BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — As a teenager some 30 years ago, Daniel Decker started the journey that led to him playing the primary role in restoring a 1962 Corvette that soon will have a place of prominence at Bowling Green’s National Corvette Museum.
“I picked up a paint gun when I was 15 and painted my first car,” recalled Decker, now the vehicle maintenance and preservation coordinator at the museum’s AutoZone Maintenance and Preservation Area.
In that role, Decker has spent the past year doing body, mechanical and painting work on the 1962 Tuxedo Black Corvette that was one of eight Corvettes damaged in the 2014 sinkhole collapse that buried the sports cars in a 30-foot-deep hole.
The 1962 car will be unveiled Feb. 12 — the fourth anniversary of the sinkhole collapse — and placed back in its original display space in the museum’s Skydome. It’s the third of the damaged cars to be restored and the first to be done by museum staff. The other two — a 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil” prototype and the 1992 convertible that was the 1 millionth Corvette produced — were restored by General Motors.
Decker, with help from NCM Curator Derek Moore and museum team member Dan Garrett, meticulously pieced together the damaged Tuxedo Black Corvette.
“We tried to keep everything original,” Decker said. “We repaired as much as we could and tried to keep it as much original as we could.”
Even a broken fender was repaired, Decker said. The Corvette was stripped down to the bare fiberglass and then painted with the help of Davis & Sons Body Shop in Bowling Green.
“It has been a pretty amazing experience,” said Decker, who started the maintenance and preservation area at the museum three years ago after a career that included work at both Firestone Auto Care and Midas Muffler in Bowling Green. “It has been an honor to perform the restoration. This Corvette as well as the other seven (damaged in the sinkhole) made international headlines. Visitors travel from all over the world to visit our museum and see these cars. I can’t wait for them to see the transformation.”
Many museum visitors have already seen the work in progress on the 1962 Corvette through a window into the garage where the work was done.
“Many times, the viewing window was full of people,” Decker said.
His handiwork will be on display soon. Although the car will be on static display, Decker said it’s mechanically sound.
“We have driven it around the museum a little,” he said. “As far as running, it didn’t really harm the engine. The biggest issue was all the brake fluid bled out.”
The Tuxedo Black Corvette will take its place alongside the cars restored by GM and the five Corvettes that couldn’t be restored.
“Those other five were pretty well destroyed,” Decker said.
The five damaged cars displayed are 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.
Information from: Daily News, http://www.bgdailynews.com