Vintage News

2/14/2014 - The Gaping Maw: Corvettes Consumed By Sinkhole

Photo: The sinkhole that swallowed eight significant Corvettes. Courtesy Corvette Museum

Bowling Green, KY -- At 5:44 a.m. last Wednesday, Feb. 12, the manager of the National Corvette Museum received a call from the organization's security company, alerting him that the motion detectors were going off in the original section of the museum, the Skydome. A sinkhole measuring approximately 40 feet across and as much as 30 feet deep, opened up and swallowed eight Corvettes. Bowling Green is located atop Kentucky's greatest concentration of subterranean caves. No one was in or around the museum at the time.

The Bowling Green Fire Department secured the area. Museum management quickly engaged the services of a structural engineer, who arrived Wednesday to assess the damage and stability of the surrounding areas. While the Skydome area is closed, the rest of the Museum remains open.

Beyond the danger of underground caverns swallowing up Corvettes, what is our main takeaway? In a culture dominated by spin doctors and CYA responses, the museum's management team was open and forthright in the face of a truly bizarre incident, and even hurried release of video from the security cameras, showing exactly how the sinkhole developed, and developed suddenly.

Eight Corvettes were affected by the incident, including two on loan from General Motors: the 1993 ZR-1 Spyder concept car with aluminum Lotus-designed LT5 engine, built for GM by Mercury Marine. The 1990-95 ZR-1s produced 405hp. Also swallowed by the sinkhole? The ZR1 prototype of 2009, known as the "Blue Devil" in honor of former GM CEO Rick Wagoner's alma mater, Duke University. The ZR1 is powered by a 6.2-liter LS9 aluminum-block supercharged V8. The current production ZR1 is the fastest production Corvette ever, with a top speed of 205 mph, and 638 hp.

The other six vehicles were owned by the National Corvette Museum, and not by individuals who had placed the cars on loan. Those six cars are the following:
* 1962 Corvette
* 1984 PPG Indy 500 Pace Car
* 1992 White 1 Millionth Corvette
* 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette
* 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette
* 2009 White 1.5 Millionth Corvette

Once the cars are recovered from the abyss, General Motors design staff will oversee their repair and restoration, according to a GM announcement Thursday. Exec v.p. Mark Reuss stated, "The vehicles at the National Corvette Museum are some of the most significant in automotive history...There can only be one 1 millionth Corvette ever built. We want to ensure as many of the damaged cars are restored as possible so fans from around the world can enjoy them." GM Global Design v.p. Ed Welburn will supervise the restoration.

It's estimated it may take up to a month to secure and stabilize the Skydome section and extract the Corvettes. The cost of the damage has not been estimated yet, but the non-profit NCM is accepting tax-deductible donations to assist in funding the repairs.

The museum is slated to host the 2014 Corvette caravan this coming September, marking the 20th anniversary of the museum. For more information, or to donate: corvettemuseum.org

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