The Chevrolet Corvette has always been on the cutting edge for GM, both in terms of design, construction, and the actual building of the car. With the introduction of the new C7 generation, that mantle has been picked up by the newest of the breed.
Recently we were invited to the Bowling Green Assembly Plant, to see firsthand the building of Chevrolet’s newest flagship vehicle, the 2014 Corvette Stingray, and understand what the public would see when plant tours for outsiders resumed. Public tours had been discontinued by GM for safety reasons while serious remodeling was being done inside the plant in preparation for the new car, and to help protect its secrets until the public unveiling. Now that everyone knows what the C7 is all about, and full production has started, the curtain could be raised and the public allowed to see what goes into make this newest generation of the iconic American sports car.
Watch for the full breakdown on the construction of the new C7 in an upcoming issue of Super Chevy magazine.
This is literally the beginning of the C7, where the core part of its new aluminum alloy frame, the center main rail section, is laser welded together in a sealed chamber. Inside the welding room, robots laser weld the various stamped pieces together, while also checking for any possible defects, or deviations outside of design tolerances. “The new aluminum-welding process enabled us to make the frame lighter and stiffer, improving the performance and driving confidence,” said Dave Tatman, plant manager. “Measuring 100 points on every frame reduces the chance for unwanted squeaks and rattles that would distract from the driving experience.”
From the “spine” of the frame moves out to the automated welding jigs so the various peripheral frame components can be attached. It is the most complex frame design in the Corvette’s history, featuring main rails composed of five customized aluminum segments, including aluminum extrusions at each end, a center main rail section and hollow-cast nodes at the suspension interface points – all with varied thicknesses that make the most of the strength and mass requirements of each respective section.
Besides welding, parts of the frame also use a “Flowdrill Fastening System” to join various pieces together. The C7’s frame features 188 Flowdrill-machined fasteners with structural adhesive. The fasteners are installed by a high-speed drill that extrudes the frame material to create a strong, integral collar that is tapped for screw-type fasteners. It is a GM first for body structure joining.
Flowdrill fastening joins closed sections, where only one side has open access and where arc welding could cause heat distortion or weaken material. Dimensional quality is also maintained, eliminating the need for post-assembly machining.
When it comes to the Corvette’s body structure, it all starts here, with the rocker/door frame assembly. Every body panel is located off this piece, requiring it to be made to exact specs. Since different color Corvettes are produced in batches (so may red, then so many black, then so many blue, etc.) this parts are molded and pre painted along with all other body panels, then staged on racks to be fed into the production line by various human and automated processes.
Now with all body panels attached, wheels bolted on, and other small parts installed, the new C7s are nearing the end of the production line.
The final test for every C7 leaving Bowling Green Assembly is the flood test. Each car is driven into one of two booths like this where high flow, high intensity water jets bombard each car while a worker inside watches for any leaks or other water intrusion issues. Once this test is passed, the new C7 is driven outside to the slow speed vibration checking course, where various bumps, simulated rough road surfaces, and other obstacles are sued to make sure the freshly built Corvette doesn’t have any squeaks, rattles, or vibrations. From there the car is driven to the storage lot, where it will be staged for loading onto a transporter before its journey to a Chevrolet dealership.