E. Pierce Marshall Memorial Performance Gallery, ‘Vision Realized’ Mid-Engine Corvette Gallery and Entombed Corvette Exhibit Officially Open
While the Michelin NCM Bash may not have had the same in-person connection opportunities as Corvette fans have come to expect, the camaraderie, enthusiasm and excitement could not be stifled. This year’s event took place online in a ‘virtual’ environment, offering a number of seminars and activities much like those offered in year’s past. Thursday, May 28 and Friday, May 29 welcomed nearly 700 registrants to a Zoom webinar platform where they were treated to live interactions with Corvette V.I.P.s including Corvette Mechanic Paul Koerner, Corvette Racing’s Program Manager Doug Fehan, GM Bowling Green Assembly Plant Manager Kai Spande, Michelin’s team including Lee Willard, Eric Schmedding, Dominique Josson and Jeff Anderson; Mobil 1’s team including Doug Hakala, Jeff Valentage and Cam Bower, Tadge Juechter and Harlan Charles with the Corvette team and more.
As part of the event, two ribbon cutting ceremonies were held, including walk thrus of two galleries and one new exhibit.
Friday’s event agenda included the E. Pierce Marshall Memorial Performance Gallery ribbon cutting and walk-thru. In December, the Museum announced that thanks to the generosity of E. Pierce Marshall, Jr. the former Racing and Performance Gallery would be receiving a major face lift.
“The Performance Gallery is one space in the Museum that has been around since the building’s grand opening over 25 years ago,” said Derek E. Moore, Director of Collections / Curator for the Museum. “In the early days an elevated ‘racetrack’ was in place to give display cars a feeling of motion and being on the grid, but due to difficulties changing out the vehicles, was later removed. The space has housed an interactive pit crew challenge, educational driving simulator and various artifacts through the years. We were thrilled that Pierce came on board to make the long over-due renovations a reality.”
The Gallery now features digital projection, interactive touch screens paired with artifact display cases, 180-degree video footage, and an impressive line up of cars. Highlighted front and center in the exhibit is Pierce’s C7.R.
“I think the renovation to the Museum is extremely timely,” shared Pierce. “To have something more interactive that will engage younger people will ensure future generations will be able to learn how unique Corvette is in America’s car culture and its racing history.”
“While we were not able to celebrate this incredible new gallery with the Corvette community in person, we’re glad so many friends participated virtually and were able to explore it with us from afar,” shared Museum President and CEO Dr. Sean Preston. “We are so fortunate to have the support and enthusiasm of E. Pierce Marshall, Jr. to make this dream exhibit a reality and can’t wait until our reopening date of June 8 to share it with the world in person.”
The E. Pierce Marshall Memorial Performance Gallery wasn’t the only exhibit debut for the Museum on Friday. Around the corner, a new exhibit is waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by visitors. Many Corvette aficionados may remember hearing of a 1954 Corvette that was ‘entombed’ in a brick room in the basement of a grocery store for nearly 30 years. In 1986, the room was dismantled brick-by-brick, and the Corvette revealed. After changing hands a few times, the Corvette was donated to the Museum in 2019.
“The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, donated the car so that we could continue in the preservation of both the car and its amazing story,” said Derek. “We knew we wanted to re-create the ‘tomb’ to tell that story, and thanks to the generosity of Robin and Mary Vann of the East Tennessee Corvette Club, we were able to make that exhibit a reality.”
The new exhibit is designed to replicate in as much detail as possible the actual tomb that the Corvette was once housed in, including the two light bulbs in the ceiling, small hatch in the top, and tiny window on the side where the car was viewable. Of course, for Museum display purposes one side of the tomb is open so that visitors can get a really good view of the car, which remains unchanged from its storied history.
Finally, as a bookend to the new exhibits to debut, those tuning in live to the Michelin NCM Bash stream were able to see the progress that has been made to date on ‘The Vision Realized’ – an exhibit highlighting the many prototypes which lead to the creation of the next generation mid-engine Corvette. The new exhibit is located in the Design and Engineering Gallery of the Museum and is planned to be displayed at least through April of 2021.
“We are excited to be the first Museum to house this special exhibit, and are anxious to complete the new look with the arrival of Cerv I, Cerv II and a few other cars and artifacts on loan from the GM Heritage Center,” shared Derek. “The exhibit tells the story of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s dream of one day having a production mid-engine. We only wish he could be here to see it for himself.”
Among the cars on display include the experimental two-rotor Corvette, XP-987 GT, which was recently acquired by the Museum thanks to the fundraising efforts of Lone Star Corvette Club and Texas Corvette Association.
“Our Texas friends in these clubs have stepped forward to help us fund raise and acquire this car and we’re so excited to have such a fitting exhibit to show it off,” shared Amy Hardin, Director of Development and Sponsorships. “Their generosity has helped the National Corvette Museum acquire a car that had actually left the U.S. and we’re thrilled that it can now call the home of Corvette it’s home.”
The Museum reopens to the public on June 8, complying with all health and safety precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be open daily, 8am-5pm CT. “We have spent the last several months not only getting these amazing exhibits ready for the public, but also implementing protocol to ensure our staff and guests are safe during their visit,” added Sean. “We are excited to welcome people back, and feel they’ll be wowed by the many improvements our team has made.”