C7 Road Trip Proves Heart of Corvette Truly Resides in Kentucky
For any Corvette fan, this one ranks as a must-do, if you haven’t already made the venture. Then again, even if you have been to Bowling Green, Kentucky, and consider yourself a true Corvette enthusiast, I can’t imagine how you’d ever grow tired of taking in the sights and sounds of this city.
The rich history tied to the iconic American sports car bleeds through the area of roughly sixty-two thousand people at practically every turn. From those who work at the plant and nearby National Corvette Museum (NCM), to the pride all the local residents seem to share for the car, Bowling Green is an oasis for all things Corvette.
I recently had the opportunity to take it all in on a more personal level. After hitting the road in a 2015 Corvette through some of the scenic highways in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, I was able to visit the National Corvette Museum (NCM) and Corvette plant for the first time. And I have to say, of all the U.S. road trips I’ve done as an automotive journalist, this one certainly ranks right up there with some of my most memorable. Namely because of the history tied to the Corvette. And being able to do the trip in a C7 made the experience all the more special.
BUILDING THE DREAM
My first stop in Bowling Green was at the assembly plant where I had a chance to join in one of the daily public tours offered at the one-million square foot facility where the Corvette has been built for 34 years.
The 45-minute guided walk-through is a great first-hand look at the teamwork involved in manufacturing the Corvette. But the tour also gives you a better understanding of why the C7 rides and handles so well on the road, which I’ll be discussing in a later post, along with a few other things I learned about the car during my 800-plus mile trip from Detroit to Kentucky and back.
Even after visiting other plants around the country as a journalist, there’s something special about seeing such an integral part of American culture come to life, and the diversity of people who come together to make it happen.
My only issue is that visitors aren’t allowed to take any photos during the plant tour, which seems kind of odd in this day and age where we’ve become so accustomed to sharing everything on social media. But I guess there probably is a legitimate concern that some proprietary information at the plant could be leaked with one of the images.
HISTORY IN MOTION
At the Corvette museum, on the other hand, it’s pretty much free reign to take as many photos as you like, which should be a lot, given how much there is to see at the facility.
Bob Bubnis (pictured below), who works in the communication department at NCM, was kind enough to give us a personal tour of the museum, discussing many of the displays as we took photos.
Built in 1994, the NCM is a grand visual dive into the rich history of Corvette, ranging from iconic models like the first Corvette prototype to the cars damaged during the sinkhole disaster, which are now being displayed in the newly repaired sky dome.
Here are some of the first photos taken of the remodeled sky dome area housing the damaged ‘Vettes and other cars on display, which were taken during our visit to the facility. But the museum, which attracted over 250,000 visitors last year, is filled with so much more history than the infamous sinkhole, even though that has been all the buzz over the past year.
There’s the display dedicated completely to honoring Zora Arkus-Duntov, the “father of the Corvette.” And rows and rows of some of the most iconic models over the 62-year history of the Chevy sports car, many of which were donated to the museum from fellow enthusiasts.
Bubnis noted that what really makes the museum special is the fact it encompasses so much of the Corvette lifestyle.
“There are kids who are looking at these cars and you can tell right then they are making that promise to themselves that, ‘I want one of these someday.’ When people are taking delivery of their car, driving it through here and there is an applause… you can see the inspiration,” said the longtime Corvette owner and enthusiast.
The NCM’s on-site library has build sheets on nearly every Corvette made in Bowling Green since 1982, numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
MORE TO LOVE
One of the most memorable displays for me at the NCM would probably be the Corvette mural, a collection composed of 10,000 photos sent from hundreds of Corvette fans.
A day of heavy rain during my trip prevented me from experiencing the NCM’s new track, but Katie Frassinelli, NCM’s marketing and communications manager, said it’s been a great addition to the museum.
“The track is still new so we continue to find ways to join the two experiences, but for example, the R8C delivery customers picking up their new cars can go over for a lap, visitors who don’t own a Corvette can get a ride in one, anyone can drive their car on the track for a lap. There really is a little something for everyone,” explained Frassinelli.
Much as Bubnis expressed during the tour, the NCM and the Bowling Green Assembly Plant really represent the spirit of Corvette.
“It’s not just about the past, it’s about the present and the future,” explained Bubnis. “This is a place to be inspired and to feel pride in America.”