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.
© 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:
Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:
- Corvettes: Learn about the history behind each model year and see Corvette photographs.
- Corvette Specifications: Find out about engine, mechanical, and production specs, and more.
- Corvette Pictures: Find pictures of the hottest classic and current-year Corvettes.
- Muscle Cars: Get information on more than 100 tough-guy rides.
- Consumer Guide Corvette Reviews: Considering a Corvette purchase? See what Consumer Guide has to say.