Written By Melissa Burden, The Detroit News
General Motors Co. and Chevrolet are to reveal the restored 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 that was damaged when a giant sinkhole in February swallowed it and seven other Corvettes at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
The 2009 ZR1, nicknamed the “Blue Devil,” was on loan from GM. It fell into a 30-foot-deep sinkhole and was the least damaged of the eight cars. About 10 people worked for six weeks — mostly at an auto shop in Sterling Heights — to restore the Blue Devil to its original glory.
Chevy will show the restored car at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas, an industry show where car bling is king.
“We wanted to bring the car to SEMA simply because it was the first of the sinkhole Corvettes restored, and we know the other two cars will likely take six months to complete,” Chevrolet spokesman Monte Doran said in an email.
In February, GM said it would try to restore all eight Corvettes that tumbled into the 45-foot-wide and 60-foot-long hole that opened in the floor. But the museum determined just three could be restored. The other five are on display — in their smashed states — at the museum.
When SEMA wraps up later this week, the Blue Devil will be trucked to the museum, but it will be in storage for several months while the museum fills in the hole.
Damage to the Blue Devil included cracked carbon-fiber ground effects and a broken passenger-side rocker panel; front fender damage; cracked windshield, hood window glass and headlamp; cracks in the two doors; broken oil lines; bent rear control arms; and scratches.
GM also has in its possession the 1 millionth Corvette produced: a 1992 white convertible that fell into the hole. It will restore that car, too, though work has not begun, Campbell and Doran said. The museum also will work with a restoration shop to have a black 1962 Corvette restored.
In total, the Detroit automaker is providing about $250,000 to the nonprofit museum to help in restoration efforts.
The sinkhole garnered increased awareness for the museum, which saw attendance soar 65 percent through Sept. 30. Security video footage of the cars falling into the sinkhole has been viewed nearly 8.4 million times on YouTube.
A $3.2 million construction project to fill the hole is to begin Monday and should be completed by July, said Katie Frassinelli, the museum’s marketing and communications manager. She said most of the cost is covered by insurance, though Corvette enthusiasts are donating money and sales of some items at the museum store — including a $10 jar of dirt and debris — are helping the effort.
Museum visitors will be able to view construction through a viewing window. At least some of the damaged Corvettes will be on display in other parts of the museum during construction, Frasinelli said. Damaged cars on display include a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder, 1984 PPG Pace Car, 1993 40th Anniversary Ruby Red Corvette, 2001 “Mallett Hammer” ZO6 and the 2009 1.5 millionth Corvette.
“Even though this was something bad to happen at the museum, in the end everything comes out for the better,” Frassinelli said.
“Attendance and interest in the museum is up significantly and while were doing great before the sinkhole happened, now we’re doing even better.”