Fulfilling its promise to fully restore the irreplaceable Corvette Number 1 Million from the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky after its near-destruction in the tragic sinkhole, which swallowed up several priceless pieces of history last year.

The 1 millionth Corvette produced – this white 1992 convertible – was damaged when it fell into a sinkhole that opened up beneath the National Corvette Museum, in Bowling Green, Ky., on Feb. 12, 2014. This image depicts the as-recovered state of the vehicle.
The 1 millionth Corvette produced – this white 1992 convertible – was damaged when it fell into a sinkhole that opened up beneath the National Corvette Museum, in Bowling Green, Ky., on Feb. 12, 2014. This image depicts the as-recovered state of the vehicle.

If you’ll recall, back in February of 2014, an overnight disaster happened when a sinkhole opened up right in the middle of the floor of one of the displays at the National Corvette Museum. Several priceless cars were swallowed up, damaged extensively – a few beyond repair. One of those was the one millionth Corvette produced, a stunning example of this favorite American sports car. Chevrolet pledged to fully restore the car to its former self, however, and were likely the only ones who could do it.

After 1,200 man hours of painstaking repair, rebuilding, and hand-made replacement parts, the 1 millionth Corvette, a white 1992 model year convertible – has been restored. The car was unveiled at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. Despite the extensive damage, only two parts could not be saved with their original signatures from the factory floor where workers signed each piece they installed on the car as it went by on the line. The signatures were recovered enough that they could be scanned and transferred to the new parts to preserve the names, but the original parts are forever lost, their battered remains to stay with the car as a reminder of the damage done.

“We went to great lengths to preserve every autograph,” said David Bolognino, director of GM Global Design Fabrication Operations. “In the end, we saved every one of them, which was an unexpected and important element to the restoration.”

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. Chevrolet worked with the National Corvette Museum to secure a new signature from Lamb on the replacement part, so the 1-millionth Corvette will be historically accurate down to the last signature.

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

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 will oversee the restoration of a third car, a 1962 Corvette.

The other five Corvettes swallowed by the sinkhole will remain in their as-recovered state to preserve the historical significance of the cars. They will become part of a future sinkhole-themed display at the museum.

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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