About an hour before a frigid winter sun would rise over the western Kentucky city of Bowling Green, disaster struck the National Corvette Museum located on the northeastern side of town. A sinkhole some forty feet wide, and deep enough to almost reach the bowels of hell, opened up in the museum’s Skydome, swallowing eight highly coveted Corvettes whole in the process.
It instantaneously became, without a shadow of doubt, the worst tragedy in the Corvette history books. Malaise-era, federal emissions complaint small-block V8s and Crossfire fuel injection now looked like mere footnotes scribbled in crayon and mucous. The 1983 model year was reduced to obscure drunken folklore. And in the weeks and months that followed that fated morning on February, 12th, 2014, the news coming out of Bowling Green would only grow to embrace a wrenching, bittersweet flavor as a construction crew worked tirelessly to rescue the sinkhole’s eight victims.
Initially, the museum had every intention of somehow restoring each Corvette lodged in the rubble. Even General Motors eventually offered to wrangle up a few quarters buried between its corporate couch cushions and help out. When the construction crew retrieved the first Corvette from the aftermath — a pre-production 2009 ZR1 model known as the “Blue Devil” estimated to be worth as much as $1 million — with signs of minimal damage, hopes of a fairytale ending seemed promising. But those hopes would soon be dashed as the remaining seven cars resurfaced.
A donated 1993 40th Anniversary Edition Corvette was the next to emerge and it had clearly come out second-best in its fight against Mother Nature. Its glass lift back had been busted clean out, its face and head had become a Ukrainian war zone. A glimmer of hope returned when the museum’s black 1962 “ducktail” model returned from the hole with non-life-threatening injuries, but after the team pulled free the millionth Corvette ever produced, it was simply all downhill from there.
The millionth Corvette’s windscreen had been smashed flat like a safety glass pancake, it’s face held on only by its lower left-hand jaw. And the next four cars that followed it were just bone-crushingly horrifying. The 1984 PPG Pace Car one-off was severely bent in its middle like a stale cigarette, its back half completely missing, and the one-and-a-half millionth Corvette produced looked as if a giant pair of hands had wrung it out like an old dish towel. The rare ZR1 Spyder and the 2001 Mallet Hammer Z06 were mercilessly mangled beyond recognition, their once-proud fiberglass hides seemingly stripped from their frames like corn husks and thrown asunder in the crumbled concrete and red clay dirt.
Clearly, the museum’s initial declaration that each and every car would be restored to a fresh showroom sheen would not come to fruition, even if it had the backing of General Motors’ own cashbox. At best, only half of the Corvettes ruined could be brought back to a clean bill of health, and only two of them wouldn’t require the combined medical know-how of Jane Seymour, Hugh Laurie and Jesus Christ.
Then, somewhere in the midst of all of this, came the part where things took a turn for the strange.
Pictured above: The National Corvette Museum on the afternoon of May 12, 2014, four months after the sinkhole incident. Business was... booming?
A complete crackpot, likely drunk on Alex Jones-filtered tap water and reruns of the Zapruder film, advanced a conspiracy theory via YouTube that the Corvette sinkhole was a government hoax, dreamed up by a scheming White House hellbent on convincing We The People that our grandmothers would soon be eaten by giant rogue karst formations roaming the countryside. The images of the sinkhole were fake, the airhead said. According to him, you’d have to absolutely mental not to see that floor in the photographs was made from bits of the Weekly World News and — erhm! — or old Styrofoam Dixie cups, and the cars in the hole were made by Mattel, not GM.
Well, obviously, the damned fool was wrong, is still wrong, and will forever be wrong. You see, a few weeks ago, I decided to lay down my old childhood grudge against the ‘Vette Museum and make my own trek out to Bowling Green to see the sinkhole and those eight Corvettes for myself. I can confirm three things. First: holy crap, it’s a huge hole. Second: yes, the floor is concrete. Third: the museum is busier now than ever.
That’s right. This particular hole in the ground is quickly becoming America’s favorite hole in the ground. Since the museum decided to turn the sinkhole into an official part of the museum (albeit probably temporarily), ticket sales have doubled. In fact, the National Corvette Museum might just turn out to be one of the hottest vacation destinations this summer. You can just eat your heart out, Grand Canyon. Swallow a few Corvettes and maybe we’ll give a damn about you again.
So with that said, you managed to sit through your Uncle Sid’s slideshow of the Grand Canyon last summer. Now you’ll have to sit through my slideshow of the National Corvette Museum Sinkhole.
This is what greets you today in the National Corvette Museum’s Skydome. As far as I could tell, the floor didn’t look nor feel like it was made from strips of old newspaper. Or Styrofoam. It felt like concrete to me.
I could’ve sworn I heard screaming and horrible noises coming from somewhere in that sinkhole, though. Come to think of it, it was also sort of muggy feeling in the Skydome during my visit there...
If anyone has a microphone and a really, really long XLR cable, maybe you should lower it down in there, see what you can find. And then mail it off to Art Bell, if he’s still around.
I thought about walking around to the other side and obtaining a better shot of the sinkhole. But then I also started thinking about being escorted out of the museum by Bowling Green 5-0. Nope, nope, nope.
After walking out of the Skydome, the 1993 40th Anniversary Corvette is the first car to... well, I would say “greet you,” but I don’t think it’s much in the mood for greeting people these days. In fact, I bet if this car could talk, it would recite the ending scene of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Buh-dum-pshhh.
This is the 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil... which is technically a Z06 somehow, but never mind that. How on earth those fragile wheels and tires made it through everything without the slightest instance of curb rash, I’ll never understand.
The 1984 PPG Pace Car. Yeah buddy, that’ll just buff right on out. Lemme just grab my polishing wheel and some good old rubbing compound. Hyuck, hyuck, hyuck.
Here we have the millionth Corvette produced, and this is where I have to wonder if all of the dirt left behind is actually necessary. I mean, I know the tin-foil hat people would point and go, “Ah-ha! See! Fake, fake, fake!” But, c’mon. At least buy a bucket, a wash mitt and spend sometime spraying off a little bit of the grime, guys. It’s hard to pay my respects to a broken Corvette when it looks like Farmer John has been using it to round up stray cattle.
...Okay. Well, uh. Yeah. After seeing the million-and-a-halfth Corvette, just never mind about that.
This was once a Corvette. Hard to believe, I know. Also, bonus points if you can spot one piece that would be suitable to use on another Corvette.
Wait, I know! Maybe...
Suck it, Recaro. You can’t make a body-hugging seat like that.
To the owners of the Z06 Mallet, uh, sorry for your loss. Seriously. Don’t be mad at me. Please? Be mad at the sinkhole?
(Why do I have to be a giant ass sometimes? “Sometimes,” he says...)
This, too, was once a Corvette. The ZR1 Spyder, I believe, which wasn’t actually a functioning Corvette. It was, however, valued at $1 million, the same as the Blue Devil ZR1, which would’ve made it the world’s most expensive non-running Corvette. Probably.
All the sinkhole left was its mud-covered butt. Uh, like, ew.
True fact: The 1962 “ducktail” Corvette was donated to the museum because its original owner wanted it to go some place where it would be protected and cared for after he passed on.
They say he now haunts the Skydome.
The fact The One and Only 1983 Corvette made it out alive and completely unscathed is proof that even Mother Nature knows this car was rubbish. (I’m happy to see it survived, though. This is one of four Corvettes I’d actually want to own.)
Photo Credits: Blake Noble