From sinkhole to showroom: millionth Corvette restored to former glory

Published: 16 September 2015

► 1 millionth Corvette restored
► Original signatures retained
 Took four months, 1200 man-hours

Chevrolet has completed the restoration of the millionth Corvette, after it was damaged when a giant sinkhole opened up inside the USA’s National Corvette Museum in February 2014. The work has taken four months, 1200 man-hours and approximately 30 people – which sounds a lot of effort for a 1992 Corvette C4.

It might also have been a bit of a surprise to Chevy, for when the car was disassembled at the GM Design Center in Michigan, the technicians discovered signatures from every employee involved in its original assembly decorating the underlying and now somewhat damaged components. The need to preserve instead of replace became even more imperative.

Could all the signatures on the millionth Corvette be saved?

In the end, the restoration team was able to save all but three of the original components with signatures, even going so far as to fix the rear facia and front exhaust system – items most restorations would simply supplant. Two of three items beyond repair were scanned and the signatures reapplied as transfers to maintain maximum authenticity.

There was too much damage to rescue the remaining component and its single signature this way, so with the assistance of the National Corvette Museum, Chevrolet managed to track down the employee in question, Angela Lamb, and during the unveil of the restoration she signed the side panel in question before it became the final piece to be fitted to the car.

How original is the millionth Covertte?

Autographs or no, originality was maintained where possible throughout. The red leather seats with ‘1,000,000th Corvette’ embroidery were patched, the front subframe was straightened, destroyed ancillaries were replaced by donor parts from a car of the same vintage, and the team managed to unkink the crushed windscreen header rail – apparently once complete, the new glass dropped back in perfectly. Nifty skills, make no mistake. But then, this is the crew that builds all GM’s concept cars and maintains its historical fleet.

Better yet, it turned out that the computer file containing the windscreen banner graphic still existed, making replacing that something of a doddle. Other good luck came with the 5.7-litre engine and automatic gearbox, which survived their journey towards the centre of the earth remarkably unscathed. The wheels needed a refurb, but the original Goodyear tyres have been retained.

What happened to the other sinkhole Corvettes?

Chevrolet has already restored one of the Corvettes damaged in the sinkhole incident, a 2009 ZR1 prototype nicknamed the Blue Devil. The National Corvette Museum is undertaking repair to a 1962 model. The other five that ended up at the bottom of the hole ‘will remain in their as-recovered state to preserve the historical significance of the cars’, ahead of becoming part of a ‘sinkhole themed’ exhibit at the museum.

By CJ Hubbard

Former CAR magazine associate editor, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count

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