sinkhole, the media coverage and pop culture aspect, to the cars themselves, the recovery and repair process, and caves and karst landscapes, leading to a grand finale cave-in experience. After interacting with the display, visitors are led into the Skydome where they can see an outline of where the sinkhole was, an outline of where the cave is and even peer down the 30-foot-deep shaft into the remaining portion of the cave. The exhibit was extremely well received, helping the museum achieve the second highest attendance in its 23-year history.
This year, to commemorate the third anniversary of the event, Corvette Museum officials decided to begin restoring a 1962 Corvette that was damaged by the effects of the sinkhole and has since been on display in the exhibit to demonstrate extent of the damage incurred by the event.
“The car has been on display ‘as-is’ for nearly three years, so we thought to commemorate the third anniversary of the sinkhole, we would start the restoration work on the last Corvette to be repaired,” said Katie Frassinelli, the museum’s marketing and communications manager. “Almost all the work will be performed in-house by Daniel Decker, our vehicle maintenance and preservation coordinator. It’s exciting that guests will be able to see the car come back to life.”
The Corvette was donated to the museum in 2011 by David Donoho, a die-hard enthusiast who saved up enough money to buy the car in high school and ultimately owned it just over 50 years. Donoho was so obsessed, in fact, that he earned the nickname “The Weather Man” because his friends would tease him about how closely he would watch the weather and quickly take his Corvette home when there was a chance of rain.
The Corvette needs about $15,000 worth of new parts, including a complete front-end assembly, hood panel and windshield, but overall the damage was minor compared to the other cars. Thanks to the generosity of General Motors, all $25,000 in restoration expenses have been covered. Returning the 1962 to original condition will be a lengthy process, and Decker expects the task to take as long as a year to complete. “It’s a real big honor to be able to do the work, to bring it back to life from the sinkhole,” he said. “We want to do it right. The fiberglass will need to set and cure so it doesn’t shrink later. We want the car to look immaculate.”