Thursday, September 3, 2015

National Corvette Museum Holds Ribbon Cutting for Skydome Post Sinkhole Construction

Milestone 1-Millionth Corvette Unveiled as Part of the Ceremony

It’s official! A year and a half after a large sinkhole formed in the Skydome of the National Corvette Museum, the 13 story iconic landmark is back, better than ever, with all eight “sinkhole Corvettes” returned to display. Though the Skydome re-opened to visitors on July 6, a ceremonial ribbon cutting (or rather, caution tape cutting) was held as part of the Museum’s 21st Anniversary Celebration.

What could have been a major road block for the Museum became more of a speed bump as the sinkhole is credited with the 67% increase in visitors for 2014. Instead of immediately filling the sinkhole and restoring the Corvettes, the Museum “made lemonade” and embraced the international news-making occurrence, putting nature’s handiwork on display for most of 2014.

“The success of the sinkhole saga could not have been possible without the help and support of several key players,” said Katie Frassinelli, Museum spokesperson, at the dedication event. Frassinelli stressed how fortunate the Museum was that no one was in the building when the collapse occurred while thanking the construction crew and insurance company for also embracing the new attraction. “They have entertained our crazy requests – from saving sinkhole boulders for our landscaping, to salvaging dirt and rock that we bottled for sale in the Corvette Store,” she said. Frassinelli also commented that much of the Museum’s positive outcome from the sinkhole collapse is a result of being able to release video footage of the collapse as it occurred, and later allowing visitors to stand mere feet from the sinkhole to get an up close view.

“There is one chapter left to our story,” Frassinelli said. “Late this fall we are excited to welcome a special exhibit called Corvette Cave-In: The Skydome Sinkhole Experience. Visitors will learn the particulars of sinkholes, karst landscapes, and caves as well as what happened, why it happened, details on the eight Corvettes and how they were recovered and restored, and how the building was structurally repaired. The tour ends as the cave they are visiting virtually collapses over their heads to reveal their location underneath the Museum.”

The ceremony concluded with the caution tape cutting before rolling into a seminar on the restoration of the 1992 “1-millionth” Corvette. After more than four months and 1,200 man-hours of painstaking craftsmanship by the GM team, the restoration of the milestone car is complete, and the Corvette was unveiled in the Skydome.

The 1-millionth Corvette was one of the eight cars that fell victim to the February 12, 2014 sinkhole. And Chevrolet quickly came forward and pledged to restore it. After being rescued 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.

“As the one and only 1-millionth Corvette, its preservation was important to us as the designers of the vehicle – and as Corvette enthusiasts,” said Ed Welburn, vice president of GM Global Design. “The damage was significant in many ways; however we have one of the most highly skilled specialty shops and team of people in the industry, so they were fully prepared to take on the challenge.”

“Chevrolet is proud to have helped restore this extremely significant car in Corvette's long, storied history," said Mark Reuss, GM 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."

Despite extensive damage, GM’s team vowed to preserve and repair as many original components as possible – a decision that involved posterity as much as history, in order to preserve those signatures of 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.

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. Lamb joined event attendees for the big reveal, signing her name on the replacement part. The 1-millionth Corvette is now 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.

Additional highlights from the restoration:

  • The front sub-frame was damaged in the fall into the sinkhole and required straightening
  • The wheels were damaged, but reconditioned, with the original Goodyear Eagle GS-C tires
  • Rather than replace the scuffed and scratched pad on the instrument panel, its soft cover was carefully removed and replaced to preserve the employee-signed structure beneath it
  • The red leather seats, featuring one-off “1,000,000th Corvette” embroidery on the headrests were damaged but deemed irreplaceable, so they were restored, including a few replacement patches of carefully matched hide
  • The 5.7L LT1 engine, transmission and other drivetrain components were inspected and found to be damage-free

Surprisingly, the one component the team didn’t have to replace was the crushed windshield header. When the car first rolled into the shop, an overhead crane was used to raise it enough to make the car drivable, but the frame pulled up surprisingly close to the original position, encouraging the team to save it.

“The header restoration was a wonderful surprise for what everyone assumed would be the toughest aspect of the restoration,” said Bolognino. “With access to the original specifications, we got it spot-on – and even the new windshield glass dropped in perfectly.”

The final touch was replacing the unique “1,000,000th” windshield banner it wore when it rolled off the assembly line 23 years ago. The computer graphic file used for the original was still available, allowing creation of an identical banner.

