Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Final Corvette Recovered from Sinkhole

2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Ends Quest to Save Museum Corvettes

The last of the "Great 8" Corvettes has been pulled from the depths of the 40 foot wide by 60 foot deep sinkhole that collapsed within the Skydome building of the National Corvette Museum exactly eight weeks ago, marking the end of the first phase of rebuilding.

"We're happy to have the completion of our major goal to recover all eight of the Corvettes," said Wendell Strode, Executive Director of the Museum. "Next week we have a meeting with all the major players, including the construction team, geo-technical firm, cave and karst specialists, engineers, our insurance company and others to review all the findings and have discussions on the next steps and a mutual understanding about rebuilding."

The 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 was one of two Corvettes that's whereabouts were initially unknown after the sinkhole happened. The car was finally discover this Monday, upside down with the nose pointing towards the red Spire in the center of the room. It is, by far, the most heavily damaged of all eight Corvettes.

"It looks like the worst one... a lot of parts and pieces," said Mike Murphy, CEO of Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction. "It took a lot of punishment from a lot of big rocks."

The Mallett Hammer was donated to the Museum this past December by Kevin and Linda Helmintoller of Land O' Lakes, Florida, Lifetime Members of the Museum and previous R8C Museum Delivery participants. Upon hearing the car had been located, Kevin traveled to Kentucky to witness the rescue operation. "I expected bad, but it's 100 times worse," he said. "It looks like a piece of tin foil... and it had a roll cage in it! It makes all the other cars look like they're brand new."

Strode had forewarned Helmintoller that the car would be in bad shape and he might not want to watch the recovery process. "Honestly though, I'm still glad I'm here because I would have never believed it was this bad. I'm not positive I would have recognized it - there are just a few little pieces that give it away."

Helmintoller added that he sent pictures of the damaged car to his engine builder, who (jokingly) was quick to point out that the motor was not covered under warranty.

Kevin and Linda spent 13 years modifying the Corvette, a car they purchased new in 2001. The Mallett Hammer conversion was completed in June 2002 and since then has had many AntiVenom LSX Performance modifications with the car boasting 700hp with 575 torque at the flywheel. The car's speed achievements helped it score a cover of GM High Tech Performance magazine.

"We donated this car to the Museum to help with the continued growth, but also because it could be a good vehicle for training other drivers at the new NCM Motorsports Park," Helmintoller said in December upon donating the car.
A “Great 8” display will officially open next week in the Museum’s Exhibit Hall and the sinkhole Corvettes will be available for viewing, as-is, through the Museum’s 20th Anniversary Event August 27-30, 2014.

Links to photos, videos and information related to the sinkhole are available on the Museum's website at www.corvettemuseum.org. For the latest updates visit the Museum’s Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/corvettemuseum.

Monday, April 7, 2014

2015 Corvette Stingray to Offer Eight-Speed Automatic

Paddle-shift gearbox rivals dual-clutch performance, enhances efficiency

An eight-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission will be offered in the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray for 2015, enhancing the performance and efficiency of the 2014 North American Car of the Year. Designed and built by GM, the new transmission delivers world-class shift times that rival the best dual-clutch designs.

The all-new, GM-designed 8L90 eight-speed is expected to contribute up to 5-percent greater efficiency, when compared to the previous six-speed automatic. EPA fuel economy test results are pending and will be announced later. It also makes the Corvette Stingray one of the few sports cars to offer the choice of a conventional manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic.

Corvette Stingray’s new eight-speed automatic delivers the comfort and drivability of a true automatic transmission, as well as lightning-fast shifts and the manual control that enhance the performance-driving experience,” said Bill Goodrich, assistant chief engineer for eight-speed automatic transmissions.It was designed to enhance the Stingray’s driving experience, with performance on par with dual-clutch designs, but without sacrificing refinement.”

The available 8L90 transmission is based on the same eight-speed automatic that will be offered on the supercharged 2015 Corvette Z06, but with unique clutch and torque converter specifications matched to the torque capacity of the Stingray’s LT1 6.2L naturally aspirated engine.

For performance driving, the transmission offers full manual control via steering wheel paddles. A new transmission-control system and unique algorithms deliver shift performance that rivals the dual-clutch/semi-automatic transmissions found in many supercars – but with the smoothness and refinement that comes with a conventional automatic fitted with a torque converter.

The transmission controller analyzes and executes commands 160 times per second. Wide-open throttle upshifts are executed up to eight-hundredths of a second quicker than those of the dual-clutch transmission offered in the Porsche 911.

Smaller steps between gears, compared to the previous six-speed automatic, keep the engine within the sweet spot of the rpm band, making the most of its horsepower and torque to optimize performance and efficiency.

