Restoration of One-Millionth Corvette Highlights Deep Passion for Nameplate

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A special team at General Motors has been busy restoring the one-millionth Corvette in what could arguably be considered one of the most significant repairs of its kind, perhaps in the history of the American sports car.

And while some might question its importance in the broader scope of the world of cars, one thing’s for certain — the restoration of the white 1992 Corvette has definitely become one of the highest profile projects in decades, one that speaks to a deep passion for the nameplate.

The second of three cars damaged in the 2014 sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum to be set for restoration, the one-millionth Corvette has, in many regards, served as the visual symbol of the 2014 catastrophe that caught the attention of millions of people from around the world.

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David Bolognino, director of GM’s Design Fabrications Operations studio, who has been heading the restoration project under the direction of GM VP Ed Welburn, said the company realized immediately the significance of restoring the 1992 Corvette among the eight cars damaged by the sinkhole catastrophe.

After all, that million mark production milestone is an important point in time for the Chevy sports car, Bolognino told Corvette Forum during a one-on-one phone interview discussing the ongoing restoration project.

“This is the millionth Corvette,” he said. “Our leadership… understands how important this is to the company. This is a piece of the company’s history managed by the museum so they wanted to make sure that it was, as Ed puts it, professionally and respectfully restored. “

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The restoration of the ’92 Corvette is being done at a special in-house studio operated by the Design Fabrications team at the GM facility where many of the carmaker’s concept cars come to life.

“We have the ability to make every part on a concept car with the exception of the wheels and glass and…obviously, not powertrains,” said Bolognino. “We do most of the (concept) cars. There are times when we use our global partners and some contractors, but we do most of the SEMA cars and just about all of the Pace cars.”

The first Corvette-sinkhole restoration project involved repairing the 2009 Corvette ZR1 prototype known as the Blue Devil, which was returned to its original condition last fall.

Next, the National Corvette Museum will oversee the restoration of the third car, a 1962 Corvette.

To restore the one-millionth Corvette, GM leveraged the expertise of its service team, which has more experience in collision repair. In fact, one of the GM team members assigned to the restoration project, which began in April, even worked on the original platform for the 1992 Corvette.

Many who have been working on the restoration of the car were on hand on for a special event at the GM Design Center to discuss the project yesterday, including craftsmen from GM Design’s Mechanical Assembly Team.

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Bolognino says the biggest challenge in restoring the one-millionth Corvette has been trying to salvage the signatures of hundreds of employees who worked on the assembly line and autographed the car when it was fist built.

“I actually didn’t realize that at the museum,” said Bolognino. “Almost every piece of the car…had been signed by what appears to be a line worker or a factory staff. I can’t even begin to guess how many signatures are on this car. That really increases the degree of difficulty.”

For example, the repair of a bent underbody component that would typically involve fabricating a new piece was instead pulled back into shape to preserve the signatures, which required additional time and resources, explained Bolognino.

“We think that we will be able to save an incredible majority of the signatures,” he said. “It’s our intent to save as many signatures as possible.”

The director said the signatures have become a vital part of the restoration process because of the legacy tied to the car.

“It’s not about making every part perfect at any cost, it’s about keeping the right level of history,” explained Bolognino. “The minute we looked at all the signatures, it was immediately obvious to us that was part of the history of the car. If somebody on the line in 1992, took their time to put their autograph on the bottom of a car, it’s incumbent on us to try to save it.”

The restoration of the one-millionth Corvette is expected to be completed in time to be showcased at the 21st Anniversary Celebration and Hall of Fame Induction at the National Corvette Museum being held Sept. 3 – 5.

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