Editor’s Note: A big thanks to our friend Jeffrey Wagner from the Facebook page Simply Corvettes who offered the following account and photos from Monday’s unveiling of the 1962 Corvette that was damaged when a sinkhole opened under the Corvette Museum’s Skydome on February 12th, 2014.
Today is February 12, 2018, and our location is the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY. It has been four years since that fateful day when the earth opened up and claimed eight Corvettes at the National Corvette Museum. We are here for a special occasion, the unveiling of the newly restored 1962 Corvette that plunged into the opening the sinkhole created when the floor collapsed.
We, Corvette lovers, all remember that morning, February 12, 2014. We woke up and the news started filtering through the nation and around the world. Some of us heard it on the morning news. Others were made aware by emails and text messages that read, “Did you hear what happened….?” As the details were made public, it was still unbelievable. The floor had collapsed at the National Corvette Museum inside the Skydome, and we all knew that was where the largest portion of Corvettes were displayed. The official report stated at 5:38 a.m. a sinkhole opened up and eight Corvettes had been damaged. The good news was the building was vacant and no one was injured. The news of this tragedy went around the world in just a few hours and became an international headline.
The Corvettes that were damaged were listed as the 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil, 2009 (1.5 millionth production Corvette), 1993 “Ruby Red” 40th Anniversary Corvette, 1992 (1 millionth production Corvette), 1991 ZR1 Spyder Corvette, 1984 PPG Corvette Pace Car, 1962 Corvette and a 2001 Z06 Mallett Hammer Corvette which was actually missing.
General Motors stepped in very quickly to announce they would take care of any restorations that were needed for the damaged Corvettes. GM owned the 2009 ZR1 and the 1991 ZR-1. The rest were owned by the National Corvette Museum. However, only three of the Corvettes were deemed to be restored. The 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil and the 1992 One Millionth Corvette were shipped back to Detroit and were fully restored to perfect condition and are back on display in the National Corvette Museum. The 1962 Corvette was also listed to be restored but it would be restored privately by persons more in tune with the procedures to handle older Corvettes. General Motors did supply the funds to restore the classic Corvette.
Back to present day. As I arrived in the Skydome of the National Corvette Museum, it was pretty quiet. It was about 8:30 a.m. and a few people were hanging around chatting and some staff members were getting a few details in order for the 9 o’clock start time. On the far side of the spire in the Skydome, a number of chairs were set up for the unveiling with a podium up front and monitors to each side. On the monitors was a photo, in black and white, of the 1962 Corvette. To the left was the guest of honor – the 1962 Corvette covered by a silver sheet to hide it before the unveiling.
As time went by and it got closer to the 9 o’clock hour, the buzz of people arriving grew as did the anticipation. The chairs quickly filled to standing room only and I could hear the sounds of news media testing their equipment. Then promptly at 9:00 a.m., Wendell Strode, the Museum’s Executive Director, approached the podium and addressed the gathering.
After welcoming everyone and acknowledging key people involved in the restoration of the 1962 Corvette along with those who assisted in the reconstruction of the Museum, he relived the early morning hours of February 12, 2014, and shared his perspective on the events.
When Mr. Strode completed his opening, he introduced Beth Sease. She was the attorney for David Donoho and his estate and spoke of Mr. Donoho as a friend and a very unassuming guy who always wore the same ball cap. She shared personal stories of him and reminisced of him taking her on joy rides in one of his three Corvettes. One story in particular of when he grabbed the keys to the black 1962 Corvette. She described him in a way you could get to know him.
After Ms. Sease had finished her comments, Wendell introduced the curator of the National Corvette Museum, Derek Moore. Mr. Moore described some of the detail that went into restoring the Corvette. Miraculously, he stated, they only had to replace one panel during restoration of Mr. Donoho’s Corvette. It was a section of the rocker panel on the passenger side near the rear wheel. He said the main goal was to restore it not as an award-winning concourse Corvette but as near to the Corvette that Mr. Donoho had donated to the museum. To this point, Mr. Moore told the story of when they had removed the seats a small empty sugar packet from Frisch’s Big Boy was found behind the seat. This sugar packet was stored just as any other critical part of the Corvette. When restoration was complete, the sugar packet was placed back behind the seat from which it was found. Basically, everything is just as it was when Mr. Donoho had it.
Then finally, the moment we had all been waiting for. With a signal from Mr. Strode and AC/DC’s “Back in Black” playing in the background, the silver cover was removed and David Donoho’s Tuxedo Black 1962 Corvette was revealed just yards away from where it fell into the sinkhole. What a sight it was. The lights gleaming off the fresh black paint and the shine from the chrome was absolutely beautiful. As the applause died down, Wendell announced that the restoration was not complete and asked Ms. Sease to do the honors. With the Corvette’s nose emblem in hand, she approached the front of the car and placed the 1962 Corvette front emblem into place to complete the restoration.
The 1962 Corvette is a one-owner, black Corvette with red interior that was bought new by David Donoho. He was still in high school at the time and was able to save up the money to purchase the car. David was nicknamed “The Weather Man”, because he was always checking for rain and to make sure he got the Corvette indoors before it got wet.
For over 50 years Mr. Donoho enjoyed his Corvette, but toward the end of his life he decided to donate his beloved Corvette to the National Corvette Museum and the funds to maintain it. The plans for the donation was introduced to Mr. Donoho by his attorney Beth Sease, who contacted Wendell Strode to get the ball rolling. Between Mr. Donoho, Ms. Sease and Mr. Strode, an agreement was met and the 1962 Corvette that Mr. Donoho had cherished all his life was headed to the National Corvette Museum. On June 6, 2013, Mr. Donoho passed due to health issues. And then just a few months later, we all know what happened.
I had the honor and opportunity to spend time inside the National Corvette Museum as security for the Sinkhole Exhibition before it was repaired. During the summer of 2014, the National Corvette Museum was able to have the sinkhole secured and allowed visitors to see the sinkhole first hand with the damaged Corvettes on display in the Skydome. The security position, required by OSHA to make sure visitors remained in safe areas, was a great opportunity to learn about the history of all the Corvettes and more importantly, share the information with visitors. Some of those visitors I am still friends with, even one as far away as Brazil. I was there every weekend from May to early December of 2014. I was able to share the story of the 1962 Corvette and the other Corvettes with thousands of people.
It truly was an honor to be at this event and to see the 1962 Corvette in its restored condition. It is a beautiful Corvette and now it has been returned to its proper place in the Skydome with the other Sinkhole Corvettes for future visitors to enjoy.
Check out these photos from the Unveiling of the 1962 Corvette!
Corvette Museum to Unveil Freshly Restored 1962 Corvette on 4th Anniversary of Sinkhole
[VIDEO] National Corvette Museum Begins Restoration of the 1962 Sinkhole Corvette
These are the Eight Corvettes that Fell into the Corvette Museum’s Sinkhole