A Father & Son Road Trip
To The National Corvette Museum
by Thomas & Justin McKinnis
April 21, 1998
The National Corvette Museum is a $10 million, 68,000 square-foot showcase for past, present, and future Corvettes.
However, "museum" and "showcase" don't begin to describe what has been built. My son and I made a road trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky, the home of both the National Corvette Museum and GM's Corvette Assembly Plant, on a Wednesday before Easter 1998. What we found were rare and exciting exhibits you could literally reach out and touch. It was exciting to both my eleven year old son and to me. This report containes the experiences we had while visiting in Bowling Green.
Instead of a hand-off approach, Museum-goers will find an interactive presentation of America's love affair with the only true American sports car - Corvette.
As soon as we entered the turnstile just past the ticket counter, we found an entrance way to a loop through "time". While inside, this loop propels Museum-goers on a self-guided tour though the history and technological evolutions of the Corvette.
A tremendous amount of work and effort has gone into the displays themselves. Each display could be labeled a life-size diarama of visual history. We found a barbershop diarama with a white 1953 Corvette convertible with the blue flame engine. The barbershop is modeled after one that existed during the 1950's.
Just down the "road" from the Barbershop is a Mobilgas Service Station from the late 1950's which features Corvettes from 1958 and 1961 and a vintage Hot Rod. The Nostalgia Alley exhibit, featuring an arctic blue 1957 Corvette; a Route 66 display; and a Corvette Factory scene from the 1960's tell more Corvette and American history as seen from behind the wheel of a sports car.
Turning a "bend in the road", we jumped into the present and found concept models, a crash-test site, and a 12-foot high, 160-foot long full-color, hand-painted mural depicting seven racing tracks including Daytona, Sebring and Elkhart Lake. The mural encircles a simulated track which includes a life-sized display of a crew in a pit working on the MOBIL 1, a 1987 Corvette Challenge Series race car.
In keeping with their philosophy of creating exhibits which are as true to life as possible, real-life models posed for the 18 character positions which appear in the exhibits. Through a plaster-casting process, accomplished in New York, artists Karen Atta and Rosanne Percivalle created life-size images including John Cafaro, chief designer for Corvette and Carmaro Design and Jerry Palmer Palmer, executive director of design for General Motors.
We found our visit exciting to the National Corvette Museum. We toured the GM's Corvette Plant, located north just across the highway, during it's 1:00 p.m. plant tour. Both Justin and I had toured the plant before, but not since the change over to the new generation Corvette (1997). The tour guide at the plant told us that much of the plant had been revamped to handle the changes in the new Corvette. In previous trips to the plant, employees had given the tour, while now the tour is given by professional tour guides. I personally liked the employee guided tours, but the professional tour guides did a good job. The plant tour starts with a five minute video in a large room. Lots of Corvette memorabilia is showcased around the room plus retired Corvette Plant workers sell official Corvette souvenirs. The tour guides break the group up into units of 10-15 and depart from the gathering room to see the 1 million square foot assembly plant in small groups. The smaller groups keep the tour personalized somewhat, plus allows you a little freedom to ask questions as you procede around the plant. Justin and I found two areas exciting on the tour - the place where the body and chassis come together called the "marriage" point and the booth where the Corvette is first tested and ran up to speed on a "large" roller-type system to find if the car passes. The tour guide told us that approximately 15-20 new Corvettes are being produced each hour the plant is in operation.
Mid-century Barber Shop - The first scene to greet visitors to the National Corvette Museum is this vintage shop to introduce the 1953 Corvette - one of only 300 Vettes built in Flint, Michigan during the first production year. With it is the major sports car available to American buyers up to that time - the English MG. A number of life size settings trace Corvette's history in the 68,000 square foot museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
|Museum Facts & Figures|
- Building and exhibits showcasing the creation and development of America's only true sport cars - the Corvette - including the display of approximately 52 production, racing and show cars.
- Building - $7.75 million
- Exhibits - $2.25 million
- Ground-breaking 1992, Grand Opening Labor Day weekend 1994.
- Located - Bowling Green Kentucky; about halfway between Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN.
- 90 feet from I-65 at exit 28.
- Across from the World's only Corvette assembly plant; frontage road access connects to Corvette plant for joint tours.
- A 29-acre site heavily forested over 10 acres.
- A 60-foot drop in the site pond and amphitheater.
