As the Corvette evolves, so does its ancestral home in sunny Bowling Green, Kentucky, a bedrock of Corvette lore as equal to the province of Modena for Ferraris, or Bavaria for its BMW namesake. And as the C7 Corvette readies its debut, the Bowling Green plant must prepare in turn.
It’ll be scrapping its current tooling, tearing up chunks of the production line and installing new machinery. Very messy stuff, and not very conducive to a public audience without a hard hat and a stack of waivers. To get ready for the next Corvette, GM is investing $131 million as well as 250 new jobs on top of the 585 people already working there—of which about 100 have been filled.
The plant draws 40,000 to 50,000 people per year on plant tours. I was one of them, last summer, when I drove across the country. I’m glad I timed it right. I was not one of the lucky few on the buyer’s tour, which allows owners to watch their very Corvette being built, a $400 option. All such tours have been postponed as of July 30th. GM doesn’t know when plant tours will resume, but it will be well after production of the C7 begins and goes on sale sometime in 2014. Maybe they’ll make use of the empty space on the side of the facility, where the dearly-departed Cadillac XLR was built.
In the meanwhile, the National Corvette Museum will still be open, with plenty of exhibits around its grounds and central spire—including Zora Arkus-Duntov’s personal Corvette, the Callaway SledgeHammer, rare prototypes, race cars and concepts, as well as the all-important gift shop. When I was there, I parked my Mazda Miata in front of the main entrance. They were not amused.
Source: Detroit News