It's hard to believe that the National Corvette Museum's construction began way back in 1993, with Zora Arkus-Duntov driving a bulldozer at the groundbreaking ceremony. The museum opened its doors in September 1994 and has been expanding and improving ever since. This year, the buzz at the NCM's annual Labor Day celebration centered around the new Stingray. Numerous "Captured Test Fleet" cars were seen tooling around the Bowling Green area as GM employees piled the miles on the latest Corvette.
Inside, the museum featured an impressive display that paid tribute to legendary Corvette tuner John Lingenfelter. Five of Lingenfelter's most outrageous Corvette creations gave visitors an up-close look at his company's innovative work through the years. The cars included a C5 fixed-roof coupe that raced (and outran) an FA/18 fighter jet in the quarter-mile as part of a 2000 Motor Trend article.
In the museum's Corvette Racing area, we found a number of new display cars that piqued our interest. The first was the C6.R that Johnny O'Connell drove to victory at Le Mans in 2009. A private collector now owns this historic Corvette.
Exhibited nearby was a very rare '56 ex-factory Corvette race car. The car had been converted into a SR-2 replica by former GM stylist Bob McLean and was in perfect condition.
In another part of the museum, a display of engines and transmissions gave visitors a snapshot of how Corvette powertrains have developed over the years. The engines on presentation spanned the timeline, from an early small-block to the latest Pratt & Miller racing mill.
Speaking of racing, this is a good time to mention the museum's latest project, the NCM Motorsports Park, which will be located just across the Interstate from the main facility. Over the past several years, NCM members have been donating money to buy up sufficient acreage for the track, and they recently amassed enough land to begin Phase I of construction. During the Labor Day event, Motorsports Park Project Manager Roc Linkov provided tours of the property to give people an idea of the scope of the project. Even at this early stage, it looks very impressive.
At each Labor Day event since 1998, the Museum has inducted three new marque luminaries into its Hall of Fame. This year's the inductees were longtime Bowling Green Assembly Plant Manager Wil Cooksey, Corvette Racing team legend O'Connell, and Corvette-restoration guru Werner Meier. We'll have more on this special event in a later issue.
In addition to the static displays and HOF induction, the weekend event included a celebrity- choice car show, a silent auction, and a variety of seminars. Corvette Product Manager Harlan Charles and Design Manager Kirk Bennion even did a walk-around presentation on the Stingray and fielded questions from the audience. It was clear that both they and the attendees were very excited about the new Corvette.
The museum's next big event will be the NCM Bash, scheduled for April 24-26. Assembly- plant tours will be in full swing by then, so mark your calendars now.