Gordon Killebrew (left) accepts...
Gordon Killebrew (left) accepts his HOF Award from former Corvette Chief Engineer Dave McLellan at the National Corvette Museum Banquet.
When the C4 Corvette was introduced to the public in 1983 as an '84 model, it ushered in a new technological era for the marque. The car relied heavily on electronic controls for everything from fuel and spark management to comfort-and-convenience items such as the air-conditioning and sound systems. Unfortunately, like any new computer-driven device, the C4 soon began bedeviling technicians with an onslaught of baffling problems. Unable to solve these glitches on their own, the techs called the Bowling Green assembly facility for answers. The volume of calls got so large, it forced plant management to create the Corvette Action Center.
Longtime plant employee and electrical wizard Gordon Killebrew was selected to become a member of the Center. Killebrew quickly became a legend among Chevrolet dealers. He was able to solve problems in an hour-long phone conversation that technicians had been unable to conquer in a week. It wasn't long before customers discovered the Action Center's 800 number and began calling him directly.
So, what is it that makes Killebrew so special? We decided to find out more about this '07 National Corvette Museum Hall of Fame inductee.
Killebrew, GM Engineer Gib...
Killebrew, GM Engineer Gib Hufstader, and McLellan were all responsible for developing the ZR-1. Here, they stand in front of Mike Yager's '89 preproduction ZR-1 display at the '07 Funfest.
Gordon Killebrew was born on a farm in Hillview, Illinois, where he learned how to fix all manner of mechanical equipment. After a stint in the Army, he went to work in Chevrolet's St. Louis assembly plant in September 1963. He was soon transferred onto the Corvette team, where he would remain for the rest of his career.
Years later, Killebrew traveled to Bowling Green to serve on the transition team overseeing the relocation of the Corvette factory. The new plant started producing Vettes in the middle of the 1981 production run, and Killebrew helped build the first car. With his uncanny knack for troubleshooting electrical gremlins, he soon developed a reputation as the plant's resident electrical expert.
When the C4 was undergoing development, Killebrew helped write the car's service manual. He went on to pen almost 80 percent of the technical service bulletins issued for the Fourth-gen model. Killebrew's other notable C4 accomplishments include helping develop the ZR-1's electrical system and contributing to the creation of that car's service manual. He became so popular with marque enthusiasts that plant management gave him new Corvettes to take to various car shows. Once there, he fielded technical questions and even fixed attendees' vehicles at no charge.
Go to any major Corvette show,...
Go to any major Corvette show, and you will probably spot Killebrew helping someone fix their C4 Corvette. Here, he repairs a vacuum leak on a ZR-1 at Carlisle-for free!
When Killebrew retired in September 1993, he and his wife, Chris, started For Your Car Inc., a phone-in consulting service providing repair advice (for a fee) to Corvette owners and technicians. In 1995, he began construction of "Gordon's School," an instructional facility that provides "classroom and hands-on troubleshooting instruction for '84-'96 C4 Corvettes." Classes began in 1997, and former Corvette Chief Engineer Dave McLellan was one of the first students. The school is equipped with every electrical connector ever used in a C4, along with two fully operating instrument panels used to help students develop their troubleshooting skills.
Today, Killebrew continues to answer phone calls, hold his C4 schools, and puts on Fourth-gen seminars at Corvette shows all over America, Canada, and Europe. When McLellan presented Killebrew with his HOF award, he told the audience, "I have never met anyone with a memory like Gordon Killebrew. He was like our high-powered computer before we had computers. He is the finest Corvette ambassador I have had the privilege of knowing."