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MotorHistory: Kentucky Becomes Sole Manufacturing Plant for Corvettes, 1981

The Chevrolet Corvette is an American muscle car — that's not really news to anyone. You probably don't think much about where it's made besides that, but every single Corvette since 1981 has been made at the same facility in Bowling Green, Kentucky since full production moved there decades ago today.

When it comes to manufacturing, we don’t often stop to think about where our cars actually come from. Sure, we know which cars are made in which countries, for the most part, but unless you live in an area that’s known for having a major vehicle production site, chances are you don’t give it much thought. We know that the Chevrolet Corvette is homegrown here in America, but you may not realize that it’s been in the same production facility since 1981.

A red Chevrolet Corvette
A Chevrolet Corvette | VCG, Getty Images

The Corvette manufacturing plant

40 years ago, Monday, June 1st, 1981, Chevrolet began production of the Corvette at its new production facility in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where production has remained ever since. According to 365 Days of Motoring, the Corvette is the longest-running production car to remain in continuous production, with the first generation starting off in 1953. In fact, the first 300 Corvettes ever built were built by hand in Flint, Michigan. It generated interest since its first car show debut at the 1953 General Motors Motorama, and it’s become a piece of the American car culture ever since.

A blue mid-engine c8 corvette
A Chevrolet Corvette | VCG, Getty Images

Eight generations of heritage

In all of the production years, there are eight generations that mark the major differences in era for the Chevrolet Corvette. With the fifth generation of Corvette, the entire facility, which was chosen because of its size and location, was completely renovated, making way for more efficient machinery that allowed for the car to remain low-cost to produce — a novelty which the manufacturer was happy to pass along to buyers. Because of this, the Corvette was oftentimes referred to as the ‘poor man’s supercar.’

But, being the poor man’s supercar has never been a bad thing for the Corvette. In fact, many owners and fans of the car boast more about the sports car being a ‘supercar killer’ because of its raw power, the stability of the LS motors used for generations which allow for heavy aftermarket boost from superchargers and turbochargers, and the handling — all at a fraction of a price that you would get a supercar with similar performance.

A new era for the American sports car

Among the decades, the Chevrolet Corvette has grown and changed significantly. While the manufacturer held on to the aspects that made the car great, they were able to change and adapt with the times, creating a generation of the Corvette for every generation of car enthusiasts. Whether you love modern muscle or classic cars, it’s easy to see why so many people love the Corvette.

With the production of the newest generation of Corvette, we see a major shift in the car that could make or break it altogether. The C8 Corvette is the first mid-engine version of the car, designed to have competitive performance and handling, and with the weight distribution evened out to what we expect from most supercars that have been mid-engine since the Lamborghini Miura.

Since its most to the Bowling Green facility, the Corvette has grown into its roots, remaining a true American icon among car enthusiasts and sports car fans.


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