Monday, June 6, 2011

Five Days Until the Great Race: Bowling Green

Today Dad and I drove from Morehead, KY to Nashville, TN via Bowling Green, KY to visit the Corvette Museum and assembly plant.  It was quite an interesting experience.  We were both there about 10 years ago and since then the museum had undergone a major renovation and addition so it was cool to see everything again.

We left the hotel at about 9am (eastern time) to get to bowling green by 12:45pm (central time) for our factory tour.  We didn't factor in the time change so we got their an hour early and walked quickly through the museum and had lunch at the "Corvette Cafe" while we waited four our factory tour.

The factory tour was pretty cool.  I wish we had less people on our tour so it could be a little more personalized (we had probably 30 people and one tour guide) and extensive.  However, it was definitely worth the $7 admission.  Sadly, we weren't allowed to have cameras or cell phones with us on the tour so I got no pictures and since we all know that pictures are worth a thousand words, I'll try my best to summarize briefly what I saw and heard.  Mostly what we saw was the later stages of the build process of the car.  When we caught our first glimpses of the cars, they were rolling down the line as a painted body and chassis without the power-train.  They arrived in batches of five or six, all in the same color but various models.  The vast majority of the cars were base model and Grand Sport coupes and convertibles.  I saw a few Z06's and a single ZR1.  It was hard to tell what cars were which but I eventually figured it out (I generally judged by the type of spoiler on each car).  We moved with the line and got to see the workers piece together the entire interior.  All of the cars on the line were already spoken for (either by dealers or individual customers) so they all required individual trim items which arrived on the line with their specific cars.  I could not even fathom the logistics that went into getting the right parts to the right car at the right time at the right place, truly amazing.  The power-trains were then married to their specific cars bodies and you could finally definitely know what car was which (steel brakes versus carbon ceramic differentiated the base cars and Grand Sports from the high performance Z06's and ZR1's along with color and size of brake calipers, but customers will be able to choose their brake caliper color in for the 2012 cars).  The cars continued to roll down the line where they received their wheels, exhaust systems, fluids and were started for the first time.  We got to see the entire final inspection area, where the cars were first driven and tested.  Before we knew it, the tour was over.  But it provided a good glimpse into what goes into building a Corvette.  We didn't see much on the official tour but if you looked around at the right moments, you got to see a few other things (body pants being fitted, welding of the chassis, etc) that weren't specifically highlighted on the tour.

Anyways, here are some pictures from the day.
We passed this on our way to Bowling Green.  I was not expecting to see a dinosaur in the middle of Kentucky!

The Bowling Green assembly plant.

Our Corvette in the "Corvettes Only" parking at the museum.  The couple in the yellow coupe next to us were from South Dakota.  Almost every Corvette in the lot was from out of state and every Corvette was a C6 (2005-).  The oldest car that we saw all day other than ours was a C3 (1969-'82).

This sign was in the middle of the road adjacent to the museum.  Where is their sense of fun?!

This is the first room of the museum.  When you order a new Corvette, you can pick it up at the museum if you want to.  Buyers get a special tour of both the factory and museum and their cars are put on display here on their day of delivery.  The owners can then drive them straight off the museum floor and right home.  Buyers can also spend three days in Bowling Green following the entire build of their specific car along the assembly line, start it up for the first time, and drive it away straight from the factory if they like.  One car left as we were there and there were a few more in a back room awaiting a final wash and pre-delivery inspection. 

This Z06 carbon edition was inside the museum awaiting to be picked up by its new owners.  It was a real sinister looking car.  My favorite of those being delivered

The ZR1 that reset the lap record on the Nurburgring in Germany.

A shot of the main display room in the museum.  Most of the cars in the museum were owned by individuals and simply lent to the the museum for display.  All of the cars were in top notch condition and most of them had some interesting stories to go with them.

Our corvette outside the Bowling Green plant.

A 1953 Corvette (the first year of production for those of you who don't know).  Only 300 were made and they were all done in white with red interior.  The interior was almost identical to that of our '57.

The sad condition of my shirt by the time we got to Nashville.  A 60's corvette without air conditioning is a bad place to be in temperatures in the mid 90's.

We let the car (and ourselves) cool off in the shade when we finally stopped for the night.

Tomorrow we'll spend the day seeing the sights in Nashville with my uncle and take a rest from driving.  I've been looking forward to getting to see some of Nashville and I think the car has earned a day off.  We'll resume driving on Wednesday morning to head to Chattanooga. 

1 comment:

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