Museum Hawk: National Corvette Museum Page 2

March 18, 2006

As far as I know, the only other American automotive assembly plant providing such a tour opportunity is the new Ford Rouge facility in Dearborn where F-150s are built, opened to the public not quite two years ago and certainly the only such plant tour in Michigan. There also is a charge for the Ford tour. As with so many things in life, what was once free, no longer is.


Before I become deluged with emails from fans of upscale European imports — yes, I am aware that such factory-delivery VIP programs are old-hat across the pond.


Special delivery


New Corvette Owners

New Corvette Owners

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The morning I stopped by the Museum on my way to Florida , I happened to catch Mr. and Mrs. Bill Flammer of Savannah , Ga. , there to pick up their new dark-blue-with-white-top convertible from what the Museum folks call the “Corvette Nursery.” They had flown to Nashville the day before, drove up to Bowling Green , some 65 miles, in a special-deal Enterprise rental car and overnighted in a special-discount motel room. Bill, in the construction business, told me he owned his first Corvette, a ’62, when he was in college, and presently owns a ’66 coupe and a ’75 convertible as well.


There were five other new ’Vettes awaiting their owners to arrive, including silver, red, black, maroon, and red coupes and a red convertible. A couple were Z06 models with the distinctive air intake just below the front hood opening.


In addition to the special R8C delivery arrangement, the Museum also marks the parking lot spaces closest to the facility — excepting handicapped — as reserved for Corvettes only. Of 20 vehicles in the first two rows of the parking lot the January morning I visited, 14 were GM products.


The National Corvette Museum opened in 1994 as an enthusiasts’ enterprise by volunteers over ten years of gestation. It started with a desire by ’Vette owner Terry McManmon to create a Corvette library and archive so restorers weren’t fighting over literature at flea markets, leading to formation of the National Corvette Research Society. Then Ray Quinlan offered to donate an original ’53 Corvette to a museum, if such a museum was founded with tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status, and the aim shifted. Later, the National Council of Corvette Clubs protested they’d been left out, so the name was changed to National Corvette Museum in time for legendary Chevrolet engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov to break ground for the Bowling Green museum in 1992.


NCM membership dues range from $20 for children (!) to $50 for individuals, $100 for families, $250 for business, $1500 for lifetime, and $2500 for business lifetime.


It’s unclear whether any General Motors Foundation money went into the original fund-raising, but in any event GM does not directly financially support the institution on an annual basis. GM however has provided numerous exhibit materials including significant cars, as well as some technical expertise and naturally uses the Museum facility for specific promotional activities.


Six generations of speed


As a volunteer enterprise, then, most all the Corvettes on display actually are on loan from private individuals or General Motors. The first car exhibit you see upon entering the Museum is a row of Corvettes representing each of the six distinct models over the 53-year history of the marque.

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