The National Corvette Museum. More than just a sinkhole
I’ve told you repeatedly how much I love Corvettes. I find them at car shows and auctions all the time. I’ve been to Corvette-only events. I’ve written test drive reports about them. But I’ve never been to the mecca of Corvettes. Until now. The National Corvette Museum is only about an hour north of Nashville in Bowling Green, Ky. Once I figured that out, it didn’t take me long to get there. You probably know that this museum has been in the news quite a bit lately because of the sinkhole that swallowed up a few of the Corvettes on display. But I can tell you that there’s a lot more to this museum than that.
This one really stood out to me. It’s a ’56 model known as the Sebring Team Car #7. Max Goldman raced it back in 1956 at various tracks, and General Motors used it to test experimental performance parts. Corvette stylist Bob McClean later purchased this car and updated the nose, taillights, and interior. It reminds me of the Corvette SS, which is one of the greatest Corvettes ever. Plus, it has a great history that dates back to the beginning.
Throughout its life, people have knocked around the idea of a mid-engine Corvette. Chevrolet took that idea to another level when they introduced the Astro-Vette and the Astro II in 1968. They were a complete departure from the Corvettes you could buy in showrooms, yet they still looked like Corvettes. I just remember having toys of these and seeing pictures when I was a kid, and I just thought they were neat looking. So when I got to see both of them sitting nose-to-nose in the National Corvette Museum, I have to say, I was pretty excited.
If you ask most Corvette fans, they will tell you that they never built Corvettes in 1983. That’s not exactly true. They actually built 44 of them, which were used for testing purposes. None of them were sold to the public, however, and 43 of the 44 were destroyed once they were no longer needed. One remains—car number 23. And here it is at the National Corvette Museum. I remember back in 1983, my dad brought home a Corvette catalog that featured a Corvette with these wheels on it. But again, they were never offered to the public. Yet another detail that makes this Corvette one-of-a-kind.
Of course, the cars that everyone is interested these days are the eight that were yanked out of the sinkhole. The later they were pulled out, the deeper they were, and the more damage they had. The last one to come out was the 2001 Mallet Hammer Z06. There was talk about restoring all the cars that fell down there, but I honestly don’t see anything here to restore. I guess they could build another one and transfer the VIN and serial number information. But short of doing something like that, it just doesn’t look too promising.
On the other hand, this little black-over-red ’62 was the second car rescued from the hole, and it was clearly restorable. I don’t think there was anything extraordinarily special about this car, but if did look like it was a very nicely restored example of the last of the straight-axles. It is pretty beat up, so it will most likely require a complete restoration, but at least it wasn’t buried or squashed or anything. They were pretty lucky with this one, because these old fiberglass bodies are pretty fragile.
The Museum is right next to the actual factory where new Corvettes are built. So the lobby was full of new Corvette Stingrays in all colors. Plus, you could look in and see new cars that people were going to come pick up in person. The new Corvette is in many ways better than any Corvette made before it. I think that’s cool. Here’s a car that has one of the greatest histories of any car ever built, and they are still living up to their potential today. You can’t say that about many other iconic things. The Vette still has it.
I took pictures of all the Corvettes in the National Corvette Museum, including several pictures of all eight cars that were pulled out of the sinkhole. Check them out in the slideshow below, or click this link for a nicer version.