The National Corvette Museum officially reopened the Skydome on Thursday and Chevrolet was on hand to return the now-restored 1 Millionth Corvette to the building. Both the car and the building were damaged in February 2014 when a sinkhole opened beneath the structure.
As part of the restoration process, staff at the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, discovered that the car had been autographed by seemingly every worker at the Corvette assembly plant on the day the white 1992 convertible traveled along the line.
Those signatures were everywhere, even behind various panels, and the Tech Center team went to great lengths to preserve every one of them. And they almost did.
Two of the signatures could be scanned and reproduced on the parts used in the restoration of the car, but one piece was so damaged that the signature it bore could not be saved.
So on Thursday, Chevrolet invited former GM team member Angela Lamb back to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to sign a replacement panel that was the last piece in the restoration puzzle.
“We felt it was important to restore this extremely significant car in Corvette’s long, storied history,” said Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president. “When we disassembled it, we found that each employee involved in building it had signed a part of the car, which was fantastic and moving to see. It brought the history to life, and reinforced the importance of the project.”
Among the parts replaced were the hood, front fascia and the lower panels between the front wheels and doors, as well as a number of ancillary supporting components under the hood. The replacements came from a vehicle of the same vintage and color, ensuring authenticity of the parts and materials involved with the restoration.
A few other components, such as the rear fascia and front portion of the exhaust system, would have probably been replaced in almost any other restoration project, but the team repaired them because they were also covered in signatures.
Additional highlights from the restoration:
• The front sub-frame was damaged in the fall into the sinkhole and required straightening
• The wheels were damaged, but reconditioned with the original Goodyear Eagle GS-C tires
• Rather than replace the scuffed and scratched pad on the instrument panel, its soft cover was carefully removed and replaced to preserve the employee-signed structure beneath it
• The red leather seats, featuring one-off “1,000,000th Corvette” embroidery on the headrests were damaged but deemed irreplaceable, so they were restored, including a few replacement patches of carefully matched hide
• The 5.7L LT1 engine, transmission and other drivetrain components were inspected and found to be damage-free.
Surprisingly, the one component the team did not have to replace was the crushed windshield header. When the car first rolled into the shop, an overhead crane was used to raise it enough to make the car drivable, but the frame pulled up surprisingly close to the original position, encouraging the team to save it.
“The header restoration was a wonderful surprise for what everyone assumed would be the toughest aspect of the restoration,” said David Bolognino, director of GM Global Design Fabrication Operations. “With access to the original specifications, we got it spot-on – and even the new windshield glass dropped in perfectly.”
The final touch was replacing the unique “1,000,000th” windshield banner it wore when it rolled off the assembly line 23 years ago. The computer graphics file used for the original was still available, allowing creation of an identical banner.