All Revved Up: Insider tips for visiting the National Corvette Museum

The woman at the helm of the National Corvette Museum gets us up to speed on the destination that celebrates America’s iconic sports car
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Sharon Brawner joined the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, as president and CEO in 2021. Now she’s gearing up for the car and the museum’s big anniversaries.

Photo courtesy of the National Corvette Museum

Sharon Brawner grew up understanding the allure of the Corvette—it was her father’s dream car (he owned three, including a 1969, a 1974, and a black 1982 T-top). Now she drives her own Corvette and leads the Kentucky museum that celebrates the sports car and takes visitors through its history. “This isn’t just a story about a car; it’s about American manufacturing and automotive history,” Brawner says. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the first Corvette rolling off the production line, and in 2024, the museum itself will celebrate 30 years. In addition to giving us the skinny on the museum, Brawner shares one of her favorite models (among the 170 on display), the thrill of touring the adjacent production plant, and her idea of the perfect spring road trip in a ’Vette.

Anatomy of an Icon
“We recently opened a gallery called Driven by Design. It’s a fascinating look at all the elements behind the design of the car, from renderings and prototypes that didn’t get built—but helped them learn what would work—to paint choices, wheel choices, and also the engineering that goes into its speed and gas efficiency. And this summer, we’ll debut a special chronological exhibit on June 30—which is National Corvette Day—looking at 70 years of Corvette.”

Inside the National Corvette Museum

Photo courtesy of the National Corvette Museum

Pump the Brakes
“I have several favorite cars in our collection, but I can’t not mention the 1983, because there’s only one 1983 Corvette in the world, and we have it. At the time, General Motors was looking to go from analog to digital, and with the ’83 model, they didn’t feel that it was where they wanted it to be. They had only made 47 of them when they made the decision to stop production. Only one was not crushed, and it was given to the museum.”

Get Your Motor Running
“The assembly plant tour takes you through almost the entire building process, and my favorite part is the engine build. Watching them put together the engine by hand is fascinating to me. It’s thrilling to watch the precision and timing involved.”

Head Out on the Highway
“With our Museum in Motion event, we take a caravan of Corvettes on a journey. If you have a Corvette, you can join in. We do all the planning and coordinate the hotels, restaurants, and attractions along the way. This spring, we’ll drive the Tail of the Dragon—a winding route through Tennessee and over to North Carolina—and go to the Biltmore Hotel. When you take 25 to 30 Corvettes on the Tail of the Dragon, that’s fun.”

Outside the National Corvette Museum

Photo courtesy of the National Corvette Museum

A Slower Pace
“Bowling Green is the quintessential quaint little Southern town. It has a beautiful, historical downtown, gorgeous buildings from the 1700s and 1800s, and lots of Civil War history. This spring, Bowling Green will have a new historic trolley tour from the Corvette Museum that goes downtown.”

As told to Jennifer Green

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This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Southbound.

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