HomeCar CultureLast -- and most badly damaged -- Corvette freed from sinkhole beneath...

Last — and most badly damaged — Corvette freed from sinkhole beneath museum’s Skydome


Mallett Hammer Z06 is loaded for transport to the exhibition hall |National Corvette Museum photos
Mallett Hammer Z06 is loaded for transport to the exhibition hall |National Corvette Museum photos

“It looks like the worst one… a lot of parts and pieces,” Mike Murphy, chief executive of Scott, Murphy and Daniel Construction, said as the last of the eight Corvettes swallowed by a sinkhole emerged from the abyss beneath the Skydome at the National Corvette Museum.

“It took a lot of punishment from a lot of big rocks,” Murphy said of the 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06, which his crew retrieved from the hole Wednesday, eight weeks after the ground collapsed beneath the section of the Skydome where the cars had been on display.

The Mallett Hammer Z06 is freed from the grasp of the sinkhole
The Mallett Hammer Z06 is freed from the grasp of the sinkhole

The sinkhole spanned 40 feet across the floor of the ‘dome and was 60 feet deep.

“We’re happy to have the completion of our major goal to recover all eight of the Corvettes,” said Wendell Strode, the museum’s executive director.

“Next week we have a meeting with all the major players, including the construction team, geo-technical firm, cave and karst (limestone-based under round structure) specialists, engineers, our insurance company and others to review all the findings and have discussions on the next steps and a mutual understanding about rebuilding.”

Tentative plans are to display the eight cars in the museum’s Exhibition Hall through August 3. Then they will be moved into a restored Skydome for the museum’s 20th anniversary, August 27-30. Afterward, they are scheduled to be transported to Michigan for restoration at General Motors facilities.

The Mallett Hammer Z06 was found deepest in the hole and was the most seriously damaged. The car wasn’t discovered until Monday and was upside down with its nose pointing toward the red spire in the center of the dome.


I expected bad, but it’s 100 times worse.”

— Kevin Helmintoller


[/pullquote]The car had been donated to the museum by Kevin and Linda Helmintoller of Land O’ Lakes, Fla. The couple has a lifetime membership to the museum and has participated in the museum’s delivery program for buyers of new Corvettes.

When informed that the car finally had been found, Kevin Helmintoller traveled to Bowling Green, Ky., to watch its recovery.

“I expected bad, but it’s 100 times worse,” he is quoted in the museum’s news release. “It looks like a piece of tin foil… and it had a roll cage in it! It makes all the other cars look like they’re brand new.”

Strode had warned Helmintoller that the car would be in bad shape and he might not want to watch the recovery process.

Workers prepare car for extraction from the hole
Workers prepare car for extraction from the hole

“Honestly though, I’m still glad I’m here because I would have never believed it was this bad,” Helmintoller said. “I’m not positive I would have recognized it — there are just a few little pieces that give it away.”

Helmintoller sent pictures of the damaged car to his engine builder, who was quick to point out  — in very good humor — that the powerplant was not covered under warranty.

The Helmintollers purchased the car in 2001 and finished the Mallett Hammer conversion in June 2002. Later they had several AntiVenom LSX Performance modifications which boosted the engine to 700 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque. The car was featured on the cover of GM High Tech Performance magazine.

“We donated this car to the museum to help with the continued growth, but also because it could be a good vehicle for training other drivers at the new NCM Motorsports Park,” Helmintoller said when he donated the car late last year.

What the museum is calling a “Great 8” display of the damaged cars officially opens next week in the Exhibit Hall.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Why bring up that last one and maybe another one or two? Why not leave them there, put a memorial on the floor above with pictures of what they once looked like?

    • These are cars, NOT PEOPLE. This is a wreck that needs to be displayed SOMEWHERE. along with pictures and notes regarding their significance in automotive and Corvette history.

  2. I think it was a huge loss. Not the monetary value but the 1 of 1 aspect. These were special cars . Built for , maintained , kept by true ” motorheads”Museum quality cars damaged beyond recognition. In a museum. I am not a huge Vette fan, but still feel the loss .

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