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Corvette rolls off the line

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- The Corvette driven off the assembly line Thursday to the strains of 'God Bless America' was not your usual version of the sports car.

Stitched into the white convertible's red leather headrests was '1, 00,0000th Corvette.'

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The car -- duplicating the colors of the first Corvette hand-built 39 years ago in Flint, Mich. -- was driven off the line by Paul J. Schnoes, Bowling Green plant manager, and Billy Jackson, president of United Auto Workers Local 2164 at the plant.

Kentucky Gov. Brereton C. Jones, Lt. Gov. Paul E. Patton, Bowling Green Mayor Johnny Webb and other civic officials joined Perkins and other Chevrolet and UAW officials to welcome the milestone Corvette.

Representing General Motors were E. Michael Mutchler, vice president and group executive of North American Passenger Car Platforms, and Joseph D. Spielman, vice president and general manager of the Rear Drive Automotive Division.

The ceremony ended with the plant's 1,100 employees and visitors singing 'God Bless America.'

'Corvette has been called the American dream machine, but its appeal is international,' said Chevrolet General Manager Jim C. Perkins said. 'For every American kid who grew up aspiring to own and drive a Corvette, there's another with the same aspirations in Zurich or Frankfurt or Osaka.'

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Perkins said more Corvettes have been built than any other single sports car in automotive history and more than half are estimated to be still on the road.

He said innovation has been a Corvette tradition since its introduction in 1953 as the world's first production car to feature rustproof fiberglass body panels. The 1-millionth continues this body construction.

The Corvette was a 'dream car' that became a reality after it was unveiled to millions of visitors in the GM Motorama of 1953 in New York. Its name came from the submarine chaser and convoy escort vehicle of World War II.

On June 30, 1953, the production of 300 hand-assembled white convertibles with red interiors began in Flint. Production was moved in December 1953 to the Chevrolet assembly plant in St. Louis, where the bulk of Corvettes were built.

The 250,000th Corvette -- a gold convertible -- was built in St. Louis on Nov. 19, 1969, and the 500,000th -- a white coupe -- rolled into history on March 15, 1977.

Corvette moved to its third home and first exclusive assembly plant in 1981 when on June 1 of that year production began at Bowling Green. The 750,000th -- a white coupe -- was built there on Oct. 26, 1983.

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