With four gearsets and five clutches, creative packaging enables the new eight-speed automatic to fit the same space as the previous six-speed automatic. Extensive use of aluminum and magnesium make it more than eight pounds, or 4 kg, lighter than the six-speed. Design features that reduce friction contribute to the expected 5-percent greater efficiency.

The 8L90 is built at GM’s Toledo, Ohio, transmission facility.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Seventh Down, One to Go

2009 “1.5 Millionth” Corvette Recovered

In less than a week, the 1.5 Millionth Corvette has gone from location unknown to being dug out from the depths of the sinkhole… regaining its status as a display car in the National Corvette Museum on Thursday. 

While methods of probing the mounds of dirt in the sinkhole and the use of metal detectors were
unsuccessful in finding the milestone Corvette, it was the retrieval process of the Spyder that yielded signs of the first of the two missing cars.  “We had no idea where it was, we just happened upon it,” Mike Murphy, CEO of Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction said. 


Upon the removal of the Spyder, the team began working to free the 1.5 Millionth.  Initial attempts to pull the car free were to no avail as a large rock appeared to be wedging the rear of the car in the dirt.
“Originally, we thought we had to remove the boulder itself to free the vehicle,” said Zach Massey, Project Manager with Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction, “But we were able to free the 1.5 without addressing the boulder as it turned out it was not directly resting on the car, which was a great advantage to us.”

Wednesday afternoon the team was able to successfully free the car, with final removal from the sinkhole taking place Thursday morning.  “While the car appears to be in really rough condition, most of the major components are still there and provides a great base to work off of,” said Adam Boca of the NCM Insurance Agency and a member of the Museum’s Display Committee.

The National Corvette Museum was given the opportunity to purchase the milestone car brand new to preserve its place in history.  It was built in Bowling Green, KY on May 28, 2009 and is a white convertible with red interior, a small nod to the first 300 Corvettes built in 1953 in Flint, MI – all being white convertibles with red interiors.  The 1.5 Millionth is fully loaded with the 3LT Preferred Equipment Group, Z51 Performance Package, Dual Mode Performance Exhaust, Navigation, 6-Speed Automatic Transmission with Paddle Shift and has a 6.2L V8 engine boasting 430 hp. 

The final Corvette to be removed is the 2001 Z06 with Mallett Hammer conversion. “The rest of the day will be spent probing and excavating the area to find any signs of the Mallett Hammer,” said Murphy.

The “sinkhole Corvettes” will come together for a special display in the Museum’s Exhibit Hall through August 3, after which time they will be moved into the restored Skydome where they will remain on display, as-is, through the Museum’s 20th Anniversary Event August 27-30, 2014.

Links to photos, videos and information related to the sinkhole are available on the Museum's website at www.corvettemuseum.org. For the latest updates visit the Museum’s Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/corvettemuseum.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ZR-1 Spyder Recovered from Sinkhole

Corvette Recovery Resumes Nearly One Month After Initial Cars Extracted

Last week, the construction team began the tedious process of removing dirt from the sinkhole in hopes of recovering the two missing Corvettes, and to unearth the ZR-1 Spyder which previously only had a portion of the left rear quarter visible. With the aid of a heavy duty vacuum and excavating equipment, the team struck gold - or rather fiberglass - on Friday, March 28 with the discovery of the 1.5 Millionth Corvette.

"When we started digging around the Black Spyder, we found a piece of white fiberglass underneath it and we continued to expose that until we saw that it was the 1.5 Millionth car," said Mike Murphy, CEO of Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction. "We had no idea where it was, we just happened upon it. We hope when we move the white car we find the red car that way, because we've just not had any luck detecting where it is." Murphy indicated that they have utilized metal detectors as well as probing rods, and that they remove layers of dirt as they probe but have not had a lot of luck so far.
On Monday, the team worked to continue removing dirt from around the Spyder, then in the early evening decided to carefully pull the car out of the remaining dirt.

"It was free everywhere except underneath there was a concrete slab wedged. We felt we had it in the best position, just like pulling a gun out of a holster. Everyone felt like it was best to take it so it wouldn't bend and break if we'd had it exposed more," Murphy said.

The team resumed recovery efforts early Tuesday morning, removing a large boulder that was lodged in the cabin of the Spyder and collecting bits and pieces of the car to help with any restoration or preservation efforts. The Spyder was removed from the depths of the hole around 9am CT, and is in worse shape than even the PPG Pace Car.

"We have always feared that as we dig further into the hole, that the cars would continue to be in worse shape," said Katie Frassinelli, Marketing and Communications Manager. "Unfortunately those predictions were accurate. The 1.5 Millionth has both a large boulder and a concrete slab laying on it. We anticipate that when that car is pulled out, possibly on Wednesday, that it's going to be in even worse shape than the Spyder."

