Few cars in U.S. history command as much unbridled enthusiasm from their owners as the Corvette. The day their car arrives is nearly as significant to some owners as the arrival of a newborn. Perhaps that’s why the delivery area at the National Corvette Museum (NCM) in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is called the nursery.
Realizing just how momentous the handing over of a new Corvette can be, the NCM coordinates with the Corvette assembly plant in implementing Option R8C. Available through any Chevrolet dealer for $500, this museum delivery program has to be requested when customers finalize their order. At that point, a special ship code number – 184590 — identifies a buyer’s Corvette for museum delivery.
While the Corvette plant and the nonprofit NCM are separate entities, they are located just a two-minute drive apart — less if you’re manning a ZR1 — and work hand in hand to give the keys to buyers of new Corvettes.
Afterwards, guests are treated to a tour of the museum. Then a member of the NCM Delivery Team provides both a personalized orientation and a delivery presentation of the customer’s new Corvette. A unique gold decal is placed on the inside of the driver’s doorjamb to signify the importance of this occasion. The customer then receives an individual one-year NCM membership, which can be upgraded.
Our tour was led by Denzel Williams, a retired 20-year veteran of the plant who seemed to know everyone in the place on a first-name basis. His hands-on experience was invaluable in providing an insider’s perspective. Seeing Corvettes built is worth the price of admission alone, as the production line is quite unlike most others. As NCM events manager Roc Linkov points out, “It’s the last hand-built production car in America.” That might sound a bit like an oxymoron (like “awfully good” or “job security”), but after seeing it firsthand, it all makes sense.
Before entering the assembly area, we had to don shields made of fabric to cover our rings and belt buckles, lest we get too close to a Corvette under construction and inadvertently scratch a fresh paint job or new piece of trim. As we snaked our way around the conveyor belt and various assembly areas, being careful to avoid getting whacked in the head by a robotic arm, we learned a few interesting facts. (See the sidebar for more.)
Watching the cars get assembled is bit like a slow-mo version of a Disney ride. The tortoise-like speed serves as a dramatic contrast to the Corvette’s hare-like sprint once it’s running on the road.
CORVETTE ASSEMBLY PLANT FACTS
About 350 workers are on the production line, which consists of 7 miles of carriers located in one million square feet, or 22 acres. The workers are usually on four-day shifts with 163 different jobs performed.
The electric conveyor for the carriers moves through at .033 mph or 174.28 feet an hour, and 48 robots assist in assembly.
Corvette Z06 and ZR1 frames are made at a separate facility in Hopkinsville, Ky. They have an aluminum frame with a magnesium engine well, so they’re 150 pounds lighter than the standard C6 model. The ZR1 engines are built at the General Motor Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan.