Sinkhole-damaged Corvette to be restored at Kentucky museum

FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2014, file photo, cars lie in a sinkhole that opened up at the Skydome showroom in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. The museum said a prized Corvette still covered in dirt and debris from its 2014 fall into the sinkhole has been moved from display to undergo repairs. The museum said the restoration work on the 1962 Corvette will be done at the museum and visitors will be able to watch the progress in restoring the car. (AP Photo/Michael Noble Jr., File)

A Corvette still covered in dirt and debris from its 2014 fall into a sinkhole has been moved from display to undergo repairs, as the car-swallowing phenomenon still drives attendance at a Kentucky museum.

Restoration work on the black 1962 Corvette will be done at the car's home at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. Visitors will be able to watch the progress in restoring the prized car.

"It's almost like a time capsule from the last three years," museum spokeswoman Katie Frassinelli said Monday. "All the dirt and rocks. There are still rocks up in the grill ... from the sinkhole."

Eight Corvettes toppled like toys into the gaping pit on Feb. 12, 2014. The sinkhole turned into an internet sensation and became a popular attraction at the museum devoted to the classic American sports car.

The '62 Corvette, valued at about $60,000, will be the last of three sinkhole-damaged cars to be restored, Frassinelli said. Five cars were damaged beyond repair and two others already have been restored.

The museum still reaps dividends from the sinkhole despite plugging the hole. It had its second-highest attendance in 2016 at 228,363, up 3.5 percent from 2015. The only year it drew more people was in 2014.

Last year, the museum opened an exhibit devoted to the sinkhole. And it sells sinkhole-related items, including jars of sinkhole dirt for $10 apiece.

"We're seeing a trickle-down effect, people still coming who heard about it three years ago," Frassinelli said.

The sinkhole cars are the exhibit's star attractions, placed in almost the same spots they were when the earth opened up and swallowed them. The 1962 Corvette was one of the last cars to fall in the hole.

The exhibit features an outline showing the magnitude of the sinkhole, and visitors can peer down a more than 30-foot-deep chasm into the remaining portion of the cave.

Seeing the 1962 Corvette brought back memories for Ernie Wright of Danville, Pennsylvania. He bought a used '62 'Vette in 1971 for $2,500 — the first of three Corvettes he owned in the past.

"It was a good car and I had a lot of good fun with it," he said.

Wright, 65, was making his first visit to the Corvette Museum, calling it a "bucket list" stop. Looking at the damaged car Monday, he said: "It's a shame things happen, but I'm sure that they'll bring it back to life."

The car needs about $15,000 worth of new parts, including a complete front end assembly, hood panel and windshield, the museum said. The work could take up to a year. A donation from General Motors Co. will pay for the restoration, Frassinelli said.

The museum is near the GM factory in Bowling Green that builds Corvettes.

The damaged 1962 Corvette was donated to the museum in 2011 by David Donoho, who saved up enough money to buy the car in high school and owned it more than 50 years, the museum said.

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