Where is it?
The National Corvette Museum is in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Bowling Green has been home to the Corvette assembly plant since it was relocated from St. Louis, Missouri in 1981. The National Corvette Museum opened in its current location in 1994. Click here for the museum’s website.
Trivia: Corvette sports cars were named for a fast type of naval warship also called Corvette.
History of the American sports car
The MG (Morris Garage) Midget was the car that most people believe started the American sports car craze. Many of these cars were imported from Europe by returning American G.I.s after World War II. MG Roadsters then began turning up in races around the U.S., and it was this model, along with the sleek Jaguar XK120, that inspired the first ideas for the Corvette.
After World War II, Crosley Motors, Inc. began producing the Hotshot and Super Sport. Crosley’s Super Sport, an updated version of the Hotshot, was introduced in 1951 and included doors which the Hotshot didn’t have. These models were considered the first American sports cars to be built in the post war era. Unfortunately, Crosley Motors closed in 1952 after only eleven model years of automobile production; however, their closing opened a door for General Motors and a design genius named Harley Earl.
The father of America’s sports car
The son of a carriage and wagon builder, Harley Earl grew up in Hollywood, California. In 1906, after watching automobiles become extremely popular, Harley’s father changed his business from Earl Carriage Works to Earl Automotive Works. Harley would go on to Stamford University to study art and engineering because his dream was to build cars his own way. By 1916, his father’s business was building custom automobiles and accessories in the largest manufacturing plant on the west coast. Harley made a name for himself as an artist and designer and became highly popular after designing custom automobiles for several Hollywood actors. Fast forward to 1926 when he was hired by General Motors. Harley Earl was the first designated head of design at General Motors. His secretive “Project Opel” resulted in the Chevrolet Corvette. America’s sports car was first produced in 1953, and the rest is automotive history.
Trivia: Approximately 225 of the of the first 300 Corvettes that were built still exist today.
Corvettes on the racetrack
We didn’t spend a lot of time reading about Corvette’s racing history because it was so hard to keep our eyes off of the cars! Here are a few that really grabbed our attention.
Trivia: In 1954, the Chevrolet Corvette became the first production automobile with a molded fiberglass reinforced plastic body. The 1963 Corvette is the only model with a split rear window.
The best-known landmark in Bowling Green is the Skydome, which is the round yellow section of the museum featuring a tall red spire. (See it in the photo at the top of the post.) Inside the museum the Skydome showcases a selection of privately owned and one-of-a-kind Corvettes from their beginning in 1953 to the present day. In 2014 a portion of the floor of the Skydome collapsed into a sinkhole and sent eight Corvettes crashing into a cave.
A small plexiglass covered manhole in the floor enables visitors to look down into the cave. The museum also features a great exhibit that explains the cave and why the floor caved in.
Click here for a short YouTube video of the initial part of the cave in from the museum’s security camera. There are videos of the cave in on the National Corvette Museum’s website as well. The fortunate thing about the collapse is that it happened around 5:30 in the morning, so no visitors or employees were in the building at the time.
All eight of the sinkhole Corvettes have now been restored, and while all of them are beautiful, this black with red interior 1962 model was our favorite. The photographs on the Skydome’s wall are of Corvette Hall of Fame inductees.
Trivia: All of the first year (1953) Corvettes were painted Polo White with black convertible tops and Sportsman Red interiors.
New Corvette purchasers have the option to take delivery of their car at the National Corvette Museum and actually drive it off of the floor. Two lucky people were picking up their shiny new Corvettes while we were there. Several other new Corvettes were lined up and waiting for their new owners to arrive later in the week. Getting to watch all the fanfare (and hear them rev their engines) was exciting for us too – even if afterward we had to get in our 11-year-old SUV and head on down the road.
Thanks so much for joining us on our tour of the National Corvette Museum. We hope that you will add it to your itinerary if you’re ever near Bowling Green, Kentucky. It is definitely worth the stop.
Need a little more road trip inspiration? Check out these amazing destinations!
Travel safely, and we will see you on the road!
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.