Four years ago, on February 12th, 2014, the world was shocked to wake up to the news that eight prized Corvettes had fallen victim to a sinkhole that formed inside the National Corvette Museum. Thankfully, the sinkhole occurred in the early morning hours before the doors opened with employees and visitors occupying the space in what the NCM calls its “Skydome”.
Through the incident, several of the cars were damaged beyond repair, while three cars were deemed suitable for restoration, those being the 2009 Blue Devil ZR1, the 1992 One-Millionth Corvette and this Tuxedo Black ’62. Both the ZR1 and the One-Millionth Corvette were restored by General Motors, while the Black ’62 would be restored at the National Corvette Museum by NCM Curator Derek Moore, Maintenance and Preservation Coordinator Daniel Decker and NCM staffer Dan Garrett. Derek Moore explains that the process was a “minimal restoration” and describes the process, “The frame was straightened a little at the rear and the body pieces or fiberglass components that were damaged or cracked were simply repaired. Only one very small panel on the right side had to have a replacement panel. Everything that we could leave that Mr. Donoho had actually touched, had left on this car, we wanted to essentially leave his fingerprints on the car.”
Mr. Donoho was the original owner and caretaker of the car before he donated it to the NCM in 2011. The level of care and detail he festooned upon the car, one of three that he owned, earned him the nickname “the weatherman”, as he would scurry the car home at the earliest hint of rain. He cared for the car in this way from when he purchased the car while in high school, until at the age of 74, he donated it to the NCM.
His bond with the car was so tight, that he had considered destroying it or being buried in the car, since he felt that no one would care for the car like he did. Thankfully, he met Wendell Strode, Executive Director of the National Corvette Museum and after earning his trust, Mr. Donoho donated the car to the NCM. Ironically, a short two years later, Mr. Donoho’s prized Corvette was sitting at the bottom of a sinkhole, nearly destroyed and buried.
Everything that we could leave that Mr. Donoho had actually touched, had left on this car, we wanted to essentially leave his fingerprints on the car. – Derek Moore, NCM Curator
As a testament to the NCM’s desire to preserve this Corvette’s history, the decision was made to perform a minimal restoration that preserved much of the Corvette’s original materials and finish and only correct the damage done by the sinkhole. The video below shows the progression of work done during the restoration.
Moore explains the NCM’s commitment to keeping Mr. Donoho’s legacy by reciting the tale of a lone sugar packet, found inside the vehicle. “You open the hood and the engine is exactly how he left it. The interior is exactly the interior he had in it, the interior that he so lovingly cared for. We didn’t want to take any of that away,” said Derek. “In fact, a few weeks ago a very old empty sugar packet from Frisch’s Big Boy was found under the seat. We set it aside, finished up the car, and then slipped it right back under the seat where it was.”
The Corvette was displayed with the other Sinkhole Corvettes until last year, when it was moved to the Museum’s AutoZone Maintenance and Preservation area. There, the restoration could be viewed by attendees of the NCM.
On February 12,2018, four years after the event that rocked the Corvette world, the Tuxedo Black beauty has shed the clay and dust it received during the fall and was unveiled for the world to see. The event was held in the Skydome as the restoration team proudly pulled the cover back to reveal the ’62 Corvette in all its previous glory. It will now join the seven other cars to help tell the story of how Mother Nature once tried to claim a hand-full of Corvettes on one February morning.