Fans of General Motors’ (NYSE:GM) iconic Corvette nameplate suffered a bit of a blow last week, when a ridiculously inconveniently placed sinkhole opened up right below a display area in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and took eight valuable Corvette vehicles with it. Fortunately, as it happened at around 5:30 in the morning, no one was in the exhibit when it occurred.
A light has appeared at the end of the tunnel, however, as GM announced – perhaps not unexpectedly — on Thursday that it will watch over the restoration of the classic cars affected by the incident. For those who have been following, the cars that fell into the roughy 40-foot-wide sinkhole were a 1962 black Corvette, a 1984 PPG pace car, a 1992 white Corvette that was the one millionth brand vehicle made, a 1993 ruby red 40th-anniversary Corvette, a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder on loan from General Motors, a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette, a 2009 white Corvette (this was the 1.5 millionth made), and the 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil,” also on loan from General Motors.
General Motors Design in Warren, Michigan, will take care of the restoration work; GM’s head of global product development described the vehicles to CBS News as ”some of the most significant in automotive history.”
“There can only be one 1-millionth Corvette ever built,” he said to the news outlet. “We want to ensure as many of the damaged cars are restored as possible so fans from around the world can enjoy them.”
However, that would entail pulling the cars out of the pit in the first place, a process that the museum has yet to figure out how to achieve. The sinkhole is about 25 to 30 feet deep, and the ground surrounding the hole is presumably not very sturdy, limiting the museum’s ability to get a crane or lift in there to haul the cars out.
“We feel pretty confident that most of the cars can be extracted,” Wendell Strode, the museum’s executive director, told CBS News on Thursday. “And we hope and believe that with just a little bit of luck, that all eight cars can be extracted and be part of the restoration.”
However, by General Motors’ own calculations, it might be “several weeks” before the cars can be removed and collected. Chevrolet spokesman Monte Doran said to CBS News that some of the cars look to be in good shape, while others are completely buried.
The museum managed to rescue a 1983 Corvette prototype model, an exceedingly rare car, since no production models were made for that particular year. Museum staff evacuated the remaining models from the display to ensure no further damage would happen. Additionally, General Motors is pitching in to help make the needed repairs to the museum itself.
“We don’t know yet what will be covered by insurance, and what will be covered by GM,” Doran said to CBS News. “However, we expect that there will be no cost to the museum to restore the cars.”
Strode said the first task is to stabilize what’s inside the sinkhole and near it, which alone could take as long as 10 days. The cars will then be removed by means of a crane. Both construction firms and engineering teams have been called in to work on the project, CBS News reports.
Hopefully, the needed repairs will be completed by August, in time for the museum’s Corvette Caravan, which this year will mark the museum’s 20th anniversary.
“These Corvettes are part of our history, and they want them restored properly,” Strode said to CBS News. “We’re thrilled they’re doing this.”