Have you ever wondered what it takes to build a Corvette? We recently had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant and witness this amazing process. Our tour began with a plant overview from Vehicle Line Executive Tom Wallace and Corvette Plant Manager Wil Cooksey. We were told that the plant has two major assembly areas-one for the body and another for the driveline. After our overview, we completed a safety briefing and added protective coverings to our belts, rings, and watches. Finally, we were given safety glasses and a badge and assigned to plant engineer Tom Hill, who served as our tour guide.
Our tour began in the body-assembly area, at the frame station. Here, we watched hydroformed framerails being welded to build the Corvette's foundation. When a frame is completed, it's painted and shipped to the assembly line. Z06 aluminum frames are constructed at another location and arrive at the plant ready to be added to the line.
All of a car's body panels are placed on an automated rack, where they're sprayed with primer and sent into a robotic painting booth. We were fortunate enough to be allowed into this restricted area, though not before donning dustproof coveralls and head protection. As we entered the paint area, we passed through a large vacuum room that sucked away any dust that might have remained on our clothing.
The painting robots have long, flexible arms that articulate to paint the top, sides, and bottoms of each panel. The last step in the paint process is adding a clearcoat to the base paint. The completed glossy panels move slowly through a special lighted area where they're inspected for flaws. Minor flaws are corrected immediately, and the repaired panel is returned to the rack. The painted panels are then sent to the assembly area to be installed on a car. The Corvette team builds the complete body, including the interior, before it's married to the driveline.
Next, we visited the driveline-assembly area. Here, the process begins with two (front and rear) aluminum frame cradles. In the front, the engine, springs, upper and lower control arms, suspension upright, steering rack, ABS unit, and brakes are added to the cradle. The rear cradle is fitted with the transmission, rearend, springs, upper and lower control arms, and brakes. A large aluminum torque tube ties the front and rear cradles together. This completed assembly is attached to the frame and body by eight bolts-four in the front and four in the rear.
Once the body-to-driveline marriage is completed, the front fenders, fascia, hood, wiring, and wheels are installed. After first start, the car is aligned and wheel balance confirmed. The final stop is at a booth equipped with high-speed rollers. The car is rolled to 70 mph while a driver checks the electrical and mechanical systems. If the car passes, it's delivered to a large parking lot behind the plant, where it's readied for customer shipment.
Interested? Tours are available twice a day for $5 per person. If you're a fan of Corvettes, that's a bargain too good to pass up.
Check the plant's tour schedule by visiting www.bowlinggreenassemblyplant.com. Closed-toe shoes are required, and no cameras are allowed.