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History of the ZR1 and 1962 Corvettes - Sinkhole Corvettes: Part 1

Exploring the History of the ZR1 and ’62 Sinkhole Corvettes

Walt Thurn Sep 19, 2014
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On February 12, 2014, eight Corvettes were swallowed up by a giant sinkhole that opened up in the Skydome at the National Corvette Museum. Each one has been recovered and are currently on display in the museum's exhibit hall. We thought it would be fitting to pay homage to each of these significant treasures. Our goal is to provide you with some fast facts on these Corvettes, two per month. This month we are featuring the newest, the ZR1 "Blue Devil," and the oldest, a '62 Tuxedo Black convertible. They were the least damaged of the eight Corvettes retrieved. Next month we'll feature two, out of the four, sinkhole Corvettes that received major damage: the '92 1-millionth convertible and the '09 1.5-millionth convertible.

ZR1

Zr1 Front Side View 2/8

After the Barrett-Jackson Auction the ZR1 was sent to the March 2008 NCM Birthday Bash. Here, Tadge Juechter briefs the audience on the features of the latest Corvette supercar.

When the sinkhole occurred, a Jetstream Blue ZR1 prototype landed on top of the pile. When the news media sent out their reports about the incident this ZR1 was the first Corvette the public saw. It sat relatively undamaged 50 feet beneath the Skydome floor. This was the first car to be extracted and, amazingly, was driven out of the Skydome to the cheers from the NCM staff and construction crew. This particular ZR1 has spent its short life almost entirely in the media limelight. It was originally an '08 Z06 show car that was converted by GM into an '09 prototype ZR1. It carries VIN 1G1YY26EX850022EX and its first assignment was at the 2008 Barrett-Jackson Auction. This is the ZR1 that created a stir when it crossed the auction block for $1 million. The buyer (notable NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick) did not purchase this Corvette, but the ownership rights for the first production ZR1 that would be built later in the year. This ZR1 was also displayed at the 2008 National Corvette Museum's Birthday Bash. Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter gave the audience an extensive rundown of the new Corvette supercar's features during that event. A raffle was held as a museum fundraiser and the lucky winner paid $1,500 to become the first non-GM employee to get a ride in a ZR1. Tadge did the driving and the winner had a big smile on his face when they pulled back into the parking lot. When GM finished using it as a show car it was loaned to the National Corvette Museum in December 2011, but it's still property of GM. It has been on display since it was loaned to the museum and its restoration schedule is still being discussed.

Zr1 Carbon Panels 3/8

Tadge reviews how the ZR1’s carbon panels are finished with a clearcoat that will prevent them from yellowing over time due to UV damage.

Zr1 Side View Rocker Panel Damage 4/8

Once the construction crew retrieved the ZR1 from its resting place in the sinkhole it was started up and driven out of the Skydome. It is now on display in the NCM exhibit hall with the other sinkhole Corvettes. All eight are displayed exactly as they were found. Notice the rocker panel damage that occurred when the accident happened.

1962 Convertible

1962 Chevrolet Corvette 5/8

David Donoho kept his ’62 Corvette in pristine condition and remained the car’s original owner until it was donated to the National Corvette Museum.

David Donoho of Zionsville, Indiana, purchased this Tuxedo Black 327/340hp, four-speed Corvette new in 1962. David worked part-time jobs while in high school and saved enough money to buy his dream car. He owned a total of four Corvettes in his lifetime and all were garage-kept, but this one was his pride and joy. He donated his black beauty to the museum on October 26, 2012, to be sure it would be well maintained and protected. Before the floor fell, his '62 was sitting underneath a lift with a 40th Anniversary C4 Coupe above it. When the floor gave way the C4 flipped over and landed on its roof, causing extensive damage to the top of its body. The '62 rolled into the hole where its nose got lodged underneath a large slab of concrete. The first task was to free the nose and then determine the correct way to lift it out of the hole. Vintage Corvette experts were consulted and they recommended lifting the car with straps attached to the frame in the engine compartment. Once the straps were attached, the '62 was lifted out on March 3. The '62 was lowered onto the Skydome floor and removed from the area. While it does show body damage, an expert vintage Corvette restorer can probably bring it back to like-new condition.

1962 Chevrolet Corvette Side View 6/8

This is how the ’62 Corvette was displayed in the Skydome prior to the sinkhole. The PPG pace car can be seen in the left rear of the photo.

1962 Chevrolet Corvette Lifted 7/8

The Scott, Murphy & Daniel Construction crew lifted the Corvette from its resting place with straps attached to the frame inside the engine compartment. The red strap attached to the driver’s door handle was used to keep the car from spinning during its retrieval.

1962 Chevrolet Corvette Damage 8/8

The right side of the Corvette seems to have suffered the most visible damage. The front fender broke free from its factory seam and the rear end suffered damage when it rolled into the hole. Vette

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