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“Start Her Up!”


Site Administrator
Staff member
Sep 16, 2000
New Hampshire
1990 Corvette ZR-1
<img src="/images/design/front/08252006.jpg" width="175" height="154" border="1" hspace="5" vspace="5" alt="From left to right: Roger Hagan, Fran Wolfrey, and Ernest Foote." align="left" />From the Bowling Green Performance Press - August 25, 2006:

“Start Her Up!”

After a quarter century hosting over a million visitors, Bowling Green Assembly’s reputation for being unique is well established. Nothing has contributed more to that uniqueness than “First Start.” Here’s its story:

“His name is Ernest Foote, Bowling Green’s First Start operator. Throughout each day, tourists stop at his work station
to watch new Corvettes being started for the first time. Suddenly, to their surprise,
Ernest hands the car keys to someone in the group and invites that lucky person to ‘Start her up!’ Ernest concludes the happy occasion by presenting the lucky starter with a certificate, attesting to the fact that he or she helped at the ‘birth’ of a new Corvette.” (from President’s Council Honors, 1995, pg 165)

In 1987, Ernest, who now works 3rd shift in Sanitation, began offering visitors the chance to start a Corvette. “I really started doing it for all of us, because I thought it’d help sell cars,” Ernest said. Well, it didn’t take long for word to spread in the close knit Corvette community about First Start and for Ernest’s fame to grow as well. In 1997, former Corvette Chief Engineer Dave Hill, upon seeing Ernest at the museum, called First Start’s operator “The guy who is more famous than me, and almost has a better job than I have.”

In 1996, the man we know as “Friendly Foote” was a recipient of GM’s President’s Council Honors, which acknowledged Ernest’s “superior originality and creativity in making significant and exemplary contributions” to the company. For Ernest, the highlight of his visit to GM’s Detroit headquarters on Grand Avenue was a tour of the fabled 13th Floor, where GM’s top executives were housed.

Over a decade ago, one plant visitor wrote, “At the end of the tour, when the car is started for the first time and someone is picked to start the car, Mr. Ernest Foote chose my wife. I cannot tell you what a thrill that was for her to get into a car that was just built, put the key into the ignition and have it come to life for the first time. We always thought the Corvette was a neat car, but now we see how well-built they are and how much pride goes into every Corvette. It’s good to see that the American worker can still build the best car in the world!”

Wednesday, current First Start operator Roger Hagan let Fran Wolfrey of Punta Gorda, Florida “start her up!” What’s changed about the experience is that there are no longer car keys. What’s not changed is visitor’s reaction. “I loved it!” exclaimed Fran with enough enthusiasm that husband Larry instinctively reached for his wallet. Does First Start help sell cars? Just ask Roger Hagan...and Ernest Foote.


Aug 26, 2004
Tobacco Road, NC
On my way back home from North Carolina, where I bought my C6, I stopped at the plant for the first of many trips since then. At the end of the tour Ernest pulled me aside for a first start, and gave me a birth cetificate. It's on my wall. What's he doing on the third shift? He is a legend.

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