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’s new Maintenance and Preservation Department will restore the third car, a 1962 Corvette. The five additional Corvettes swallowed by the sinkhole will remain in their as-recovered state to preserve the historical significance of the cars.

FAST FACT: The 1-Millionth Corvette rolled off the assembly line as a convertible with a white exterior and a red interior - just like the first Corvette produced in 1953.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

GM Foundation Donates $75,000 to 11 Area Organizations through Plant City Grants Program

The GM Foundation today donated $75,000 to 11 nonprofit organizations in the Bowling Green area, making this the fifth consecutive year the foundation’s Plant City Grants are being awarded in the home of the iconic Chevrolet Corvette.  In the last five years, GM Foundation donations in the region totaled $325,000, including Plant City Grants and a fully-funded Habitat for Humanity project in 2014.

“General Motors is committed to supporting the communities that our employees call home,” said GM Foundation Vice President Lori Wingerter. “This year, the GM Foundation plans to provide $2 million in funding to hundreds of organizations across the country that provide critical resources that families and neighborhoods rely on every day.”

The grants were announced and presented at the Boys & Girls Club of Bowling Green, where 24 GM employees spent their day volunteering to clean and organize the facility, room by room. In fact, a total of 80 GM employees from sites across the U.S. converged in Bowling Green this week to provide ride and drive opportunities and community service work as part of GM’s Outreach Program. In addition to the Boys & Girls Club, service projects included work at St. Vincent DePaul, New Beginnings Therapeutic Riding, the International Center of KY and KY Legal Aid.

The 2015 Bowling Green grant funds will support the following organizations and community programs: 

Barren River Area Safe Space, Inc. – The grant will be used for emergency assistance, resources and programs for regional domestic violence and homeless shelter residents.

Boys & Girls Club of Bowling Green – The donation will support reading programs to help ensure all Club members are on track to graduate from high school and are ready for college, trade school, the military or employment.

·         The Friends of the Lost River, Inc.Funds will be used to purchase a compact dump trailer to improve efficiency and sustainability, as well as tandem kayaks, allowing two people to travel in one kayak. These tandem kayaks will make the cave’s kayaking program safer for minors and those with impairments.
·         Public Theatre of Kentucky Funds will be used for the Sunburst Youth Theatre educational programming, including day camps where children ages 7-12 build their own props, do scenic painting, sound, lighting, costuming and acting, monologue workshops for 13-18 year-olds and other productions.
·         United Way of Southern Kentucky – Funding will be used to provide help in the areas of education, income and health & safety net for Warren County residents. It is clear that these issues are fundamentally connected; when one area is impacted, others may be impacted indirectly.

·         Family Enrichment Center – The grant will be used to provide more full-time childcare services to children whose families put them at risk.

·         African American Museum – Funds will be used to purchase electronic equipment and software that will enable audio/video, interactive and multimedia displays, along with other display essentials including stanchions, fiberboard display panels, mannequins, pedestals, stands and easels.

·         Bowling Green Alliance for Mentally Ill – The grant will be used to train two PTSD dogs and two veterans through the PETS-4-VETS (Providing Effective Therapy through Service Dogs) program, providing recovery support for veterans and their families.

·         CASA – Funds will be used to train 20 new volunteers, enabling them to serve 20 new families including approximately 30 or more dependent, neglected, abused and sexually abused children.

·         Center for Courageous Kids – The grant will support the Summer Camp Program for Critically Ill Children. The program is a traditional overnight camping experience held during 9, one-week sessions, where children meet other children living with the same condition and learn self-care skills while engaging in activities such as horseback riding, swimming, bowling, theatre, woodshop, boating, fishing and archery.

·         Recovery Kentucky Foundation, Inc. – Funds will be used to support their computer labs in western Kentucky recovery centers. These computers, printers and IT support services help residents complete their GED as well as develop skills related to job applications, resume writing and information technology.

“Through the GM Foundation Plant City Grants, these vital community organizations will be able to fund critical programs that help so many local families,” said Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Assistant Plant Manager Nora Roper. “We couldn’t be happier to support these local organizations.”

Friday, August 21, 2015

Macy's Awards Education Grant to Corvette Museum

The National Corvette Museum has received a $1,000 grant from Macy's to support youth Engineering with Minecraft Camps.

Across the country, support from Macy's and Bloomingdale’s giving programs helped sponsor free admission to museums and exhibits, special musical performances, art exhibits, and art and theatre workshops for children.