While each sinkhole Corvette has a "story," that of the Spyder is one of the most interesting. The ZR-1 was not a convertible, but GM made only a few prototypes that were. This car was a full performance ZR-1 and was originally painted Sebring Silver with a Neutrino Yellow interior. It debuted at the 1991 North American Auto Show before being repainted black and having the interior changed to red.

"They didn't build a convertible ZR-1 to sell to the public. This is actually a car that General Motors took to different shows to show the car off," said Mike Williams, a member of the Museum's Facility team who's father helped build the car. According to a May 1991 article in Vette Magazine, "The ZR-1 Spyder represents the first time a concept car has ever been assembled on a production assembly line."

The car has many one-off features including custom billett aluminum wheels, a custom tonnau cover with waterfall (an influencer of the C5 Corvette waterfall), a chopped windshield half the normal height, lowered seats mounted directly to the floorpan allowing air to flow around your head, narrowed mirrors, side coves and a louvered hood. Mechanically, the Spyder is a stock 1990 ZR-1.
The underside of the Spyder's hood features signatures of all those involved in building the car. "They have not been able to retrieve the hood. We are still hoping they find it, but that's one of the big problems. When we displayed the car we wanted everybody to be able to see the signatures so when the car went in the hood was up, and it just snapped the hood off," added Williams.

Today, the team will be working to remove the boulder and concrete slab in preparation for removal of the 1.5 Millionth Wednesday or Thursday. The Spyder is now on display in the Museum's Exhibit Hall.

Links to photos, videos and information related to the sinkhole are available on the Museum's website at www.corvettemuseum.org. For the latest updates visit the Museum’s Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/corvettemuseum.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Millionth Corvette Unexpectedly Saved Early

Crew Took Opportunity to Grab Car During Sinkhole Prep

In an unexpected turn of events, the Millionth Corvette was resurrected from the depths of the sinkhole today.

"Initially there was no intention to bring the Millionth out, but as we got in there and saw more this morning we did feel like this might be our best chance," said Danny Daniel, President of Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction.

Danny indicated that they pulled the car by one wheel from where it was lodged and it swung free into the cavern. They were then able to lift the car and place it to rest, upside down on the bottom of the sinkhole. Finally, the Corvette was hooked up by its two tires for final lifting out of the sinkhole, much like the process to retrieve the 1993 40th Anniversary.

"Went like a champ, we were tickled to death," added Daniel.

"The Millionth Corvette has been through a lot, but the damage at first glance seems to be less extensive than what it could have been, especially given the precarious spot the car landed," said Bob Hellmann, Facilities and Displays Manager at the Museum. "The undercarriage and frame look to be in good condition and everything is repairable."

The Millionth Corvette was built at 2:00pm on July 2, 1992 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Just like the first 1953 Corvettes, it bears a white exterior, red interior and is a convertible. The car was donated to the Corvette Museum by General Motors. In a press release from 1991, Jim Perkins, General Manager for Chevrolet at the time, said "We've been looking for a way to support the goals of the museum, which are to enshrine a great car and the great people who made it an American institution." This donation came two years before the museum that exists today had opened its doors.

"I couldn't afford Corvettes when I was growing up," Perkins said in a 1991 release. "Not many could. But it was enough to know it was a Chevy just as sure as the one I could afford. And that hasn't changed. There's still a little bit of Corvette lurking in every Chevy today. And there will be for a long time to come."

More than 20 years later, Perkins was right. There were and still are many great Corvettes to come. The Museum now has half of the cars recovered from the sinkhole and on display, and in a few weeks hopes to be adding four more cars for visitors to see. Construction crews will continue the stabilization of the spire and walls of the sinkhole before attempting to vacuum out the dirt from around the remaining cars.

"We appreciate all of the support and interest from Corvette and auto enthusiasts around the world," said Wendell Strode, Museum Executive Director. "We still have a long road ahead, lots of repairs to make but we are confident we will come out better than ever. We hope folks will consider registering for our Bash event in April, stopping by when their travels take them through Bowling Green this summer, or make plans to caravan here with about 10,000 of our closest friends in August!"

Links to photos, videos and press releases are available on the Museum's website at www.corvettemuseum.org. For the latest updates visit the Museum’s Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/corvettemuseum.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Third Corvette Emerges From Sinkhole

1962 Black Corvette Successful Saved
 
It's been almost three weeks since a 40' wide, 60' deep sinkhole opened up within the Skydome of the National Corvette Museum, taking eight prized Corvettes with it. Construction and engineering teams have been hard at work since day one, putting a plan in place for the recovery of the cars and restoration of the building.

