NCM Sinkhole Update: Up Comes the 1991 ZR-1 Corvette Spyder

Make that six Corvettes recovered, of the eight that fell into a sinkhole that opened up under the national Corvette museum’s Skydome in mid-February.

The 1991 ZR-1 Spyder was pulled out this morning…and here’s more info about it from the National Corvette Museum:

Last week, the construction team began the tedious process of removing dirt from the sinkhole in hopes of recovering the two missing Corvettes, and to unearth the ZR-1 Spyder, which previously only had a portion of the left rear quarter visible. With the aid of a heavy-duty vacuum and excavating equipment, the team struck gold - or rather fiberglass - on Friday, March 28 with the discovery of the 1.5 Millionth Corvette.

“When we started digging around the Black Spyder, we found a piece of white fiberglass underneath it and we continued to expose that until we saw that it was the 1.5 Millionth car,” said Mike Murphy, CEO of Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction. “We had no idea where it was, we just happened upon it. We hope when we move the white car we find the red car (the 2001 Mallett Hammer) that way, because we've just not had any luck detecting where it is.” Murphy indicated that they have utilized metal detectors as well as probing rods, and that they remove layers of dirt as they probe but have not had a lot of luck so far.

On Monday, the team worked to continue removing dirt from around the Spyder, then in the early evening decided to carefully pull the car out of the remaining dirt.

“It was free everywhere except underneath there was a concrete slab wedged. We felt we had it in the best position, just like pulling a gun out of a holster. Everyone felt like it was best to take it so it wouldn't bend and break if we'd had it exposed more,” Murphy said.

The team resumed recovery efforts early Tuesday morning, removing a large boulder that was lodged in the cabin of the Spyder and collecting bits and pieces of the car to help with any restoration or preservation efforts. The Spyder was removed from the depths of the hole around 9am CT, and is in worse shape than even the PPG Pace Car.

"We have always feared that as we dig further into the hole, that the cars would continue to be in worse shape,” said Katie Frassinelli, who’s the Museum’s Marketing and Communications Manager. “Unfortunately those predictions were accurate. The 1.5 Millionth has both a large boulder and a concrete slab laying on it. We anticipate that when that car is pulled out, possibly on Wednesday, that it's going to be in even worse shape than the Spyder.”

While each sinkhole Corvette has a "story," that of the Spyder is one of the most interesting. The ZR-1 was not a convertible, but GM made only a few prototypes that were. This car was a full performance ZR-1 and was originally painted Sebring Silver with a Neutrino Yellow interior. It debuted at the 1991 North American Auto Show before being repainted black and having the interior changed to red.

"They didn't build a convertible ZR-1 to sell to the public. This is actually a car that General Motors took to different shows to show the car off,” said Mike Williams, a member of the Museum's Facility team whose father helped build the car. According to a May 1991 article in VETTE Magazine, “The ZR-1 Spyder represents the first time a concept car has ever been assembled on a production assembly line.”

1991 Zr 1 Spyder National Corvette Museum Sinkhole Recovery 4/5

Seen here after its recovery from the sinkhole under the National Corvette Museum’s Skydome is the 1991 ZR-1 Spyder.

The car has many one-off features including custom billet aluminum wheels, a custom tonneau cover with waterfall (an influencer of the C5 Corvette waterfall), a chopped windshield half the normal height, lowered seats mounted directly to the floorpan allowing air to flow around your head, narrowed mirrors, side coves and a louvered hood. Mechanically, the Spyder is a stock 1990 ZR-1.

The underside of the Spyder's hood features signatures of all those involved in building the car. “They have not been able to retrieve the hood. We are still hoping they find it, but that's one of the big problems. When we displayed the car we wanted everybody to be able to see the signatures so when the car went in the hood was up, and it just snapped the hood off,” added Williams.

Today, the team will be working to remove the boulder and concrete slab in preparation for removal of the 1.5 Millionth Wednesday or Thursday. The Spyder is now on display in the Museum's Exhibit Hall.

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