National Corvette Museum – An Overview
The National Corvette Museum opened in 1994 as an educational tribute to America’s sports car. The Museum is located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, known worldwide as the home of the Corvette. Every Corvette in the world since 1981 is assembled at the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant located just ¼ mile from the National Corvette Museum. Both the Museum and Assembly Plant offer tours to the public.
The exterior of the National Corvette Museum is noted for its award-winning architectural design. The sweeping lines of the building were inspired by the car it honors. Departing totally from the traditional rectangular museum concept, the Corvette showcase is located on an attractively landscaped 60-acre campus. The most prominent exterior feature is a large circular car salon encased by a striking yellow conical roof. High above soars a red 12-story spire. Known as the “Skydome,” this section of the Museum has become a landmark for the Bowling Green area.
The interior of the 115,000-square-foot building uses curved walls, geometric design and full scale diorama displays to tell the story of the Corvette’s past, present and future. More than 80 Corvettes from every era since 1953 are displayed, with each display changing periodically. While some are beautifully preserved production models, many are one-of-a-kind concept vehicles rarely if ever before seen by the public. The Museum also features a tremendous collection of automotive memorabilia, informative films, educational exhibits, historical displays, a library and archives, conference center, car preparation and delivery area, Corvette Store and, of course, the Corvette Café, a 1950s era diner. There is something to appeal to visitors of every age, from Corvette and sports car enthusiasts to every man, woman and child who likes exciting cars and the nostalgia of days gone by.
Upon entering the National Corvette Museum, visitors are greeted by a special car from the Museum’s collection displayed on a turntable in a glass-walled room. There is also a new Corvette that visitors may “try on for size,” sitting in the driver’s seat for a memorable snapshot.
The front lobby gives way to the Corvette Gateway… an area that will test your knowledge of America’s Sports Car with a series of interactive quizzes. Next, it’s on to the 200-seat Chevrolet Theater to comfortably enjoy a brief introductory film on the big screen, which sets the stage for your Museum. This big-screen presentation gets the visitor’s “engine revved” and ready to enjoy an exciting tour. The Chevrolet Theater also plays host to educational speakers and other special programs from time to time.
The first exhibits bring visitors to an area located in Nostalgia Alley where a series of realistic scenes mirror the Corvette’s early history. Stroll down Main Street and visit the mid-century barbershop, soda shop, toy shop and the old service station, complete with authentic gas pumps, air tower and garage. A live mechanic is often on-duty to greet visitors. Vintage Corvettes line the street along with early advertisements and other memorabilia from the car’s early years.
Corvette wouldn’t be what it is today without the many contributions of Zora Arkus-Duntov, universally recognized as the “father of the Corvette”. You can view a historical display, shrine and the final resting place of he and wife Elfi within the nostalgia area.
Next stop is the historic Route 66, often called “America’s Main Street.” This tribute to the highway is also a throw-back to the Route 66-television show that ran from 1960 until 1964.
The final stop on Main Street is the Chevrolet Dealership Showroom featuring classic Corvettes that could pass for brand new. See Sting Rays, Sharks and other classics as a lifelike salesperson attempts to close a deal. Who doesn’t remember visiting the showroom and dreaming of owning one of these beauties! Another full-scale diorama recreates a portion of the old Corvette assembly line in St. Louis, where the Corvette was produced from late 1953 until 1981.
Next, it’s time to talk horsepower as visitors explore Corvette’s racing history in the Performance Area. This circular room is 80 feet in diameter with its outer wall covered by a giant panoramic mural of famous Corvette racecars. Several well-known racers from the late 1950’s to the ultra-high performance racecars of today are arranged on a simulated racetrack. The area of the Museum also features cutaways of high horsepower engines and powertrains giving visitors a close-up glimpse at the “heart of the beast.” The inner circle of the Performance Area boasts two state-of-the-art driving simulators. The simulators are designed to present a limitless number of scenarios drivers face on the road from within a realistic cockpit.
