The Chevrolet C4 Corvette was poised to be a major milestone in Corvette history. It was to be all new from the ground up and encompass the latest cutting edge technologies to make the car a world beater in a changing globe.
But, like all automotive manufacturers, safety and fuel economy regulations took hold of development procedures. Designers and engineers were challenged equally to create appealing products while satisfying newfound regulations. And through development of the C4 Corvette, it became apparent the vehicle would not be ready for its launch in late 1982.
So, the Corvette development team made the hard decision to forfeit the entire 1983 model year to focus on fixing problems and shortcomings found in initial test cars. This also meant the Corvette would not celebrate its 30th anniversary.
Each 1983 C4 Corvette assembled at the Bowling Green factory would be crushed and disposed of locally, with upper management bringing in a crusher on site. However, when the time came to crush each 1983 Corvette, a pair of cowboy boots saved one car’s life.
Ralph Montileone, Quality manager at the Bowling Green plant in 1983, was responsible for ensuring each car was destroyed and disposed of. However, the day the crusher arrived, it began to storm. Montileone recalls looking down at his feet to see his brand new cowboy boots. With mud and puddles awash outside, he decided dirtying his new kicks was not an option; he would move the final 1983 Corvette to the crusher the next day.
But, the crusher departed without Montileone’s knowledge. When he returned the next day, the only 1983 Corvette sat there with no way to dispose of it. So, he pulled it around to the back of the assembly plant and it sat. And it would continue to sit for years.
It wasn’t until Paul Schnoes, who was transferred to the Bowling Green assembly as manager in 1984, inquired about the peculiar Corvette. He simply asked what a Corvette was doing covered in the back of the factory, and when he received the answer, he realized it was truly something special.
The 1983 C4 Corvette would finally go on display for visitors of the plant after the Bowling Green assembly requested official ownership of it from General Motors. Now, it resides at its permanent home at the National Corvette Museum all thanks to a spiffy new pair of boots.