For Chevrolet Corvette enthusiasts, nirvana can be found at exit 28 on Interstate 65 in south-central Kentucky. It's there, in the city of Bowling Green, that two Corvette institutions are located side by side: the Corvette assembly plant and the National Corvette Museum. Corvette lovers from all over the world come to tour the plant and attend one of the many events the museum hosts each year.
© National Corvette Museum
The National Corvette Museum attracts Corvette
lovers from all corners of the globe.
At the same time, Paul Schnoes, manager of the Corvette assembly plant, and Darrell Bowlin, head of the plant's human relations department, were also considering the idea of a Corvette museum adjacent to the factory on unused plant property. Schnoes presented the idea to then-General Motors President Robert Stempel, who supported the concept, but was adament that GM would not fund a museum. However, Stempel did leave the door open by advising Schnoes that if he wanted to find private funding, he'd get GM's approval.
In the late '80s, Bowlin began discussions with the NCRS about working together to bring the dream of a museum to fruition and the National Corvette Museum was born. In the years that followed, NCRS members Dan Gale and Ray Battaglini, head of Chevrolet publicrelations, teamed up to push the project forward. Kramer convinced Jim Perkins, then Chevrolet's general manager, that the division needed to provide as much nonfinancial support as possible. That support opened doors inside the corporation that would not have been accessible to the museum.
Fund-raising proved to be the biggest challenge for the museum's supporters. No one had professional fund-raising experience. However, with the idealism that comes from naïveté, they persisted. In 1990, an annex was opened and, with the assistance of original-equipment Corvette suppliers, aftermarket companies, individual Corvette owners and clubs, the city of Bowling Green, Warren County, and the State of Kentucky, the $13 million needed to build the 68,000-square-foot National Corvette Museum was raised. Neumann Smith and Associates, of Southfield, Michigan, designed the building.; Exhibition Works of Livonia, Michigan, handled the final design and construction of the exhibits.
The museum opened on Labor Day 1994, with more than 100,000 people and in excess of 6,000 Corvettes in attendance. Since that time, the National Corvette Museum has attracted tens of thousands of visitors who flock to tour its exhibits and take a guided tour of the Corvette assembly plant to see how their favorite sports car is built.
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