"In the past year we have hosted five Hooked on Science Engineering with Minecraft Camps, and all five of them have sold out with long wait lists," said Museum Education Coordinator Kellie Steen. "Through this support from Macy's we have already scheduled three more camps for September 21, 2015, January 18, 2016 and February 15, 2016 when many of the area school children are out for holidays. We are thrilled with this new partnership to bring more kids out to the Museum for educational opportunities."

Bowling Green's Macy's has continued to partner with the Museum by offering a Corvette Store presence within their Greenwood Mall location. Additionally, the Museum loans Corvettes to the store for display as a way to cross promote the brands. Labor Day Weekend, as part of the Museum’s 21st Anniversary Celebration, Macy’s will be display two additional Museum-owned Corvettes, a 1959 and a 1966.

“Macy’s prides itself on offering products from iconic American brands, and Corvette is THE American Sports Car. It was only natural for our Bowling Green store to form a meaningful and on-going partnership with the National Corvette Museum,” said Terry Busing, VP Store Manager at Macy’s. “We are excited that our grant will help bring additional Minecraft camps to the Museum.”

View and register for upcoming camps on our website at

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Museum Gifted 35th Anniversary Corvette

Rick and Deb Seymour with the 1988 35th Anniversary Corvette
It was 1988. The Seymours were in their early 30s and already owners of a 1985 Corvette. After seeing the new 35th Anniversary Edition on the cover of Vette Vues magazine they started to think about upgrading their Corvette to a newer model. “At first, our dealer didn’t think he was going to be able to get one of the special limited editions,” recalls Rick. But then the phone call came that they did indeed score one. “It was May 28 and we decided to go to the dealership to see it,” says Rick. “We walked into the showroom, and that was it.” The Seymours told the dealer they wanted it, to rope it off and they would be back for the car. “Our car payment was more than our house payment,” laughs Deb.

It doesn’t take long to understand why the Seymours get emotional when talking about the car. It was driven just a little here and there (racking up only 380 miles), and it was pampered, never being washed with a hose, except for when the wheels and tires needed cleaning. It is all original except for the battery, and gloves even kept body oil from making their way onto the steering wheel. “You might consider it a little nutty,” Rick chuckles. We reassured Rick that, while few in number, we do have a couple of cars with the plastic still covering the interior. But overall, this car is unlike most. It is a true Museum quality show piece in the same condition it was in when it rolled off the line. A well preserved example of those 2,050 35th Anniversary Corvettes made for 1988. The quality of the car’s condition would not go unnoticed.

When Bloomington Gold moved to the Seymour’s hometown of Champaign, IL they knew it was time to get the car certified. “We shipped the car in an enclosed trailer, and turned the trip into a wonderful celebration,” remembers Deb. “Lots of friends and family came to see the car get certified.” The car earned Bloomington Gold, Survivor and Benchmark Certifications before being returned home to Garden City, ID.

It was a 2006 trip to Bowling Green that convinced Lifetime Museum Members Rick and Deb that their baby should eventually return “home” to Kentucky. The couple participated in a R8C Corvette Delivery, picking up their new 2006 Z06 at the Museum and touring the GM plant, even getting to start up a car fresh off the assembly line. “That trip convinced us that this is our car’s home,” said Deb.

The couple had put the 1988 in their will for the Museum, but after reading that the Museum was seeking a 35th Anniversary Corvette for display, decided that now might be the time to go ahead and donate it.  “After it was certified, all it did was sit on a rack, covered,” explains Deb. “We decided we might as well donate it while we are still alive so we can come see it, and others can see it.”
The car was again loaded onto a transporter and shipped to Bowling Green, arriving at the Museum at the end of July. “This is a big part of our lives,” says Deb. “The opportunity to share it with so many people is just the best thing that could happen to us.”

Thank you to Richard and Debra for entrusting your beautiful piece of history to the Museum. The Corvette is now featured in the Skydome as part of an Anniversary and Special Edition display and is sure to be enjoyed by many visitors for years to come.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ike Dodrill Donates Late Brother Jim's Corvette

Sandra, James and Jim Dodrill at the Lone Star Corvette Classic
It was April 22, 1989 - 100 years after the Oklahoma Territory Land Run and many in the Sooner State were commemorating the occasion with various deals and specials. One such promotion was at the Chevrolet dealership in Oklahoma City, which advertised all cars on sale for only $89 over invoice. Jim Dodrill saw this as the perfect opportunity to score a much lusted after Corvette. Luckily, the lot had three to choose from, and it was a brand new 1989 Medium Blue Metallic Corvette that he brought home.

