Grand Sport Corvette
by Staff as originally published in Corvette Online. History by John Heinricy
We recently attended the C4 Gathering at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Aside from the opportunity to check out the Skydome progress and see the great new displays, we had the opportunity to sit in on a few presentations.
One such session was conducted by John Heinricy and Jim Minneker. He also happens to own C4 Grand Sport serial No. 1, but we will touch on that a bit later. Heinricy had some awesome first-hand information, and even told a few stories that few people have ever heard about his experiences working for GM. Continue reading
At the Simeone Automobile Museum in Philadelphia, you can actually see, hear,
and smell the Wintersteen 427 L88 Grand Sport Roadster.
Words and Art by Scott Teeters, written for Vette magazine and republished from SuperChevy.com
The Grand Sport is well storied, so here’s the short version. Zora Arkus-Duntov was a racer/engineer first and foremost. Racing and race cars was always first in his thinking, with production cars a distant second. He essentially used General Motors as his race car shop.
When Duntov learned that Carroll Shelby was building Cobras he tried outflanking Shelby with his own lightweight. Five prototype tube-framed coupes were based on the ’63 Sting Ray wearing Halibrand wheels and side-mounted exhausts. Though Duntov had the backing of Chevrolet general manager Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen and Ed Cole, on January 5, 1963, GM’s hammer came down and the Grand Sport was officially dead. Continue reading
A Most Excellent Addition To Your Corvette Library
I’ve been collecting car magazines and car books since the mid-’60s. My library has gotten larger than I ever imagined. There’s one book that I accidentally bought three times. I have four different versions of essentially the same book authored by Randy Leffingwell and published by Motorbooks. All four versions are very nice books, loaded with excellent images and well written prose by Leffingwell. But each time I bought the book online, I thought I was getting a different book because the covers and sizes are all different.
So, when I saw that Motorbooks was publishing “Corvette Sixty Years,” I was holding out in hopes of a totally new book and not a shuffled around version of the previous “Corvette Fifty Years” with some updated C5 and C6 material. I was NOT disappointed! Leffingwell and MBI have delivered the goods! The book is, for me, a visual delight. You see, when you have as many books and magazines as I have, you’ve probably seem nearly all of the old vintage photos showing the design and development work on the Corvette. At least, that’s what I thought!
A colorful new addition to Scott Teeters’ collection of Corvette art prints!
Work continues on our new prints enterprise. In April 2012 we partnered with Fine Art America so that our Corvette art print customers could enjoy the many options afforded by FAA. Our latest offering, “Corvette Box of Candies” came as a happy result of working on our horizontal and vertical layouts of the Corvette Special Editions and Corvette Indy 500 Pace Cars layouts.
After I completed the graphics for the Special Editions and Pace Cars, it occurred to me that if I put them all on one layout, they’d look like a box of brightly colored, pretty, hard candies. You know those bright-colored, sweet, hard candies you often see in the display cases at Hallmark Card shops. Corvettes in the layout include all of the Special Edition Corvettes from the 1978 25 Anniversary Corvette to the 2011 Carbon Edition Z06, and Corvette Indy 500 Pace Cars from 1978 to 2008. So I ran the idea by the boss and she said, “Make it so, Dude!” So, the Dude, got’r done! Continue reading
It’s time to do your patriotic Corvette duty and CAST YOUR VOTE!
Your local Corvette polling place is at the bottom of this post
The other day we were talking about the Ron Fellows Spring Mountain Special Edition 2012 Z06 Corvette. After posting the story I was doing some followup reading and found one post that called the car “boring.” Really? What part? Are we becoming a wee bit jaded with Special Edition Corvettes because they aren’t something other than a coordinated package of performance parts? Me thinks so.
This is an aside, but I’ve been reading similar blather on the net about Corvettes in general. I call it “goofy sniping crap.” You know what I’m talking about, the endless complaining that the Corvette isn’t a Nissan or a Porsche, or a world car, or whatever. The car is either too big (it’s about the same size as a 911 Porsche), it’s too heavy (the Nissan GTR is almost 600 pounds MORE than a Z06), it’s too expensive for younger buyers (and the Porsche and Nissan is cheaper?), materials are low grade (they want cheap, expensive materials?), and on and on.
But the fact remains that; 1. We’re in a deep economic recession, and 2. Even the base model (costing sometimes less than $50,000 if you shop around) delivers more performance per dollar than any other “sports car” you can buy. PERIOD! Is the base Corvette the baddest boy on the block? No. But if that’s what you need to feel good, be prepared to pony up three times as much as a Corvette for a top level Porsche. No, modern Vettes are tight, well-engineered performance cars that can give an owner years of dependable automotive performance pleasure for as little as $50K. Sorry for the digression.