- 230 parking spaces for visitors.
- 180-foot diameter bus turn-around; bus circle doubles as judging circle.
- Space available for display of 880 Corvettes on exterior grass terraces, concours de elegance.
- The tallest structure between Nashville and Louisville.
- 68,650 square feet.
- 132-foot diameter skylighted truncated con-like Pavillion displaying 16 to 20 Corvettes.
- Eleven-story high, bright red Cone at the Pavillion Center represents the Corvette's prominent tail lights.
- 12-foot high red beacon tops the cone marking the Museum and Bowling Green.
- 165-seat Chevrolet Theater with sloped-floor, stage, projection and circular marquee.
- 16,500 square foot artificially illuminated Exhibit Hall displaying 28 automobiles focusing on nostalgia, design, engineering, performance, etc. Including a 28-seat mini-theater.
- 240-foot long skylighted atrium displaing Corvettes.
- 29,000 brick embossed with individual donor names.
- 600 embossed donor plaques for Corvette Clubs.
- 3,000 square foot Museum Store.
- 2,300 square foot Corvette Library and Archive.
- Offices for the Museum management and for visiting Corvette Club use.
- A new car delivery office with vehicle prep area.
- Exhibits include Barbershop, Mobil Station, Nostalgia Alley, St. Louis Assembly Plant Dealership; Route 66, Racing & Performance Track, Engineering/Testing and Design Development, and Dream Cars.
- 19 life-size, plaster-cast figures, depicting a barber, gas station attendant, salesman, race drivers, plant workers, car designers, and more.
- 12-foot high by 160-foot long painted mural incorporating racing at several tracks including Daytona, Sebring, and Elkhart Lake.
- 10 minute AV presentation in 165-seat auditorium.
- The one-millionth Corvette topped by a purple 26-foot high open cone and skylight.
- Seven Corvette colors used on the building exterior.
- Corvette racing flag imagery (black and white checkered flags) used thoughout the interiors.
- A 78 foot long sloped and curved silver entry facade with Corvette Museum signage, including 574 metal panels.
- 960 bright yellow panels enclosing the six-story high skylighted Corvette Pavilion framed by 4,100 lineal feet of wide flange sloped columns.
- Silikal resin systems "asphalt" floor covering.
- Powder coating rail system.
- Etched safety glass.
- Neon signage.
- Curving, 20-foot long neon illuminated model cases.
- 520 tons of steel.
- 2,700 cubic-yards of concrete.
- 52,000 special white and black concrete blocks.
- 37,000 square-feet of metal panels.
- 58,000 square-feet of roofing.
- 15 miles of metal studs.
- 1,600 sheets of drywall.
- 26 miles of wire.
- 4,000 square-yards of carpet.
- 680 lighting fixtures.
- 15,000 cubic-yards of topsoil for landscape berms
- 28,000 hours architectural/engineering design time, 72,000 hours labor to build the museum, and 22,000 exhibit production hours.
- A 50-foot high entry sign with two 20-foot diameter museum logos.
Justin had two comments worth mentioning to any father and son team going to either the Corvette Assembly Plant or the National Corvette Museum. He said, "Dad we need to make this an annual trip." and "Getting to sit in the Corvette (at the National Corvette Museum) makes you want to go out and buy one." We do plan to make the Bowling Green trip an annual event - we have it in our "blood" to own a new Corvette, but it make take another visit or two to fully get us to pay the price of $48,000 for a fully loaded Corvette convertible. Hope to see you in Bowling Green.
Service Station of 1960's - Another of the wonderful, realistic settings we found awaiting us at the National Corvette Museum. Showcased in the setting was a 1959 Corvette, just one of over 50 Corvettes on display. Authentic gas pumps, the air tower and Flying Red Horse emblem will help older visitors remember the "good" times of yesterday.
|Corvette Plant Tour Information
- Tours at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time)
- Plan to arrive 15 minutes before scheduled tour.
- No cameras allowed.
- All ages welcomed.
- Tour is handicapped accessible.
- Tour lasts approximately one hour.
- Plant is located at exit 28 on Interstate 65.
- Tour is FREE of charge.
- Parking is provided in designated spots.
- Groups of 10 or more need to call 1-502-745-8228.
- General information is available by calling 1-502-745-8419.
(04/21/98) Copyright 1998 by Thomas & Justin McKinnis)