Corvette Museum


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.

The National Corvette Museum attracts Corvette lovers from all corners of the globe.
© National Corvette Museum
The National Corvette Museum attracts Corvette
lovers from all corners of the globe.

The National Corvette Museum was conceived by members of the National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) in the mid-'80s as an archival library. A committee was formed to report to the NCRS what was needed to gather and preserve important Corvette documents. The consensus was that the Corvette really needed its own museum and a library. The problem was that no one really knew how to raise the funds.

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.

Learn about Corvettes by model year:

1953 Corvette
1954 Corvette
1955 Corvette
1956 Corvette
1957 Corvette
1958 Corvette
1959 Corvette1960 Corvette
1961 Corvette
1962 Corvette
1963 Corvette
1964 Corvette
1965 Corvette
1966 Corvette
1967 Corvette
1968 Corvette
1969 Corvette
1970 Corvette
1971 Corvette
1972 Corvette
1973 Corvette
1974 Corvette
1975 Corvette
1976 Corvette
1977 Corvette
1978 Corvette
1979 Corvette
1980 Corvette
1981 Corvette
1982 Corvette
1984 Corvette1985 Corvette1986 Corvette
1987 Corvette1988 Corvette1989 Corvette
1990 Corvette1991 Corvette1992 Corvette
1993 Corvette1994 Corvette1995 Corvette
1996 Corvette1997 Corvette1998 Corvette
1999 Corvette 2000 Corvette 2001 Corvette
2002 Corvette 2003 Corvette 2004 Corvette
2005 Corvette 2006 Corvette 2007 Corvette

Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

National Corvette Museum Description

The first thing that strikes visitors as they come up Corvette Drive is the imposing 110-foot yellow spire. The side-walks are filled with personalized bricks, purchased by financial supporters. A Corvette on a turntable greets those who walk into the lobby. The gift shop shares part of the lobby's central area, and is filled with virtually everything imaginable that can bear a Corvette emblem. (The shop's online catalog is filled with trinkets, accessories, and clothing to satisfy any Corvette aficionado's wish list.)

Visitors to the museum can see an extensive display of Corvettes.
© National Corvette Museum
Visitors to the museum can see an extensive display of Corvettes.

Beyond the turnstiles there's a 240-foot-long atrium lined with special models donated by Chevrolet, such as the first 1997 built; the 1-millionth Corvette, a white 1992 convertible with a red interior; and the last ZR-1 (CA, August 1989), a red 1995 coupe driven by the plant to the museum by Perkins and Corvette Chief Engineer Dave McLellan. Filling the atrium are other special displays that change on a regular basis with many older Corvettes on loan from individual owners. Both the NCRS and National Council of Corvette Clubs have displays here. Popular with young Corvette fans is a complete collection of promotional models and other Corvette memorabilia.

Inside the 165-seat Chevrolet theater, visitors can watch movies about Corvette history and racing on a 28x16-foot-wide-screen. The theater is also used for special events and seminars. Next to the theater is the entrance to a series of displays and exhibits that cover the Corvette story past, present, and future. Some of these displays are permanent, however the cars displayed are rotated on a regular basis.

Large murals recount the Corvette's conception, which is credited to GM Styling Vice President Harley Earl (CA, December 2005, February 2006). Showcased in an alcove is the original Corvette hood badge designed by Robert Bartholomew that depicted the American flag on the left crossed with a checkered flag on the right. This emblem was to appear on the Corvette show car when it made its debut at the GM Motorama in January 1953. At the last moment, the emblem was replaced on the advice of General Motors lawyers, who had discovered it was illegal to use the national emblem on commercial products. The replacement badge featured the checkered flag crossed with a red flag carrying the Chevrolet bow tie and fleur-de-lis.

A turn to the right brings visitors to the first exhibit, a midcentury barbershop scene that recounts the European sports cars that American GIs fell in love with during World War II. Upon their return, some began importing Triumphs, Jaguars, and MGs, and sparked a sports car boom in America. It was in reaction to this trend that the fiberglass-bodied Corvette appeared in 1953 (CA, August 1998); the beautiful example on display was donated by the late Ray Quinlan.

A recreation of a Fifties Mobil gas station houses more vintage Corvettes with an occasional rival sports car, such as an open-wheeled J2 Allard side by side with a 1959 fuel-injected Corvette (CA, June 1992). Celebrating the Corvette's connection to the "Mother Road" is a lineup of early Corvettes that conjures up memories of the car's appearance in the Route 66 television series that aired from 1960 to 1994.

Bright, creative talents have written advertising copy for Corvette through the years. A display of their great advertisements that captured the unique spirit of the Corvette is exhibited, including the famous "Heartbeat of America" theme.

