Attention, fans of America’s Sports Car: You now have two more reasons than a Corvette-swallowing sinkholeto make a pilgrimage to Bowling Green, Kentucky, the official home of seven generations of Americana.
For the first time, the ‘City that Corvette Made’ will allow customers of select General Motors vehicles to enter the factory and help assemble engines that go into some of the company’s most powerful cars. If that wasn’t enough, equally significant news is the recent opening of the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park.
The New York Daily News Autos recently had the chance to travel to Bowling Green to experience the latest innovations first-hand.
Build your own engine at the Performance Build Center
The Performance Build Center, in which customers can literally have a hand in the production of their cars’ respective engines, is a recent addition to Bowling Green, but hardly a new concept. The original location of the Performance Build Center was at a GM facility in Wixom, Michigan.
To coincide with the introduction of the seventh-generation Corvette, the facility moved to Bowling Green, where it was reassembled almost identically.
Compared to the mechanized lines that surround the glass-enclosed Performance Build Center on the factory floor, the engine build area more closely resembles a vintage coach-building facility. Laid out on three separate lines are neatly arranged stations with measured nuts, bolts, and equipment for engine hand-assembly. Builders on the line are capable of producing 28 engines per day, on an eight-hour shift, according to line managers.
Among the engines currently being produced at the Performance Build Center is the 650-horsepower supercharged LT4 V-8, which will make its debut in the forthcoming Corvette Z06. In the first weeks of production, floor managers estimated that the facility will produce as many engines as possible, or approximately per day. The 505-hp LS7 V-8 in the Camaro Z/28, formerly produced in Wixom, has also moved to Bowling Green.
As part of the experience, customers can help the professional builders with final engine assembly before their cars are finished. It’s an empowering experience for those without the technical talent – or room full of Corvette engine parts – needed to fully construct an engine. It’s equally a boon to tech geeks and Corvette buffs alike.
Time in the Performance Build Center is quite different from the factory delivery experience offered by some of the Corvette’s European competitors, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to oil and then twist the bolts into your car’s engine there.
Set the ‘Vette loose at National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park
Also new at the Corvette museum/factory complex is the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park: a winding, challenging, 3.1-mile racetrack set in an area known primarily for wide-banked ovals (aka NASCAR country). Separate from the experience of touring either the factory or museum, driving the track is a special treat for those who have reserved it.
The presence of the track’s (very!) tight corners and undulating curves, drops, and bends is testament to the C7 Corvette’s dynamic capabilities. One challenging corner – affectionately nicknamed the “Sinkhole” – dips sharply before requiring a change of direction into another fast corner. It’s an amazing and unique way to test the mettle of the seventh-generation Corvette.
From limited exposure on the track in coupes equipped with the 7-speed manual – the 8-speed automatics were not yet available – the 460-horsepower Corvette Stingray ran like a champion. No matter the coupe’s ample width, it slunk through the corners with ease.
For lifelong fans of the sports car that set an entire segment in motion, the introduction of a track experience is a fantastic wake-up call, and a reminder that this is a very different era for the Corvette Stingray.
Know before you go—National Corvette Museum
Fly, then drive: Bowling Green, Ky., is about 75 miles north of Nashville International Airport. The quick drive is made enjoyable by sweeping curves, roadside attractions, and the state’s famous bluegrass, of course.
Pick up and drive away: Delivery of customer ‘Vettes takes place in the Museum’s lobby, amid spectators and other purchased models. Just like in the dealership, a product specialist goes through the ins and outs of the new car amongst a crowd of envious onlookers.
No Corvette to pick up? No probelm: There’s plenty to do at the Museum, from interactive historical exhibits to the infamous rotunda sinkhole. Plan to spend at least several hours perusing period-correct displays, and save even more room for the factory tour.
Everybody wants to use the track: The National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park is reportedly booked for nearly half the year, so it’s best to check the track’s website to see when the track is open for public days.
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