Check out the state-of-the-art Bowling Green Corvette factory on “Ultimate Factories.”
Back in the olden days, you know, pre-Bowling Green, if you wanted to buy a Corvette, you simply went to your friendly local Chevrolet dealer and bought your car. While some Corvette buyers may have been aware that their Corvette was built in St. Louis, most couldn’t have cared less, and were more focused on the experience of owning and driving their Corvette, rather than where it was assembled.
All Corvettes from 1953 to 1980 were built in the old St. Louis assembly plant. If you go back and read early road tests from the ‘60s and ‘70s you’ll see a consistent complaint – spotty to poor build quality. Some cars were built very well, most okay, and too many not good at all. It was a time when you didn’t want a “Monday car” for obvious reasons. Owners and magazine writers complained and GM listened. By ‘77 GM started looking for a new Corvette facility. Four location candidates were identified: Waco, Texas, Wichita, Kansas, Montgomery, Alabama, and Bowling Green, Kentucky. The little town of Bowling Green, Kentucky won the contest after granting GM some serious tax breaks.
Once the deal was signed, GM had just 15 months to convert the old Chrysler AirTemp plant into a state-of-the-art assembly plant, ONLY for Corvettes. Floor space was enlarged to a million square feet – about 22 football fields. This move on GM’s part put to rest all concerns as to how serious GM was about building Corvettes. On June 1, 1981, Kentucky Governor John Brown drove the very first Bowling Green-built Corvette off the assembly line. (I wonder how much THIS car will go for at auction some day?) This was arguably one of THE most important developments in Corvette history.
Since that day, the Bowling Green Corvette assembly plant has become the Mecca for all Corvette enthusiasts. Chevrolet has done a brilliant job in not only building a world-class manufacturing facility, but creating a legend. Nine years later in 1990, spearheaded by Dan Gale, plans were formed to create the National Corvette Museum opened across the street from the assembly plant. In 1994 the NCM was opened. The museum was such a success with owners and enthusiasts that beginning in 2001, buyers could check off option R8C – “Corvette Museum Delivery” and for $490 get the Bowling Green royal treatment. Every Corvette with the R8C option get s special So what we now have is a Corvette complex where fans and buyers can come see new Corvettes being built and enjoy the presentation of Corvette history at the National Corvette Museum. Has any other car in history ever offered anything like this? The answer is a resounding, “NO!”
If you have never been to the Bowling Green Corvette assembly plant or it’s too far away from you, enjoy the above video. – Scott
PS – For more information about the R8C “Corvette Museum Delivery” option, CLICK HERE.
PSS – Automotive writer Mike Mueller wrote a delightful book all about the Corvette factories appropriately titled, “The Corvette Factories – Building America’s Sports Car.” You can read my review HERE.
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