Museum recovers three of eight Corvettes swallowed by sinkhole

Like a life-size version of the game "Operation," engineers and construction workers have plucked out three of the eight rare Chevrolet Corvettes that were swallowed by a sinkhole below the National Corvette Museum in February.

The three cars were recovered after a painstaking process on Monday and Tuesday from a hole estimated to be 25 to 30 feet deep and 40 feet wide. The sinkhole opened up below the Bowling Green, Ky., museum early Feb. 12. No one was injured in the incident. No one except the cars -- which the museum subsequently dubbed "The Great Eight."

The condition of the three Corvettes varies from just a little dirty to heavily damaged, according to museum spokeswoman Laura Johnson. The first car the team pulled out, a 2009 ZR1 hand-built by General Motors engineers for the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, emerged with only a thick coating of dust and dirt. Once out of the sinkhole, the car, known as the Blue Devil, turned on after several tries.


"She cranked up! But of course... Chevrolet is like a rock, right?" the museum wrote on its Facebook page on Monday. This car was one of two donated to the museum by G.M. Because of its background, the car could be worth as much as $1 million, according to G.M.

Unfortunately the next car pulled out didn't fare as well. The 1993 40th Anniversary Corvette -- nicknamed Ruby for its ruby red paint and interior -- was also hoisted out on Monday.

The car suffered extensive damage to the composite body panels, especially the hood. The rear glass is missing completely, the front glass is shattered, and there are scratches and scuffs throughout the car.

Tuesday saw the third car -- a black, 1962 Corvette convertible -- hoisted into daylight. The car appears to have suffered some light damage and scratches to the body.

The museum will put these three Corvettes on display in their current state while workers spend the next three weeks stabilizing the sinkhole. Once the area is deemed secure, work to pull out the remaining five Corvettes will resume.

A 2001 Mallett Hammer Corvette Z06, a 1984 PPG pace car, the millionth and 1.5-millionth Corvette ever built, and a 1993 Corvette ZR-1 Spyder concept car are still in the sinkhole.

The museum will display all of the affected Corvettes as-found until August. Then, G.M. has said it will oversee the complete restoration of all the cars.