The National Corvette Museum is Mecca for the Chevrolet sports car line enthusiast. Nearby is the assembly plant with factory tours.
History of the Corvette
In 1953, the Chevrolet division of General Motors began a bold experiment. Harley Earl, a designer, imagined a car resembling the European sports car. With several other engineers and staff, Chevy produced the first 300 cars. Named the “Corvette” for the fast ships of the French navy, the first models were all white with red interior convertibles. The original crossed flag Corvette symbol had to be changed at the last minute as it included an American flag, which was not permitted on a commercial product. Over the years, the symbol has seen design changes but it always includes some form of the checkered flag and the Chevrolet “bow tie” emblem.
From that humble beginning in Flint, Michigan, where they were produced for $3,498.00, the Corvette has come to symbolize the thrill of driving on the open road and an entire cult following has emerged.
National Corvette Museum
In 1981, the manufacturing plant for the Corvette moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky. With a dedicated new facility, the iconic car was now a major player in the automobile industry.
Since the Corvette had achieved twenty-eight years of production, a number of body changes, engine upgrades, and styling touches had come and gone. Fans of the early Corvettes realized they had an historic symbol in the older cars. So, in 1994, a non-profit group known as “The National Corvette Museum” built a large exhibit space next-door to the manufacturing plant.
All models of the Corvette, a Hall of Fame for those persons contributing to its initial building and ongoing successes, interactive exhibits, and Corvette lore are included in this facility. There are plenty of technical displays to satisfy any mechanically inclined enthusiast, but also enough entertaining exhibits and items to examine for the average tourist. A computer quiz provides the enjoyment of testing Corvette trivia knowledge in various skill levels. A part of the racing car exhibit allows the visitor to be timed while performing pit crew activities.
Touring the Assembly Plant
Advance reservations are needed to be sure of an opportunity to tour the Bowling Green Corvette assembly plant. The “line” is shut down at various times of the year to re-tool or update, so alternate dates are helpful.
If purchasing a car and requesting delivery at Bowling Green, a special factory tour is given and the actual car can be viewed as it is manufactured. In the museum itself, a “nursery” displays those cars awaiting pick-up by the owner.
A recent feature offers Corvette owners a full-service detailing of their car, whatever the model year, along with an assembly plant tour and the chance to have the car on display at the museum. Several of the display models are on loan from individual owners.
The “Vette” has come a long way since inception in 1953, when those initial 300 were produced, there was only a single color choice, a two-speed automatic transmission was the only option, and the engine was a six-cylinder. Now it is a world-class production sports car with many body styles and a wealth of options. Touring the National Corvette Museum brings back memories and keeps alive the tradition of the true American classic.