To say that we were excited when we received word that the one and only Corvette Production Plant was opening to the press for the first time in 13 months is an understatement. Yours truly hopped a plane and headed out last week to view 2014 Stingray production and learn more about the newest generation.
The facilities are incredible. Yep, that's another understatement. Having just undergone a $131 million renovation ($52 million of that dedicated to the body shop alone), the entire square-mile-in-size (under-roof) production plant ran like clockwork as we entered, and never seemed to slow or cease throughout our entire visit. A little tidbit of information that we found interesting is the normal work hours for the over 1,000 workers at the plant - 6:12 a.m. to 2:42 p.m. with scheduled breaks to ensure that the day runs smoothly.
The plant completes 17.2 Corvettes per hour, adding up to 137 cars per work day, and it takes approximately 3.5 days to build a complete car from start to finish. Approximately 1,725 parts from 325 individual suppliers comprises each Corvette and they are so customizable, it almost seems that no two cars are the same. To put it in perspective, when buying a base model Corvette, coupes have three roof options, convertibles have four top color options, and there are ten exterior paint color options, three interior colors, three wheel choices and etcetera (not to mention the other two trim level options). The Corvette Assembly Plant at Bowling Green is the only manufacturing facility that builds the entire cockpit of the car on the line (including the windshield frame), making it easy to replace any faulty components that might surface.
The body shop was an area we were very excited to visit. It is one of the areas not visited during public tours. With the new 2014 Stingray frame weighing 99 pounds less than the 2013 and also being 57 percent stiffer, all of the new animatronic robots on staff have to be running top notch and working seamlessly. Let's break it down with a few statistics for you: each Corvette has a 3,298-pound curb weight, 3,160 dry weight (no fluids), 350 resistant spot welds, 188 flowdrill-machined fasteners, and 90 robots are used in conjunction with workers to build the frames. Aluminum-resistance spot welding (pioneered by GM), laser welding, and laser vision inspection all play huge rolls in the creation of the frames, and the robots use vision technology to ensure precision every time.
As we moved on with our tour, we saw calipers being installed as the cars floated at workers' eye height, and learned that each car travels about seven miles on the assembly line from start to finish. Michelin Super Sport run-flat tires were then installed as the car neared the end of the line. One of the coolest parts of our tour had to be the very end of the assembly line. After build sheets were checked, the car was inspected for any flaws in a tunnel of lights which expose any imperfections. When given the okay, the car was started for the first time and rumbled off of the assembly line and over rumble strips to enter testing.
Each car underwent extensive testing to ensure perfection. In fact, just one testing booth performs 800 tests in two minutes, and another soaks the entire car to make sure there are no leaks anywhere. Afterwards, the cars venture outdoors for the first time on a quick quarter-mile test track to make sure there are no squeaks or rattles. Back inside, a road simulator shakes the car every which way before the car moves on to the CARE line - a final inspection.
To ensure consistent quality, each day a few vehicles, which have passed all tests, are randomly selected to undergo one more interior and exterior inspection as well as a twenty-mile road course, which they absolutely must pass. This way, they know every car that leaves the facility is perfect for its new owner.
For owners that would like to actually take part, the Plant has partnered with the National Corvette Museum to enable the opportunity for new owners to watch their own Corvette being built, take a personalized tour of the facility and special delivery of their car, and acquire an exclusive photo book to commemorate the manufacturing process and "birth" of their Corvette.
Pricing for the 2014 Corvette Stingray Coupe starts at $51,995 including destination and the Convertible is priced at $56,995 including destination.
The plant is set to reopen to the general public on October 14th and only cost $7. To learn more, visit www.corvetteassembly.com.
Check out our photo gallery and check the captions for explanations of each part of the line!