Learn about Corvettes by model year:

1953 Corvette
1954 Corvette
1955 Corvette
1956 Corvette
1957 Corvette
1958 Corvette
1959 Corvette1960 Corvette
1961 Corvette
1962 Corvette
1963 Corvette
1964 Corvette
1965 Corvette
1966 Corvette
1967 Corvette
1968 Corvette
1969 Corvette
1970 Corvette
1971 Corvette
1972 Corvette
1973 Corvette
1974 Corvette
1975 Corvette
1976 Corvette
1977 Corvette
1978 Corvette
1979 Corvette
1980 Corvette
1981 Corvette
1982 Corvette
1984 Corvette1985 Corvette1986 Corvette
1987 Corvette1988 Corvette1989 Corvette
1990 Corvette1991 Corvette1992 Corvette
1993 Corvette1994 Corvette1995 Corvette
1996 Corvette1997 Corvette1998 Corvette
1999 Corvette 2000 Corvette 2001 Corvette
2002 Corvette 2003 Corvette 2004 Corvette
2005 Corvette 2006 Corvette 2007 Corvette

Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

National Corvette Museum Displays

Among the many dedicated people who worked to make the Corvette America's sports car, one particular man, chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, breathed life into the Corvette to keep it from dying in its early years. His vision for the car converted it from a boulevard cruiser for the country club set to a fire-breathing sports car that became a legend on the street and on the racetrack. Duntov's life and contributions to the Corvette are celebrated in a series of displays that include photographs, his driving suit and hemlet, and other mementos of his career. In accordance to his wishes, Duntov -- who died in 1996 -- is interred within this special exhibit inside the museum.

Before Corvettes were assembled in the Bluegrass State, they were built in St. Louis, Missouri. To honor the men and women who worked there, the museum recreated a scene that took place tens of thousands of times. Suspended in the air is a restored Corvette body, while underneath it is a restored rolling chassis, looking exactly as it would on the "marriage" station of the assembly line. Behind the body drop is a diorama of the St. Louis Corvette assembly line.

Visitors to the museum will gain a better understanding of how Corvettes are built.
© National Corvette Museum
Visitors to the museum will gain a better understanding of how Corvettes are built.

Across from the body shop is a depiction of a Chevrolet showroom, circa 1963, filled with furniture and displays of literature and wall posters. It originally held just two 1963 Corvettes (CA, April 1990), a coupe and a convertible, but since has added other years' cars for display.

The museum acquires Corvettes for display in a variety of ways. Some are donated to the museum, while others are lent by individuals for set periods of time. Chevrolet has donated several C4- and C5-generation models to the museum, while others, like special Corvette show cars, are on loan.

A big part of the Corvette's heritage is racing. That heritage is depicted in a special 80-foot-diameter room that houses some of the greatest racing Corvettes, including early LeMans and Sebring cars legendary to ZR-1s that ran at Daytona and set speed and endurance records in the early Nineties.

Also on display are a variety of engines and transmissions that were part of the Corvette's powertrain history. Standing next to an LT5 engine is a life-size statue of Dave McLellan, the Corvette's second chief engineer. On the walls are sweeping panoramic murals of great Corvette race cars such as the Grand Sports and the SS Sebring (CA, December 1994) in action.

The winding series of displays leads to a 2005 Corvette convertible with videos depicting what it's like to drive the current C6 on the demanding Nürburgring racetrack in Germany. It replaced an actual crash-test Corvette, which has been moved to another exhibition area. This crumpled Corvette is surrounded by videos of tests for crashworthiness.

Some of the latest displays are in the "Design and Development" area, which pays homage to the great designers who touched Corvette, like Larry Shinoda (CA, October 1997), Bill Mitchell (CA, June 2004), Jerry Palmer, and John Cafaro. All through this area are examples of Corvette show cars and engineering prototypes, including midengine Corvette Indy and styling concepts that led to the final design of the C6.

The current Corvette generation is well-represented in the museum. Chevrolet Engineering placed a rolling chassis on display, and Design Staff sent down interior bucks and other exhibits. One novel part of the display is the railing surrounding the display; it is constructed out of the same material used in the C5 and C6 chassis. At one end, the railing starts as plain stock and at the other end, it resembles the hydroformed frame components.

Once through the design and engineering displays, visitors find themselves in the Skydome. This 140-foot-diameter, cathedrallike edifice towers 11 stories over a floor packed with Corvettes from all six generations, however there's a heavy emphasis on C3, C4, and C5 models built between 1968 and 2004. Along one wall is a parade of Indianapolis 500 pace cars, from the first 1978 to the 2004 pacer. (The 2006 race was paced by a Corvette.)