So what’s up with all the special edition Corvettes? They’re just that, “special.” perhaps the disconnect for some is how one defines “special.” Former Corvette engineer and race car driver gave a little bit of insight into what it takes for a major manufacturer like Chevrolet to build special editions. John was largely credited with coming up with the concept for the ‘96 Grand Sport. “Monday morning quarterbacking” is for many, a sport un-to-itself. “Well, it’s just this and that, and why didn’t they do this and such, and wouldn’t you think that they could have…” Heinricy revealed that clearing out the assembly line time and pulling all the parts needed to build 1,000 Grand Sports was a major pain in the butt. For a tuner shop, 1,000 of anything would be a big deal. But for a big manufacturer, small numbers of specialty cars is a big headache. Continue reading
Corvette Odd-Ball: A Juicy Story, Indeed, But Some Documentation Would Sure Help!
The Corvette hobby has grown so wide and deep you could spend all day, day-after-day, and probably not be able to keep up with everything. So I didn’t beat myself up for not discovering this sooner. While poking about for some background on another project, I stumbled upon a post talking about a story from Autoweek writer, William Jeanes that addressed the notion that there was a SIXTH Grand Sport Corvette. If you’ve been into the Corvette hobby for a while, you’re familiar with the GS Corvette story: Five lightweight Grand Sport Corvette race cars were secretly built by Zora Arkus-Duntov as a counter punch against the Shelby Cobras. The cars showed potential, but GM’s president, Frederick Donner, order that Chevrolet MUST comply with the official GM policy that “we DO NOT race cars.”
Duntov and Chevrolet’s general manager, Simon “Bunkie” Knudsen, were ordered to stop what they were doing. The cars were not ordered to be destroyed, so Duntov loaned the cars out and eventually, they were sold. From there, the GS Corvettes were raced, hammered on, became outdated, sold, resold, and at one point in the early ‘70s were nearly lost. Eventually, all five cars were found and have been lovingly restored. Today, they are very valuable pieces of Corvette history.
While the prospect of a 6th GS is an intriguing story, it’s got “modern urban legend” smell all over it. Unfortunately, it’s all based on anecdotal stories. Here are the key points:
1. Texas oil man John Mecom claims that he bought 6 GS Corvettes.
2. Road & Track artist and Mecom pal, Bill Neale claims that his friend, John Mecom, had a photo in his trophy room showing 6 GS Corvettes in his shop.
3. Retired GM employee, Jim Champlin worked at the GM Milford proving Grounds claims that he was personally charged with destroying the 6th GS in late ‘64 or early ‘65. He says that after the car was returned from the Bahamas, he was told to “make it disappear.” So, he put two tires in the car, doused it with gasoline and BURNED IT. Champlin also says that his supervisor, Bob Cameron witnessed the destruction. Continue reading
This could have been the beginning of a grand adventure for Corvette racing!
This is how we tend to think of the ’63 Grand Sport Corvette, with its aggressive fender flares, scoops, vents, and fat racing wheels and tires. Initial production was supposed to be 100, but Duntov envisioned at least 1,000 Grand Sports!
For those of us who are fans of the early days of the Corvette, the name, “Zora Arkus-Duntov” casts a very long shadow. GM’s chief of styling, Bill Mitchell once referred to Zora as, “Just a lowly engineer on a low-volume production Chevy.” While that may well have been correct, thanks to friends in very high places inside Chevrolet, Duntov got away with some astonishing things. And the Grand Sport wasn’t the first or last bodacious stunt he pulled.
There wasn’t much under the thin fiberglass body. The car had magnesium Hallibrand knock-off wheels, an aluminum bell housing, transmission case, and rear differential, plus a 36-gallon fuel tank. Note how the side pipes came off the stock cast iron exhaust manifolds. FIA rules mandated that the cars carry a spare tire. (GM photo from the book “Corvette Grand Sport” by Lowell C. Paddock)
For this adventure, Duntov’s GM “angel” was Simon “Bunkie” Knudsen. While Bunkie personally never raced cars, he did work on the GM assembly line as a college student in the ‘40s and was passionate about race cars. While general manager at Pontiac from 1956 to 1961, Knudsen was responsible for Continue reading
“Vettes Made Famous On The Track And Screen” by Randy Leffingwell & Photography by Dave Wendt
Let me get this out of the way, up front. I love this book! For Corvette lovers, like us, this book is a visual delight. Veteran automotive writer, Randy Leffingwell and seasoned photographer, Dave Wendt have teamed up to present a visual and literary trip through 18 unique Corvettes.
As you page through the book, keep in mind that the images you see have not been PhotoShopped – they are “photographs.” Now “novel.” Wendt is a master at lighting. This is photographic “art.”
Keep in mind that our criteria for this book is, “Vettes Made Famous On Track And Screen.” After I had that settled in my head, everything was fine. Our visual trip begins at the beginning – the 1953 Corvette. The images draw out the inherent beauty of the car. It was just too good-looking to give up on, by a few very important people. That’s where Leffingwell’s prose lays out the stories. Continue reading