Thursday, January 17, 2013

2013 Corvette Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

The National Corvette Museum has announced the following inductees to be recognized as part of the 16th Annual Corvette Hall of Fame Ceremony in 2013:  Wil Cooksey in the category of GM/Chevrolet; Werner Meier in the category of Corvette enthusiast/historian; and Johnny O’Connell, in the category of racing will all be recognized with the highest honor bestowed by the Museum for their contributions to the past, present and future of Corvette.

The 2013 Hall of Fame recipients will be inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame during a ceremony and banquet on Thursday, August 29, 2013. Their induction will take place as part of the Museum’s 19th Anniversary Corvette Celebration festivities August 29-31, 2013.

Corvette Hall of Fame Inductee Wil Cooksey’s career with General Motors is the epitome of achievement beginning with his first job as an assistant professor in industrial engineering at GMI in Flint, MI in 1972.  In 1976 he transferred to the St. Louis plant where he held several positions before being transferred to the Doraville plant in Atlanta.  After working at various superintendent positions at Doraville he was named the production manager at the Fairfax plant in Kansas. 

Cooksey’s connection to Corvette began in February 1993 when he assumed the role as the Plant Manager at the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant, responsible for the production of Corvettes and later the Cadillac XLRs.  He held that role for 15 years – the longest serving Plant Manager to date - before retiring in March 2008.  While at the Plant, Cooksey not only served on the Board of Directors for the National Corvette Museum (1994-2011) and Board Chairman (2008 and 2009), but he was also responsible for helping to get started many of the Delivery Department programs the Museum still offers today including R8C, Xperience, Buyers’ Tours and more.  Cooksey was much more than a Plant Manager, going the extra mile to get to know the customers, traveling to car shows, enhancing the plant tour experience by encouraging employee interaction with guests and being very Corvette enthusiast and owner focused.

Cooksey has received numerous accolades and awards including “Black Engineer of the Year President’s Award” in 1997, “Achiever of the Year” from Austin Peay University, was featured on the cover of African-American on Wheels magazine when they named Corvette the “Best Urban Car of the Year”, “Black Achiever in the Industry” by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the “Lee Iacocca Award” in 2010.

Corvette Hall of Fame Inductee Werner Meier became involved in the hobby in 1969 when he purchased his first Corvette – a brand new 1969 on his 18th birthday.   That same year he began participation in the Corvette Club of Michigan, but wasn’t able to officially join until 1972 when he turned 21.  A graduate of the General Motors Institute, he worked at GM as a manufacturing engineer, service engineer and Engineering Group Manager over a 33 year career, but it is his side hobby of Corvette restoration and collection that has garnered notoriety.  Meier has owned, restored and/or serviced over 100 Corvettes, many of them very rare or unique including a 1958 “Fancy Free” styling car, 1963 Corvette styling car built for Harley Earl and 1964 Bill Mitchell styling car with one piece door glass.

Meier has provided vehicles from his personal collection to various Museums for display including the GM Heritage Center, Gilmore Car Museum and National Corvette Museum.  He has also organized exclusive Corvette displays at events such as the Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance, Bay Harbor Concours d’Elegance and Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.  With preservation and restoration being two of his many Corvette passions, Meier has been a member of the National Corvette Restorers Society since 1983 and serves as an annual Tech Seminar host.  He also was an inaugural member of the Bloomington Gold Corvette Hall of Fame in 1998 and has been a Special Collection exhibitor eight times.  As a Lifetime Member of the National Corvette Museum, Meier has loaned his 1963 “Bunkie Knudsen” Corvette and 1958 “Fancy Free” Corvette for exhibit at the Museum, in addition to providing on-going advice and ideas on improving displays and exhibits at the Museum.

Corvette Hall of Fame Inductee Johnny O’Connell is hailed as the most successful GM factory racecar driver from the U.S.  O’Connell’s racing career began in 1987 in the Formula Atlantic series where he won five races en route to the championship and was named Rookie of the Year.  In 1993 he scored a class victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring, an overall win in 1994 and another class victory in 1995.  He also won his class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1994, which was also his first time competing in the prestigious endurance race.

O’Connell joined the factory Corvette Racing team in 2001, scoring the team’s first overall victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona in the Corvette C5.R, followed by the team’s first 24 Hours of Le Mans class victory in 2001. Since then he has helped GM’s factory team capture eight straight manufacturers’ titles and achieving seven class wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring, more than any other driver.  In 2008, O’Connell and teammate Jan Magnussen dominated the GT1 class, scoring eight wins en route to the class championship.  O’Connell notched his record-setting eighth Sebring win in the season opening race in 2009, and then became the first American to score four class wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  He made a seamless transition to the GT2 class, finishing as runner-up in the competition debut of the GT2 Corvette C6.R at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and scoring Corvette Racing’s first GT2 win at Mosport in his record-setting 100th career ALMS start.  At the conclusion of the 2009 season, O'Connell held numerous ALMS records, including the most career starts (102), most podium finishes (80), most top-five finishes (93) and most top-10 finishes (100). After ten years with Corvette, O’Connell joined Team Cadillac in 2011, competing in the SCCA World Challenge GT alongside former Corvette Racing teammate Andy Pilgrim where they still race today.  In 2012 O’Connell was inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame and joined Bondurant School of High Performance Driving as their ZR1 expert instructor, also serving as the school’s VP of Global Operations.  He also now adds insight and excitement to the ALMS racing as a commentator for ABC, ESPN and Speed.

The National Corvette Museum established the Corvette Hall of Fame in 1998 to confer the highest honor and recognition upon the most influential individuals in the history of the Corvette. The award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to their respective fields, each having reached the highest level of accomplishment. Inductees must also reflect the highest standards of integrity and character to positively enhance the prestige of the Corvette and the National Corvette Museum.

Additional information on reserving a spot at the prestigious Corvette Hall of Fame banquet will be available in the coming months via our website at: or can be obtained by subscribing to our weekly eNewsletter “NCM eNews” at:  Corporate tables are available for the dinner and can be reserved by contacting Karen Renfrow in the Events Department at 270-467-8804 or email

The National Corvette Museum is a member-driven, non-profit foundation dedicated to educating the public through the preservation of the Corvette’s past, present and future heritage. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT, the Museum is located at Exit 28 off I-65 in Bowling Green, KY.