Everything Corvette - The National Corvette Museum
By: Nick Cavanaugh & Joel Patel \ August 23, 2014
Located in picturesque Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA; the National Corvette Museum (NCM) houses some of the rarest Corvettes in the world with an extraordinary experience to match.
With more than 100,000 people and approximately 6,000 Corvettes in attendance, the NCM opened its doors on September 2, 1994, set on Corvette preservation, education and celebration. The building started in 1990 as an annex until a 68,000 sqft museum was built in 1994. Neumann Smith and Associates from Southfield, MI designed the building and Exhibition Works of Livonia, MI handled the construction of the exhibits. In 2008 the NCM’s finished a $14 million expansion. Upon completion, the NCM grew a total of 47,000 sqft, which included the Corvette store, a library and archive, the Hall of Fame, and the Corvette Café.
The 115,000 sqft museum is a beautifully designed building built on a 52 acre site featuring an outdoor picnic area and amphitheater. The NCM is recognized for its sweeping lines and space-age design; however, Corvette enthusiasts are more interested in what the building holds - 80 plus Corvettes and a plethora of Corvette memorabilia. To create a fresh, ever-changing display of Corvettes, the NCM acquires its cars through donations, individuals, as well as vehicles on loan from Chevrolet.
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Besides displaying Corvettes, the NCM covers all bases to satisfy even the toughest Corvette critic, including paying homage to the original General Motors assembly plant that built 300 of the 1953 Corvettes. In 2003 the Flint, MI based plant was demolished, as a result, the NCM acquired genuine bricks from the assembly plant and created the historic on-site Flint Brick Wall. Limited to 620 spaces, individuals can purchase a brick with an engraved, sequence numbered plate displaying their name, business, or Corvette club to be showcased on the brick wall.
The NCM also conducts numerous Corvette raffles throughout the year. NCM Executive Director, Wendell Strode said “Our raffle fundraisers are a tremendous help to the Museum and a large part of our planning and daily operation funds”. Winners are treated with a museum delivery of their new Corvette, a VIP tour of the museum and Corvette assembly plant, hands-on training by a NCM delivery team member, a wall plaque, a program decal, as well as a one-year membership to the museum. Tickets are typically limited to a small quantity and sell quickly.
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The museum doesn’t stop there; Corvette owners can treat themselves to the "NCM Xperience" offering existing Corvette owners the opportunity to have their vehicle cleaned and displayed on the museum’s delivery floor while personally taking a VIP tour of the assembly plant and museum. Individuals receive a silver decal recognizing their participation in the program, a commemorative plaque, an individual photograph in front of the museum, complete with a one-year membership. New Corvette buyers can opt for a truly unique museum experience with the renowned “R8C” Corvette Museum Delivery. Upon checking the R8C option when purchasing a new Corvette, buyers are treated to a VIP tour of the assembly plant and museum, delivery presentation of their new vehicle on-site, a one-year membership, as well as a distinct gold decal placed on the inside of the driver’s door commemorating the event.
All the happenings at the NCM can be viewed on any of the museum’s 23 webcams that broadcast live 24-7. The webcams cover almost every square inch of the museum from the Nostalgia Area to the Skydome, and everything in-between. These webcams make it possible for individuals from around the world to partake in all the museum’s special moments.
In February 2014, the NCM gained national news coverage when a sinkhole opened under the notorious Skydome swallowing eight rare Corvettes. Amongst the eight vehicles were a 1962 Corvette, a 1984 PPG pace car, the 1992 one millionth-built Corvette, a 1993 40th Anniversary Corvette, a 1993 ZR1 Spyder, a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette, the 2009 1.5 millionth-built Corvette, and a 2009 ZR1 ‘Blue Devil’ prototype - most of which were irreplaceable, and damaged well beyond repair.
The cumulative damage racked up to over $1,000,000. Eight precious Corvettes were mangled, but something extraordinary happened. Interestingly enough, the sinkhole could perhaps be one of the best things to ever hit the NCM. According to The New York Times, attendance for the NCM is up 59 percent compared to the same period last year and, if that’s not good enough, sales at the museum shop and café are reporting double-digit increases. To put this into perspective, in May 2013, the museum attracted 9,000 visitors, while more than 17,000 visited the museum this May. That being said, it should come as no surprise that museum officials have decided to keep an opening of the sinkhole for visitors to see. Besides retaining the sinkhole, the NCM is also displaying most of the Corvettes in their post-sinkhole, crushed condition. The few cars that survived the disaster are being painstakingly restored, a project overseen by Chevrolet.
Officials at the museum have yet another trick up their sleeve. After a four-year expedition, the NCM is introducing a motorsports park across from the Corvette assembly (pictured above). Back in 2010, a plan was announced to construct two road courses totaling 3.1 miles, a 10 acre autocross course, a quarter-mile drag strip and a kart track on the 184 acres of land next to I-65. The $35 million facility began to take shape in 2012 and is almost ready for its debut.
In an interview with WKU Public Radio, Mitch Wright, lead planner for the NCM racetrack stated that the track would be available to everyone, not only for Corvette owners, “One of the things that we’re facing is that we’re not a ‘Corvette-only’ facility, we’re open to any-and-all groups”. The track is geared towards aspiring drivers striving to become more proficient and will welcome people of all skill levels and ages. The facility isn’t open yet however CNN has already raked the track as #17 on its Top 50 Spots for 2014 list. According to the racetrack’s blog, there are already a total of 118 events booked.
The last year has been one of the toughest for the NCM forcing officials at the NCM to draw attention away from their primary objectives; however, the museum continues to provide tourists and Corvette enthusiasts with an unrivaled experience. Through all of the past changes, and those that will inevitably arise, the National Corvette Museum remains a Corvette lover’s paradise for enthusiasts of America’s sports car.
For information on the Nation Corvette Museum visit CorvetteMuesum.org