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Last “Sinkhole” Corvette, now restored, returns to display on anniversary of collapse

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Teaser of the 1962 Corvette, pre-restoration. Photos courtesy National Corvette Museum.

And then, there was one. Nearly four years after a sinkhole under the Skydome at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, swallowed eight Corvettes, restorative work on the final damaged car – a Tuxedo Black 1962 model – has been completed. To mark the sinkhole’s anniversary, the last of the “Great Eight” Corvettes will return to the exhibit floor four years to the day after the cave-in.

The aftermath of the sinkhole collapse on February 12, 2014.

Of the Corvettes swallowed by the earth in 2014, five were deemed beyond reasonable repair, including a 1984 PPG Indy Car World Series Pace Car; a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder; a 1993 40th Anniversary coupe; a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06; and the 1.5-millionth Corvette assembled, a 2009 convertible. Instead of being scrapped, the cars were preserved in their damaged state and placed on exhibit in the museum, where they remain a popular attraction with visitors.

The ’62 is plucked from the hole in 2014.

GM agreed to restore two of the remaining damaged Corvettes, namely the 2009 ZR-1 Blue Devil prototype and the millionth Corvette built, a white 1992 convertible. The 2009 was only lightly damaged in the collapse, and as if to prove the Corvette’s durability, was driven off the Skydome floor after being extricated from the sinkhole pit. The 1992 convertible sustained a bit more damage, and its disassembly revealed hidden signatures from the line workers who’d originally assembled the car. Wherever possible, GM repaired the original body panels instead of replacing them, and where new panels were used, workers were invited back to sign them. Recreated signatures, scanned from the originals, were used for deceased workers, or those who could not be located.

February 2017: Corvette Hall of Fame members look down as the damaged car is pushed off the display floor and back to the museum’s maintenance and preservation area.

That left the 1962 Corvette, donated to the museum in 2011 by its original owner, David Donoho. Last February, the National Corvette Museum announced plans to tackle much of the restoration in-house, taking advantage of the facility’s recently expanded maintenance and preservation area. While specialist work – such as frame straightening – was handled by outside contractors, most of the remaining work was taken on by museum staffers and volunteers, including Daniel Decker, vehicle maintenance and preservation coordinator, and curator Derek Moore.

1962 Chevrolet Corvette

The Corvette, as donated by David Donoho. He’d owned the car for 50-plus years before it was gifted to the National Corvette Museum.

During the restoration process, the sinkhole-damaged ’62 became an exhibit of its own, with Decker frequently fielding questions from visitors as he worked on the car. Some even got to see the progress up-close, but after nearly a year of effort – and countless man-hours of time from project volunteers – the Tuxedo Black convertible is once again ready for display.

Or almost ready. The car will be returned to its original home within the museum’s Skydome on February 12, 2018, the four-year anniversary of the sinkhole’s collapse. The museum will hold a brief ceremony marking the occasion at 9:00 Central time, and for those unable to travel to Bowling Green, it will also be streamed live on the National Corvette Museum’s Facebook page.