The recovery of the three most accessible Corvettes: the 2009 "Blue Devil" ZR1, a 1993 40th Anniversary Ruby Red Corvette and a 1962 Black Corvette commenced on Tuesday with all three cars being successfully saved. Monday's "Operation Corvette Plus" resulted in the recovery of the 2009 and the 1993 and nearly all day Tuesday was dedicated to the 1962 - a car that was recovered around 1:45pm CT giving spectators watching from the Museum's plexiglass viewing area and the construction and engineering crews a huge sigh of relief.

The team began work early Tuesday, extracting a portion of the car lift that had become mangled around the car, removing the hood from the '62 and tying a strap to the engine bay, then drilling anchors into the slab of concrete that appeared to be wedged into the grill. In hooking their lifting devices to the car they discovered that they didn't have to lift the slab to free the car. "Really, all that went better than I expected... that's my favorite car," said Mike Murphy, CEO of Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction.

"I see body damage. The chassis looks intact, the frame's not bent, the interior (other than being a little dirty) is pristine. So, I think it's some fiberglass work, some ornamentation work, and paint," said John Spencer, Manufacturing Integration Manager at the GM Corvette Assembly Plant. "This car is in amazing shape considering what it's been through. I don't see anything unrepairable."

Murphy indicated that the next step will be to remove the concrete slab off the bank of the hole, and to remove the rest of the car lift. After those are out of the way they will begin stabilizing and securing the red spire and the walls of the hole. "I'm tickled to death that we were able to get those three cars out with no problems, and they were in good condition," he added.

All three cars are now on display in the Museum's Exhibit Hall. They will be joined in late April by the remaining five Corvettes - marking a culmination of the sinkhole recovery efforts. The Museum is planning a formal exhibit of these cars "as is," along with various photos, videos, information and artifacts through August 3. The plexiglass viewing area of the Skydome will be available as long as construction is on-going, and the 'dome' is expected to re-open by late August.

"While we don't know exactly how long the repair and remediation of the sinkhole will take, we feel confident that the Skydome will be as good as new in time for the Museum's 20th Anniversary Celebration," said Executive Director Wendell Strode. "August 27-30 of this year will be an exciting time in Bowling Green, Kentucky as we will have over 10,000 Corvette enthusiasts caravaning from all over the country to celebrate the Museum, the Grand Opening of our Motorsports Park, and now the re-opening of our Skydome."

Links to photos, videos and press releases are available on the Museum's website at www.corvettemuseum.org. For the latest updates visit the Museum’s Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/corvettemuseum.

Monday, March 3, 2014

National Corvette Museum Retrieves First Corvette From Sinkhole

2009 "Blue Devil" ZR1 Emerges Nearly Unscathed

Crowds of construction personnel, media, Museum visitors and staff cheered as the first Corvette, the 2009 "Blue Devil" ZR1 emerged from the depths of the sinkhole this morning at approximately 10:35am CT. The process was streamed live on two of the Museum's web cams with thousands of viewers tuning in all over the world.

"It's wonderful... just seven more to go," said Mike Murphy, construction manager for the project.
Even more cheers erupted when the car cranked up after only a few tries, and even drove about 20 feet to the doorway of the Skydome. "That's a GM product for you. They take a licking and keep on ticking!" added Murphy.

The crews have been working six days a week since the sinkhole incident that swallowed eight Corvettes in the National Corvette Museum's Skydome exhibit area. This past Saturday, the crews rigged up the ZR1 and did a few test lifts. John Spencer, Manufacturing Integration Manager at the GM Corvette Assembly Plant, helped consult the team on the best points to strap up the car. "With Mike, worker safety is number one. There are no compromises," said Spencer.

"I was worried about the wheels," said Murphy. "This morning we took so long because we wanted to add some secondary straps in case the wheels pulled. It was just a little more insurance."
Murphy added that with this project, nothing is set in stone on how to do it. "It's been a huge relief. It went better than expected," he said.

After the elation of the first car being rescued and even cranking up, the Museum staff were excited to put the car back on display in the Museum's Exhibit Hall. "It's incredible to have the car back on display again. It's what we've been hoping for," said Bob Hellmann, Facilities and Displays Manager. "Now we just want to get the next seven, restore the cars, and get them all back on display."

The Museum plans on displaying the cars as they are recovered, now through August 3. In addition, this Spring they plan to create a special display with information on the sinkhole incident, sinkholes and karst background details, videos, photos and more.

After taking a lunch break, the crew will resume the car retrieval process - with the 1993 "Ruby Red" 40th Anniversary Corvette slated for recovery Monday afternoon. The 1962 Black Corvette is planned to be retrieved on Tuesday, but will be much trickier as a five ton slab of concrete is partially resting on the front of the car. Two cranes will be used to simultaneously lift the car and the concrete.

Links to photos, videos and press releases are available on the Museum's website at www.corvettemuseum.org. For the latest updates visit the Museum’s Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/corvettemuseum.