If you’re a Corvette enthusiast, and a C4 enthusiast in particular, you won’t want to miss this great new installment of the National Corvette Museum’s Heritage Series that offers the inside story at how the only 1983 Corvette still in existence came to survive.
And, believe it or not, rain and a pair of new cowboy boots figure prominently in the story.
You’ll get to hear interviews with many of the people who helped this Corvette survive, including some names you will recognize and many you won’t.
Chief Engineer Dave McLellan, in his position from 1975 to 1992, and designer Jerry Palmer give you behind-the-scenes background on the early development of the C4, which had to overcome significant regulatory challenges for emissions, safety, and fuel economy to become a much-improved vehicle over the C3.
You’ll hear from folks like Rick Darling, senior development engineer at Milford Proving Grounds, and how his boss (Fred Schaafsma, development manager at Milford) made the decision to have his team work around the clock trying to get the bugs worked out of the 1983 prototypes that were just delivered to them in September 1981. Chevy hoped for a launch of the 1983 model in August 1982, but it soon became apparent that there was too much work left for that goal to be reached.
The decision was then made to make the first C4 a 1984 model, meaning there would be no 30th anniversary 1983 models available to the public.
As is usually the case for liability reasons, the 43 1983 prototypes were ordered to be destroyed.
Ralph Montileone, quality manager at the Bowling Green plant, says on the video that these cars were usually loaded up and shipped somewhere else to be destroyed. This time, however, the brass decided to have the prototypes destroyed by a contracted car crusher on site at the plant.
Finally, they were down to crushing the last car, but a rainstorm and his new cowboy boots joined forces to make Montileone decide to postpone the final crushing until the next day. When he arrived the following morning, the car crusher was gone, thinking that all the cars had already been destroyed. He put the car behind the plant, then never got around to crushing it.
More fate came into play when Paul Schnoes came on board in June 1984 as plant manager. During his first couple of weeks there, he decided to walk around the plant and get to know his employees. That’s when he first noticed a white C4 Corvette sitting next to the powerhouse and asked about it. When he discovered it was the only 1983 Corvette in existence, he realized its historical significance and promptly had it brought inside the plant to be spruced up.
A few years later, the new National Corvette Museum received the only 1983 Corvette as a donation from the plant, and well, you know the rest of the story.
Only you don’t.
Keep watching the video until the very end for a special surprise from Daniel Decker, vehicle restoration and preservation department at the NCM.
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