Advance to the Design and Development area, which demonstrates how Corvettes are created at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, MI. Aerodynamics, materials and technology themes are incorporated into this unique area of the museum and cutaways of the 6th Generation Corvette are a main focus. See how Corvettes go from the drawing board to working prototypes to actual production models. The scenes show the lifelike figures of actual designers and engineers surrounded by outrageous sketches, prototypes and clay models. Both the young and the young at heart will dream of a career behind the scenes at Corvette after seeing this exhibit.
Corvette wouldn’t be what it is today without its “enthusiasts” so this special section illustrates and celebrates the Corvette lifestyle. The area includes memorabilia, videos and images from Corvette Clubs, Members and other organizations. There you can learn what makes Corvette so special, and there are more interactive trivia games and even an interactive racing experience to try out.
The largest display area is the famous Skydome portion of the Museum, 140 feet in diameter with a nearly 100-foot high glass ceiling. Cars in this area, as in every part of the Museum, are constantly being changed and rotated. The Skydome features production vehicles on-loan from private owners as well as cars made famous by magazines and auto shows the world over. The Skydome was also the site of the infamous sinkhole on February 12, 2014. All eight of the Corvettes that fell victim are on display, some restored, and some just as they were when they were recovered from the hole. View an outline on the floor of where the sinkhole was, as well as where the cave lies. You can even peer into the cave via a manhole in the floor!
Each year a selection of individuals are honored for their contributions to Corvette, and the Skydome is a place of recognition for the prestigious Corvette Hall of Fame. Current inductees are spotlighted within the spire.
The Exhibit Hall is the final display area in the Museum. This area houses an ever-changing display of specially themed exhibits which rotate every few months. The space is home not only to Corvettes, but also other makes and models, and even exhibits geared towards families and children. Current and upcoming exhibits can be viewed here.
Lifelike figures from the Corvette’s past and present are located throughout the National Corvette Museum and animate the many exhibits. An internationally renowned sculptor created the figures using the actual people depicted who agreed to be “cast in life.” These cast-in-life figures introduce visitors to the famed people who designed, engineered or raced the car or otherwise helped make it famous.
Accessible through the Exhibit Hall and Corvette Boulevard is the Corvette Store, a 4,600-square-foot retail store offering a wide variety of Corvette, Chevrolet and other automotive items. Shoppers find unique apparel, collectibles and gift items in a friendly atmosphere. The Corvette Store is not your average museum gift shop!
The Corvette Store gives way to Corvette Boulevard and our “Nursery.” Watch new Corvette purchases come to life in our Delivery Area, while owners take delivery of their new Corvette at the Museum. When an order for a new Corvette is placed, customers can opt to choose the R8C Option that designates the Corvette purchase as a “Museum Delivery.” Trained staff takes the new Corvette buyer on a tour of the Museum and an on-hands introduction to their new Corvette. Several deliveries are done each day, departing down Corvette Boulevard and Victory Lane, and give visitors the opportunity to see first-hand what Corvette excitement is all about.
The Library and Archives provides a vast array of knowledge for inquisitive researchers. A staff of Corvette professionals is-on-hand to offer technical advice and answers to questions. The area houses the most comprehensive source of Corvette-related information for enthusiasts all over the world.
A visit to the museum would not be complete without a meal or snack in the Corvette Café. The Café is a 50’s-themed diner with modern menu favorites. Open for breakfast Monday through Saturday and lunch daily until 3:30pm, visitor can enjoy everything from a burger and hand-spun shake, to wraps, soup, salad, sandwiches and many other favorites hot off the grill.
Finally, guests have the opportunity to host their very own private event at the museum. A Conference Center provides banquet seating for over 500, while our Club Room offers an intimate space for over 35. Other spaces throughout the museum are available to fit the needs of almost any type of gathering.
This quick trip through the National Corvette Museum only begins to skim the highlights of this amazing tribute to America’s sports car. The excitement, color and adventure that are Corvette must be seen firsthand to be fully appreciated. A tour of the Museum, coupled with a visit to the one-and-only Corvette Assembly Plant, and you’ll know why Bowling Green, Kentucky is known to millions as Corvette City, USA.