It was unveiled at the National Corvette Museum, where it returns as part of the permanent exhibit. The car was damaged on Feb. 12, 2014, when it and seven other rare Corvettes tumbled into a sinkhole that opened beneath the museum’s Skydome area.
After recovery from the sinkhole, the 1 millionth Corvette was moved from the museum to the Design Center on GM’s Technical Center campus in Warren, Mich., for restoration. Approximately 30 craftspeople and technicians from GM Design’s Mechanical Assembly group, along with GM Service Operations, took on the project. Mechanical Assembly and the Fabrication Shops at GM Design build concept vehicles and maintain GM’s historic vehicle collection.
Despite extensive damage, the team, represented by UAW locals 160 and 1869, vowed to preserve and repair as many original components as possible – a decision that involved posterity as much as history. That’s because under the skin, the 1 millionth Corvette carried all those signatures from the Bowling Green Assembly workers who built the car.
Only two signed components couldn’t be saved, so the team had the autographs scanned, reproduced as transfers and placed on the replacement parts.
One component with a single signature from Bowling Green Assembly employee Angela Lamb was too damaged to save or even accurately scan for her autograph. Chevrolet worked with the National Corvette Museum to secure a new signature from Lamb on the replacement part, so the 1-millionth Corvette will be historically accurate down to the last signature.
Among the parts replaced were the hood, front fascia and the lower panels between the front wheels and doors, as well as a number of ancillary supporting components under the hood. The replacements came from a vehicle of the same vintage and color, ensuring authenticity of the parts and materials involved with the restoration.
A few other components, such as the rear fascia and front exhaust system, would have probably been replaced in almost any other restoration project, but the team repaired them because they were also covered in signatures.
Surprisingly, the one component the team didn’t have to replace was the crushed windshield header. When the car first rolled into the shop, an overhead crane was used to raise it enough to make the car drivable, but the frame pulled up surprisingly close to the original position, encouraging the team to save it.
The final touch was replacing the unique “1,000,000th” windshield banner it wore when it rolled off the assembly line 23 years ago. The computer graphic file used for the original was still available, allowing creation of an identical banner.
The 1 millionth Corvette is the second sinkhole-damaged Corvette that Chevrolet has restored. The first, a 2009 Corvette ZR1 prototype known as the Blue Devil, was only lightly damaged and was returned to its original condition last fall. The National Corvette Museum will oversee the restoration of a third car, a 1962 Corvette.
The other five Corvettes swallowed by the sinkhole will remain in their as-recovered state to preserve the historical significance of the cars. They will become part of a future sinkhole-themed display at the museum.