Engineered for Speed

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 Road Junkies 2 Comments

Travelin' with Steven, Day 1:  Franklin, KY to Bowling Green, KY

Yesterday we made the first stop on our latest road trip in Franklin, TN, to visit my brother and his family.  When we left, our favorite road buddy Steven was in the back seat.  We headed north an hour to Franklin, KY, where we rested up for our visit to Corvette country in Bowling Green today.

Steven was the only one who was confident we'd get into the 8:30 tour at the Bowling Green's Corvette factory this morning, even though we didn't have reservations and we arrived at 8:28.  Fortunately, his confidence was well-founded, and we were soon following tour guide Brennan, a local college student turned intern, through the massive 1,000,000 square foot factory.

Corvette Assembly Plant (photo from corvetteblog.com)
Since 1981, every copy of the vehicle often called America's favorite sports car, has been manufactured at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant.  Today, workers were busy assembling 2013 Corvettes, including special 60th anniversary models.  The 2013s will be the last of Corvette's sixth generation, which has been in production since 2005.  In September, the plant will close for retooling in preparation for the seventh generation cars.

We were a little surprised when Brennan told us that every vehicle under construction at the plant has already been purchased, either by an individual or a dealer.  In fact, individuals can even come to Bowling Green for delivery of their car.  The National Corvette Museum across the street holds special delivery ceremonies.

Construction of the chassis, including engine and drivetrain (photo from http://www.bowlinggreenassemblyplant.com/)
Each day, some 80 Corvettes are produced by the plant's 500 workers, laboring in ten-hour shifts from Monday through Thursday.  Only a single shift is operated here each day.  Including painting, the entire construction process takes about three days for each car.  The body and the chassis are each built independently on separate assembly lines.  To complete the process, these two main parts are merged together.

Our tour included the final inspection processes and testing of completed vehicles.  We watched as a new Corvette entered the dynamic vehicle test area, where automated systems ran it through about 800 different diagnostics to make sure the car is perfectly engineered for its owner.  The car we watched in testing passed, but if any problems had been detected, it would have been sent back for repairs.  After this round of assessments, the car went into a stall for water testing to ensure that the new owner won't be the victim of an unpleasant surprise during a thunderstorm.  This was where our tour ended.

Even though none of us were particular Corvette fans when we entered the factory, after watching these iconic cars being born and brought to life, we were all eager to get into one of the cars and drive off through the Kentucky bluegrass.  Fortunately, the National Corvette Museum across the street was able to satisfy our yen to check our fit in the seat of one of these fine sports cars.


Since this was Steven's first time at the museum, we took the time to let the Corvette bug take a good hold on him.  He began calculating how long it would take him to save up enough for a base model, figuring if he started now and got a good paying job after college.  It's definitely within his reach, he determined.  Now to make that difficult choice on color.  Torch red, black and velocity yellow are the current top contenders.  Fortunately, the museum offered a green-screen photo op to put him in the driver's seat of various models as a little preview of his dream.


All that dream building left us pretty tired, so our afternoon was devoted to swimming at the hotel pool and getting a little rest before enjoying a good meal at the Brickyard Cafe, a local Mediterranean eatery owned by a restaurateur from Bosnia and a baker from Croatia.  Both natives of the former Yugoslavia, the owners met in Bowling Green and combined their talents with an 1857 era house in the heart of historic downtown Franklin to create one of the area's favorite eateries. 

Tomorrow we'll continue our way north on I-65, heading up to Louisville to check out how those famous baseball bats are made.

DAILY STATS:

Miles driven:  75
Weather:  76° to 93°, hazy to clear
States today:  1 (KY)
States this year:  25 (only 25 to go!)
Letterboxes found:  4
Corvettes:  562
Corvettes purchased:  3 in our dreams, 1 small scale model in reality

More Photos from Today & Yesterday

Nanamama, Jeanne, Woodie & Steven
At the Bowling Green CVB (warning:  letterbox nearby)
Stamping in at one of the museum's letterboxes
At the National Corvette Museum
With the 1978 Indy Pace Car (at the NCM)
A supercalifragilistic... game of Bananagrams