Two of eight rare Corvettes lifted out of sinkhole

BRUCE SCHREINER
Last updated 17:54 04/03/2014

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Two classic Corvettes have re-emerged from a giant sinkhole that gobbled up those and six other prized vehicles still trapped beneath the US National Corvette Museum in Kentucky.

Workers in a cage painstakingly hooked straps around the cars today (NZ time) before a crane slowly hoisted them one by one from the enormous pit that opened up last month. Onlookers cheered after each car was rescued, but the joy was more subdued for the second car, which had more extensive damage.

The first car hoisted out - a 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil - showed only minor damage that included cracks on lower door panels, a busted window and an oil line rupture that oozed oil, said Chevrolet spokesman Monte Doran.

Workers were able to get that car running. Cheers went up as the engine revved at the Bowling Green museum.

"It sounded awesome, just like before," said museum executive director Wendell Strode.

Doran said the car was in "remarkably good shape. You could have that car back on the road in a couple of days."

Not so for the other car retrieved Monday, a 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette. The body panels and window glass need replacing, but the vehicle is salvageable, Doran added.

The frame looked to be "pretty straight," the underbody appeared intact and the steering gear worked, he said. "Mechanically, it looks to be in remarkably good shape."

Chevrolet will oversee restoration of all eight cars swallowed up last month when the earth opened beneath a display area while the museum was closed. No injuries were reported.

As the rescue operation began, workers in a cage were lowered to hook straps around the cars before they were hoisted out. The hole is about 12 metres across and up to 18m deep, said museum spokeswoman Katie Frassinelli.

"It's been a huge relief," said Mike Murphy, construction manager for the project. "It went better than expected."

Next up is a 1962 black Corvette, which workers hope to recover as early as tomorrow (NZ time), Frassinelli said.

The museum cautioned that removing the black Corvette will be much "trickier" because a huge concrete slab is partially resting atop part of that car. Two cranes will be used to lift that car and the slab.

The other five cars will remain buried until workers further stabilise the sinkhole, Frassinelli said. That work could take two or three weeks, she said. Strode estimated the recovery could take until mid-April.

The museum plans to display the damaged cars through to August 3. The vehicles then will go to a Michigan plant for repairs.

The other cars damaged were a 1993 ZR-1 Spyder, a 1984 PPG Pace Car, a 1992 White 1 millionth Corvette, a 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette and a 2009 white 1.5 millionth Corvette.

The eight cars are widely believed to have a total value exceeding US$1 million (NZ$1.2m), the museum said.

Sinkholes are common in the Bowling Green area, which is located amid a large region of bedrock known as karst where many of Kentucky's largest and deepest caves run underground.

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The museum is open except for the area where the sinkhole occurred.

- AP

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