Younger brother, Ike (Lifetime Museum Member), fondly remembers the day Jim came home with the car, and the memories that were made over the next 20 years. “We took many trips in that car… to Bloomington Gold, it’s been driven in the Caravan, and several times to the Lone Star Corvette Club event at the Texas Motor Speedway.”

Sadly, Jim suffered a massive heart attack in 2009 and unexpectedly passed away. Over time, Jim’s widow, Sandra, and son, James, decided the car might make a good vehicle for James to drive. It wasn’t running at the time so Ike stepped in to fix it, and before long James was driving the Vette. As with most cars over 20 years old the Corvette started to have issues. James reverted to driving an old truck until it hit 200,000 miles and was ready to be retired for something more reliable. Sandra thought trading in both the Corvette and truck for something newer would be best – prompting Ike to issue a proposition. “I asked if I could buy the car, get it running and then donate it to the Museum in memory of Jim. The car had 28,000 miles on it,” Ike said.  “They discussed it and decided it was the best thing to do.”

Ike Dodrill donates his late brother's Corvette
Ike rebuilt the headlight motors, alternator, replaced the fuel pump/sender unit, fuel injectors, cleaned the throttle body, replaced the top, changed out plugs, wires, ignition system, coil cap, and gave it a basic tune up, a new battery and new tires. “I essentially tried to make it as reliable of a car as we could with the hope that the Museum would be able to use it for any kind of parades, track events, VIP events, anything like that,” Ike said. “My hope is that you guys will have some wonderful times with the car, too.”

When asked what Jim would think about the car’s new home Ike can’t help but smile. “I think he’s up there smiling right now, looking down on us. I think he’s very pleased. I am. I think this is a wonderful thing that we can do for the Museum and I hope that more and more people are able to do the same thing.”

Thank you, Ike, for your generosity and dedication to seeing Jim’s legacy live on. We are sure there are many more memories to be made with the car.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Museum Gifted Two Corvettes

William (Bill) Engel, Jr. a.k.a. “Sweat Hog” of Albany, NY; Ridgewood, NJ and now Summit, NY has owned three Corvettes, equally spaced 20 years apart and each with its own memories. The first was a 1967, bought May 24, 1971 as the third owner. “At the time of purchase the engine was dismantled and there was a swallowed valve which had put a hole in the #7 cylinder,” Bill recalled. “I rebuilt the engine and put a sleeve in the #7 cylinder. The car was functional and on the road by 1972,” he added.

Bill joined the Tri Vettes Ltd. Corvette Club of East Greenbush, NY and while in the club he raced the car on closed course tracks and in road rallies. He was one of the members that was instrumental in winning the North East NCCC Championships in 1974. Today, the car is still road worthy and about 85% original.

In 1986 Bill purchased Corvette number two… a 1987 Coupe that he picked up from McGuire Chevrolet in North Bergen, NJ on New Year’s Eve. It was his daily driver for about ten years.
Finally, to complete his collection spanning 40 years, Bill purchased a 2007 Atomic Orange Corvette. The car had to be shipped from a dealer in Illinois to Hawthorne Chevrolet in New Jersey as it was the last one of this color.

Sadly, Bill was diagnosed last December with inoperable liver cancer. Like most Corvette owners, he didn’t want to sell his cars, and didn’t want anything changed on the 1967.  “I had been a member of the Museum for awhile and had been reading articles in the magazine about recent car donations,” Bill said.  “Donating my 1967 and 1987 was a good way to ensure the cars would be cared for.”

Thanks to Bill for his generosity and passion, ensuring the history of Corvette is passed down to future generations and enthusiasts to come!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

GM Corvette Assembly Plant Announces New Plant Manager

Kai Spande
General Motors announced today the new Plant Manager for their Corvette Assembly Plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Kai Spande, Director of European Powertrain Test Facilities, Engineering Operations and Quality will take the helm, reporting to Arvin Jones, Manufacturing Manager, North American Manufacturing, General Motors. Kai replaces Jeffrey Lamarche who was promoted to the position of Plant Manager Flint Assembly and Stamping. The organizational change is effective September 1st.

Kai has been instrumental in accelerating the implementation of GMS in the European Laps and PPO operations, and in leading a 250M Euro upgrade of the Powertrain test facilities in Turino, Italy, Ruesselsheim, Germany, and at the Dudenhoffe Proving Grounds in Germany, according to an email from GM. He has also been a key contributor and valued member of the European Powertrain Engineering staff. Kai's replacement will be named at a later date.

Congratulations and welcome to Kai! We look forward to having you be a part of Team Corvette and the Bowling Green community!