National Corvette Museum retrieves two Corvettes from sinkhole

Angelo Van Bogart |

Corvette Museum pulls out ZR1 “Blue Devil” and

40th Anniversary Edition from sinkhole

The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, extricated the first of eight Corvettes to fall in a sinkhole beneath the museum on February 11. Before crowds filled with construction personnel, media, museum visitors and staff, the 2009 “Blue Devil” ZR1 emerged from the depths of the sinkhole this morning at approximately 10:35 a.m. CT. The process was streamed live on two of the museum’s web cams with thousands of viewers tuning in all over the world.

A second car — the “Ruby Red” 1993 Corvette 40th Anniversary Edition — was pulled out of the sinkhole later Monday afternoon.

“It’s wonderful… just seven more to go,” said Mike Murphy, construction manager for the project, after the ZR1 was pulled. Even more cheers erupted when the ZR1 was cranked over after only a few tries, and even drove about 20 feet to the doorway of the Skydome. “That’s a GM product for you. They take a licking and keep on ticking!” added Murphy.

The Corvette ZR1 Blue Devil being lifted out of the sinkhole Monday, March 3. The car was started and driven under its own power after it was retrieved.

The Corvette ZR1 Blue Devil being lifted out of the sinkhole Monday, March 3. The car was started and driven under its own power after it was retrieved.

The next car recovered was the “Ruby Red” 1993 Corvette 40th Anniversary Edition, which was pulled later Monday afternoon. Photos showed it suffered considerable more damage, although it remained intact. At press time, the museum had not announced if it tried to fire up the 40th Anniversary Edition Corvette’s engine.

The 1993 40th Anniversary Corvette as it was retrieved from the sinkhole.

The 1993 40th Anniversary Corvette as it was retrieved from the sinkhole.

The 40th anniversary Corvette clearly sustained more damage than the ZR1 pulled out before it.

The 40th anniversary Corvette clearly sustained more damage than the ZR1 pulled out before it.

The crews have been working six days a week since the sinkhole incident that swallowed eight Corvettes in the National Corvette Museum‘s Skydome exhibit area. This past Saturday, the crews rigged up the ZR1 and did a few test lifts. John Spencer, Manufacturing Integration Manager at the GM Corvette Assembly Plant, helped consult the team on the best points to strap up the car. “With Mike, worker safety is number one. There are no compromises,” said Spencer.

“I was worried about the wheels,” said Murphy. “This morning we took so long because we wanted to add some secondary straps in case the wheels pulled. It was just a little more insurance.”

Murphy added that with this project, nothing is set in stone on how to do it. “It’s been a huge relief. It went better than expected,” he said.

After the elation of the first car being rescued and even cranking up, the museum staff were excited to put the car back on display in its exhibit hall. “It’s incredible to have the car back on display again. It’s what we’ve been hoping for,” said Bob Hellmann, Facilities and Displays Manager. “Now we just want to get the next seven, restore the cars, and get them all back on display.”

The third car planned to be retrieved — a 1962 Black Corvette — will be pulled out of the sinkhole on Tuesday. This job will be much trickier, because a five-ton slab of concrete is partially resting on the front of the car. Two cranes will be used to simultaneously lift the car and the concrete.

The museum plans on displaying the cars as they are recovered now through August 3. In addition, it has plans this spring to create a special display with information on the sinkhole incident, sinkholes and karst background details with videos and photos.

Links to photos, videos and press releases are available on the Museum’s website at www.corvettemuseum.org. For the latest updates visit the Museum’s Facebook Fan page at www.facebook.com/corvettemuseum.

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