On 12 February, four years to the day since it dropped into a sinkhole that opened up in the ‘Skydome’ section of the National Corvette Museum (NCM) in Kentucky, a ’62 Corvette made its return – fully restored - to the Skydome’s main display.
The Tuxedo Black roadster was the third and last Corvette to be restored from a group of eight that originally fell into the 65 foot by 45 foot (19.8mt x 13.7mt) and 30 foot (9.1mt) deep sinkhole that appeared in 2014.
Following the incident, General Motors committed to restoring of two of the Corvettes: a 1992 convertible (the millionth Corvette built); and the ZR1 ‘Blue Devil’ prototype from 2009. Four others, including a 40th Anniversary coupe and the 1.5 millionth Corvette built, were considered too badly damaged to repair, while GM had no interest in restoring the ’62 convertible, as it was not considered a milestone model or significant example.
Work to fill the sinkhole and repair damage to the Skydome took ten months, with that part of the NCM not officially re-opened to visitors until September, 2015. Following the reopening, the Corvettes were put in display in the same positions they were pre-sinkhole - still in their damaged and dirt-covered condition.
Last year, on the third anniversary of the sinkhole and following the opening of a special exhibit on the event (‘Corvette Cave In: The Skydome Sinkhole Experience’), NCM staff decided to restore the ’62 Corvette in-house.
The Corvette in question had been donated to the museum in 2011 by the original owner, David Donoho, who had purchased the car new in 1962 while still a high school student. Fastidiously maintained during that single ownership, the car was donated in the belief that the NCM were the only ones who would respect and appreciate the Corvette for what it was.
While one of the least damaged of the eight, the ’62 still needed repair, which was completed over the course of a year at the NCM’s AutoZone Maintenance and Preservation area, where museum visitors could see the work being done and ask questions of the staff and volunteers undertaking the repairs. NCM curator Derek Moore believes there was four solid months of work put into the project.
That work included frame straightening (which was outsourced to professionals) interior and mechanical refurbishment, as well as fibreglass patching and repair, followed by a complete repaint.
“We restored the car to as close as possible to how it was the moment before the sinkhole, the way it was when Mr. Donoho donated the car,” Moore explained.
“The fiberglass components that were damaged or cracked were simply repaired. Only one very small panel on the right side had to have a replacement panel. Everything that we could leave that Mr. Donoho had actually touched, had left on this car, we wanted to essentially leave his fingerprints on the car.”
That included replacing an empty sugar packet from a fast food outlet under the seat – exactly where it was before.
For its official unveiling within the Skydome on 12 February in front of 70 enthusiasts, media and museum visitors, a long-time friend of Donoho (who passed away in 2013) was on hand to “complete” the resto by attaching the bonnet badge.
The ’62 Corvette is now on display at the NCM, alongside the others that were victims of the 2014 sinkhole.