On February 12th of 2014, the ground opened up in the early hours of the morning at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This shocking event rocked the auto enthusiast world as the 40 foot wide sinkhole swallowed 8 dream cars. Now, efforts are beginning to recover the lost cars, but it won’t be easy to get them all out in one piece.
Prompted by activity in the motion detectors, it was discovered that a sinkhole, 40 feet wide and 25-30 feet deep, took 8 collectible Corvettes down into the earth — the whole gut wrenching event was actually caught on release security footage. The area where this happened is separate from the main museum. It’s estimated that the total value of the great 8 is around $1-$2 million, with the most valuable one being the 1992 1-millionth built. None of the cars that fell in are owned by individuals.
Two cars were on loan from General Motors went down:
- 1993 ZR-1 Spyder
- 2009 ZR-1 “Blue Devil”
Six other Corvettes are owned by the museum:
- 1962 Black Corvette
- 1984 PPG Pace Car
- 1992 White 1,000,000 edition
- 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary
- 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06
- 2009 White 1,500,000 Corvette
Even though the museum is a privately owned non-profit organization, GM has stepped up to help restore the Corvettes to their original condition. Since no persons were hurt and General Motors is offering their help, the loss is somewhat minimal as compared to what it could be.
Recovery is Underway
On March 3rd, 2014, the first round of recovery efforts began. This beginning stage of the recovery is nothing shy of inspiring. During the first phase, three cars were successfully removed as the process streamed live on the Museum’s website. Two of the cars were the easiest to remove as they are sitting atop the rubble, while the third fell into a more challenging position.
First out was the blue 2009 ZR1, nicknamed the “Blue Devil”. The efforts began around 9am and, after a few tense moments, the ZR1 was finally safely placed on solid ground again. As an ultimate sign of victory, this Corvette was cranked up and drove out of the area – Blue Devil 1, sinkhole 0.
After the first car was cleared, the team got to work on the 40th Anniversary ruby red Corvette. This effort was also a success, but it looked a little more like it had spent a few weeks in a sinkhole than the first. It’s appearance is similar to a car that’s been in a roll over accident.
At around 12:30 on Tuesday, the last of the set was pulled out, the 1962 Corvette. Even though this was expected to be the most risky of the first pulls, it came out of the hole looking a little rough, but not half bad! The car’s windshield is cracked and it has its fair share of scrapes, but it’s hard not be hopeful that this wrecked version of the ’62 will only live in photos before too long.
All three survivors are now on display in the museum as recovery efforts for the remaining cars proceed.
Now that the first three are out, getting the remaining five out will be tense. The second half of the cars went down first and are buried much deeper in the hole. Week 2 will likely involve a lot more assessment than action. Both the 1,500,000th Corvette built (valued at around $750,000) and the 700 horsepower Mallet Hammer Corvette are completely buried under many layers of cars, dirt, and building materials — so the process will most certainly get more difficult with each car.
As each Corvette is pulled out, it will go on display with the first three for a brief amount of time — they will then all be shipped off to Michigan for restoration. The museum plans to refill the hole and repair the area of the building, but no exact timeframe for completion is known.
Photo Credit: Steve Fecht and Adam Boca for Chevrolet