Back in black indeed.
Looking more like it had rolled off an assembly line than been hauled out of a sinkhole, the restored 1962 Tuxedo Black Corvette is now back on display in the National Corvette Museum’s Skydome.
Unveiled four years to the day after it was swallowed by a 30-foot-deep sinkhole, the ’62 was greeted with fanfare and attracted interest from around the world as it took its place in the museum’s exhibit commemorating the cave-in that dropped eight Corvettes into a muddy grave.
“It turned out pretty sweet,” said Daniel Decker, the museum’s vehicle maintenance and preservation coordinator, as he admired the car that gleamed like the vintage ‘Vette that it is amid a display that still includes five damaged-beyond-repair vehicles.
Decker was admiring his own handiwork, a restoration project that he estimates involved more than 600 man-hours to bring one sports car back to life.
“It’s meticulous work to get everything back the way it’s supposed to be,” said Decker. “When you repair a car like this one, you don’t want it to look like it has been repaired. You want it to look like it did before.”
Visitors to Monday’s event, including a family that traveled from England, filled the skydome and tens of thousands more joined the museum’s live and archived video feed on Facebook to admire the like-new ’62.
When the silver covering was pulled off the car as AC/DC’s “Back in Black” echoed throughout the skydome, those visitors erupted in applause.
For the curator Derek Moore, the sound was almost as sweet as the car itself.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Moore. “Doing it on the fourth anniversary of the sinkhole is very important. This is the last car that can be restored, so it’s a great bookend to the saga that’s been going on for four years. It shows the rebirth that the museum has gone through since the sinkhole collapse.”
That rebirth has included the restoration by General Motors of a 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil” prototype and the 1992 convertible that was the 1 millionth Corvette produced. Restoration of the ’62, the oldest of the cars involved in the sinkhole collapse, was done at the museum’s AutoZone Maintenance and Preservation Area.
Moore, who observed the work done by Decker and his crew, said it was important to use original parts in the restoration.
“We tried to keep as much of the original parts as we could,” he said. “The frame was slightly bent, but we were able to straighten it.”
Moore said the response to the restoration, both within the skydome and via Facebook, illustrates how passionate Corvette enthusiasts are.
“It has been incredible,” he said. “It shows the passion that people have for the Corvette. It makes us feel like we’re doing a job that’s worthwhile.”
Decker said the unveiling of the ’62 “closes the door” on the sinkhole collapse and its aftermath. The three restored cars are on display in the skydome along with these five that were battered beyond recognition: a 1984 Pace Car, a 1993 ZR1 Spyder, a 1993 40th anniversary coupe, a 2001 Mallett Hammer and a 2009 convertible that was the 1.5 millionth Corvette.