Rare Corvettes remain stuck in sinkhole

STEPHEN OTTLEY AND DAVID UNDERCOFFLER
Last updated 09:39 21/02/2014
Reuters

Closed circuit cameras capture the dramatic moment a sinkhole swallows a number of vintage vehicles from the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky.

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The Corvette museum in the US that lost eight cars into a sinkhole last week has begun the careful process of retrieving the stricken cars.

The National Corvette Museum has had to cut a hole in the roof of its building to allow a giant crane to be positioned to extract the cars from the sinkhole.

Geologists from the Western University of Kentucky have been brought in to help ensure the ground is stable. They are assisting the recovery crew stabilise the ground surrounding the hole by creating smaller holes and filling them with concrete.

Once the area is declared safe, the crane will lower a recovery expert into the sinkhole to begin lifting each car out one at a time.

Remarkably two of the Corvettes that were swallowed by the earth remain unseen, covered by either dirt or rocks.

But the museum is confident that all the cars can be recovered within two weeks.

Once the cars are out, General Motors has committed to oversee the restoration of the classics at its Mechanical Assembly facility in Detroit under the watch of GM’s head of global design, Ed Welburn.

"The vehicles at the National Corvette Museum are some of the most significant in automotive history," said Mark Reuss, executive vice president of GM’s global product development.

"There can only be one 1-millionth Corvette ever built. We want to ensure as many of the damaged cars are restored as possible so fans from around the world can enjoy them when the museum reopens."

Here's a list of the eight cars in the sinkhole:

1992 Corvette convertible

This white-on-red convertible is notable because it's the 1-millionth Corvette ever built, a fact that could push this car's value into the seven-figure range, Klinger said.

"That's a milestone car," he said. "You can debate the value but you don't question its significance. Something is worth what people want to pay for it, and a lot of collectors would like to have that in their collection." But take away its production number and you have a fairly ordinary Corvette, Jonathan Klinger of Hagerty's Insurance, a company that values and insures classic cars, said.

The car was built July 2, 1992, at about 2pm, according to the National Corvette Museum. It was donated to the organisation by General Motors. The car features a 5.7-litre V8 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission. A similar car might sell for US$15,000 to US$20,000 today.
 
But this Corvette's background means that it's no ordinary car. "This accident becomes part of the car's history, a footnote," Klinger said. "This one is worth fixing."

2009 Corvette ZR1

The recent ZR1 was the most powerful car GM ever sold, and this specific car was the first such model built by Chevrolet. Originally built as a Z06, Chevy engineers converted this exact car to the ZR1 specifications before unveiling it to the press at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. Given this pedigree, a Chevy spokesman estimated that it could be worth as much as $1 million.

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The ZR1 - nicknamed the "Blue Devil" - used a 6.2-litre, supercharged V-8 engine to make 638 horsepower. The car was on long-term loan to the museum by GM.

1993 Corvette ZR-1 Spyder

This was the other Corvette affected by the sinkhole that GM donated to the National Corvette Museum. Though it looks to the casual observer like a run-of-the-mill Corvette convertible, it's anything but. This is a non-running design study that debuted at the 1991 Detroit Auto Show.

The ZR-1 was a limited-series run of high-performance variants built between 1990 and 1995. Though the production cars were available only as a coupe, GM built this prototype design study for the aforementioned auto show. The car has a unique, custom-built hood, tonneau cover, windshield, front quarter panels and racing seats.

Like the other ZR1 from 2009, this car's rarity makes it valuable; it could be worth as much as US$1 million today.

2009 Corvette convertible

This car was in the museum's collection for one reason: It's the 1.5-millionth Corvette ever made. Built with the same white-on-red as the 1-millionth Corvette (both pay homage to the colour scheme on the first 300 Corvettes ever built in 1953), the National Corvette Museum bought this car new in 2009.

The fate of this car is unknown based on the photos from the sinkhole. It's not visible in any of the photos provided by the museum.

1984 PPG pace car

This one-off project car was created by PPG, a paint supplier to numerous automakers. PPG built the car in conjunction with GM to use as a pace car in the 1984 PPG Indy Car World Series.

It uses a 6.6-litre V-8 engine paired with a five-speed manual transmission, and a custom-built body painted Orange Glow by PPG. The car was in the museum's initial collection when it first opened its doors in 1994, having been donated by PPG.

The status of this car is unknown.

2001 Mallett Hammer Corvette Z06

This brilliant red Corvette was just the ninth car modified by Mallett, a tuning shop known for its work on Corvettes. After work was done on the car in 2002, this Corvette was rated at 700 horsepower, enough to help it do a quarter-mile run in 10.6 seconds.

The car was donated to the museum by longtime Corvette fans and collectors Kevin and Linda Helmintoller. Its fate in the sinkhole disaster is unknown.

1993 40th anniversary Corvette

This car was one of 6749 Corvettes built to commemorate the nameplate's 40th anniversary in 1993. Like all of these anniversary models, this car was painted ruby red with matching red leather inside. The coupe was donated to the National Corvette Museum by Hill and Karen Clark, who are lifelong Corvette fans and owners.

This is also one of the more visible cars sitting inside the sinkhole. Damage to the car looks moderate, based on the photos, with numerous scratches and scuffs to the paint and a shattered rear window and taillight.

1962 Corvette convertible

This car was one of more than 14,000 Corvettes built in 1962, all of which were convertibles. The tuxedo black version was bought new in 1962 by David Donoho, who was the only owner before donating the car to the museum - somewhat ironically - for its protection. Fortunately, this is one of the affected Corvettes that should escape the sinkhole relatively unscathed. It can be seen in the photos in an upright position, resting on its tail.

-Fairfax News Australia/MCT/Los Angeles Times

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