Shoulder-to-shoulder are examples of one-off engineering concepts and proposed models, like the ZR-1 convertible. Some aftermath tuner cars are also on display, like the famous Greenwood Daytonas based on the C3. The museum makes sure that at least one representative of every year of the Corvette's 50-plus years of production is on display.

Learn about Corvettes by model year:

1953 Corvette
1954 Corvette
1955 Corvette
1956 Corvette
1957 Corvette
1958 Corvette
1959 Corvette1960 Corvette
1961 Corvette
1962 Corvette
1963 Corvette
1964 Corvette
1965 Corvette
1966 Corvette
1967 Corvette
1968 Corvette
1969 Corvette
1970 Corvette
1971 Corvette
1972 Corvette
1973 Corvette
1974 Corvette
1975 Corvette
1976 Corvette
1977 Corvette
1978 Corvette
1979 Corvette
1980 Corvette
1981 Corvette
1982 Corvette
1984 Corvette1985 Corvette1986 Corvette
1987 Corvette1988 Corvette1989 Corvette
1990 Corvette1991 Corvette1992 Corvette
1993 Corvette1994 Corvette1995 Corvette
1996 Corvette1997 Corvette1998 Corvette
1999 Corvette 2000 Corvette 2001 Corvette
2002 Corvette 2003 Corvette 2004 Corvette
2005 Corvette 2006 Corvette 2007 Corvette

Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

National Corvette Museum Information

The ties between the Corvette plant and the museum are no more apparent than in Corvette factory option R8C, the "Museum Delivery Program." Corvette customers can arrange through their local dealer to take delivery of their new car at the museum. The program includes a guided tour of the assembly plant and a detailed one-on-one orientation to the buyer's new Corvette by a member of the Museum Delivery Team. An average of 15 Corvette buyers per week take advantage of this $990 package.

Thanks to the assembly plant, the museum has the build sheets for all Corvettes built at the Bowling Green factory since it opened in 1981. These build sheets and window stickers are available through the museum for a fee.

Open since 1981, the museum hasa outgrown its space and plans for a 60,000-sqaure-foot edition.
© National Corvette Museum
Open since 1981, the museum has outgrown its space
and plans for a 60,000-square-foot edition.

The National Corvette Museum has a regular schedule of events throughout the year, including the annual "Birthday Bash" for C5 and C6 owners, and reunions for ZR-1 and C4 owners. In the past, Harley-Davidson owners and even Porsche enthusiasts have held events at the museum.

The museum has already outgrown its original space and plans are in the works for a $6 million, 60,000-square-foot addition. Part of it will be a comprehensive centralized library for research and reference. There documents, film, photos, and artifacts will be preserved for the Corvette enthusiast community.

With a continuing rise in event attendance, an on-site banquet facility and additional exhibition space are also crucial. In addition to enhancing museum functions, the facility will be available to showcase special education exhibits to the public. The National Corvette Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation, and contributions to it are tax deductible as allowed by law. Also, there are several tiers of membership with an annual fee of $50 to lifetime membership with a one-time fee of $1500.

The National Corvette Museum is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time except Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids age 5-12 years old (younger children are admitted free), $8 for senior citizens 62 or older. The museum's address is 350 Corvette Drive, Bowling Green, KY 42101. Information can be had by calling (270) 781-7973 or (800) 538-3883, or by visiting www.corvettemuseum.com on the Web.

Learn about Corvettes by model year:

1953 Corvette
1954 Corvette
1955 Corvette
1956 Corvette
1957 Corvette
1958 Corvette
1959 Corvette1960 Corvette
1961 Corvette
1962 Corvette
1963 Corvette
1964 Corvette
1965 Corvette
1966 Corvette
1967 Corvette
1968 Corvette
1969 Corvette
1970 Corvette
1971 Corvette
1972 Corvette
1973 Corvette
1974 Corvette
1975 Corvette
1976 Corvette
1977 Corvette
1978 Corvette
1979 Corvette
1980 Corvette
1981 Corvette
1982 Corvette
1984 Corvette1985 Corvette1986 Corvette
1987 Corvette1988 Corvette1989 Corvette
1990 Corvette1991 Corvette1992 Corvette
1993 Corvette1994 Corvette1995 Corvette
1996 Corvette1997 Corvette1998 Corvette
1999 Corvette 2000 Corvette 2001 Corvette
2002 Corvette 2003 Corvette 2004 Corvette
2005 Corvette 2006 Corvette 2007 Corvette

Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See: