BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – General Motors is putting more muscle into making Corvettes.

The automaker said Wednesday it will invest $131 million — and add about 250 jobs — at the south-central Kentucky assembly plant that produces the classic muscle car.

The investment allows GM to produce the next-generation Corvette at the Bowling Green plant. Work to retrofit the site will begin even as the plant continues to assemble the Corvette for the next two model years, including the 2012 version.

Nearly 400 production workers now assemble Corvettes at the factory, the only GM site that builds the car and home to its production since 1981. About 1,000 people were employed at the plant at its peak in the 1980s, said Chevrolet spokesman David Caldwell.

He said some of the 250 added jobs might be filled by a pool of laid-off workers.

Caldwell said the plant will not expand, but “what happens inside of its walls changes quite a bit.”

The state has already approved $7.5 million in tax incentives for the project.

Plant workers cheered and there was loud applause as the announcement was made at the plant, which has endured shutdowns, a slowdown in production and layoffs since 2008.

“Rumors of our car being moved to another plant, rumors of more layoffs, and … plant closures have shown us how vulnerable we are. … Today we lay those rumors to rest,” Shane Colvard, chairman of United Auto Workers Local 2164 told the crowd.

UAW vice president Joe Ashton praised the investment.

“We need to rebuild the great American middle class,” Ashton said in a statement.

“There is no better way to achieve this worthy goal than providing meaningful jobs like the ones being created in Bowling Green.”