The Tale of Two C4 Grand Sport Corvettes in a Tiny Florida Town

Against all odds, a 1996 Grand Sport Coupe and Convertible live two blocks from one another in rural Florida!

Dateline: 1-23-22, this story was originally published in Vette Vues Magazine – When we moved to the tiny town of Lake Placid, Florida in 2014, I wasn’t expecting such a robust car culture. It’s not huge, but it is considerable. Once a year in July, Lake Placid hosts their annual Caladium Festival, with a Car & Bike Show at the DeVane Park that is well attended.

Lake Placid is located 15 miles south of Sebring in Highlands County, in south-central Florida. The town was chartered by Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, and is the sister city of Lake Placid, New York. The town is best known for several things: it is the “Town of Murals” (there are 46 murals painted on downtown businesses), the “Toby The Clown Foundation” Clown College, the “Caladium Capital of the World,” 27 freshwater lakes, and in 2012 Reader’s Digest Magazine voted Lake Placid as “The Most Interesting Town in America.”

With only 2.84 square miles and a population of around 2,000, the best way to describe the town is; think “Mayberry” as in “The Andy Griffith Show.” Between Sebring and Lake Placid there are orange groves, farms, and cow pastures. To the south, east, and west of the town, there are more farms, pine trees, cows, and let’s not forget the gators and bears!

Lake Placid is also home to two of the rarest special edition Corvettes, a 1996 Grand Sport Coupe and Convertible. And here’s the kicker – they both reside within two blocks of one another! Ron Ellerman is the original owner of the 1996 Grand Sport Corvette Coupe and John Meyerhoff is the owner of the 1996 Grand Sport Convertible.

I met John Meyerhoff in 2015 after a man tipped me off about “… a guy in Lake Placid that has one of EVERY generation Corvette!” Before the C7 came out, Meyerhoff had one of each generation. John sold his C1 to make room for his future C7, but it gets even better. John’s lady, Mary Carol Plott also has four Corvettes! Now THAT’S a “Corvette Power Couple”! John and Mary Carol appropriately met at a car show in Lake Placid. How’s that for Fate?

John got the Corvette bug back in the mid-1960s thanks to a fellow Navy officer and bought his first Vette, a 1966 427/425, 4-speed Mosport Green Roadster, around Christmas 1965. After John settled down and started a family, the Corvette was exchanged for a down payment on a house.

By the late 1970s, John got into a 1973 350/250 L82 roadster that fell casualty to a divorce and there were no Corvettes in John’s life for 15 years. John eventually remarried and by 2001, bought a new Magnetic Red convertible. John found the 2001 convertible to be a very comfortable road car and started racking up lots of miles. He was also getting close to retirement time.  

Most of us have a soft spot for our “first Vette,” so John began searching for another 1966 427/425 roadster. Finding another Mosport Green 1966 big-block roadster, but he finally found one that was close enough, a super sano Sunfire yellow 427/425 Roadster. With no power steering or brakes and a very heavy clutch, this is NOT a daily driver, but it makes for a great show car.

After full retirement, John’s wife passed and he decided that “Corvettes” would be his retirement.

“I came up with a new goal. I wanted one Corvette of each generation and I happened to find the 1996 Grand Sport Convertible. It was really dumb luck because although I had owned many Corvettes, I didn’t follow the special editions, so I really didn’t know what I had, I just liked the color scheme and the fact that it’s a convertible. It turns out that it’s one of four other Grand Sports with the exact same combo of options. Then to fill up the collection, I got the 1969 427 Convertible, then got a red-on-red 1960 Corvette. Before the C7 came out, I had one of every generation!”

Except for the Grand Sport Convertible, John’s five Corvettes are mildly modified. He doesn’t race them, but he does enjoy them with an occasional blast. John’s attitude when it comes to his Corvettes is that if a modification will improve the car’s performance or durability and drivability, he doesn’t mind making changes.


Ron Ellerman’s story is quite different. Ron was a boilermaker by trade and eventually owned a very successful, full-service car wash in Ohio. Over the years Ron had numerous interesting cars and motorcycles, but in his heart, he always wanted a Vette. He got his first Corvette bite when his older brother let him borrow his 1966 427 Roadster while Ron was in high school.

“I was always good at working on cars. As long as I could get something apart, I could reassemble it. In 1996 my local Chevrolet dealer had one Grand Sport Coupe on the showroom floor that he was using as an attraction. I kept looking at the car and thinking how much I wanted it, but the dealer wouldn’t sell! He was hoping to be able to keep it for himself, but I kept working on him. Eventually, he called me and we made the deal.”

Ron was having some health issues and recounts;

“I decided that I couldn’t put it off any longer. I let my business buy the car as a “company car,” paid it off, took the depreciation, and eventually sold the car to myself. The car is totally-stock and has run perfectly for the most part for 20 years. I took the car to a Mecum auction to sell, but couldn’t get what I know the car is worth (1996 Grand Sports are currently very undervalued), so I decided to keep it, probably for good. The car now has just over 10,000 miles on it. I recently noticed a small oil leak at the rear main seal – not bad for a 20-year-old car, I suppose. Since getting the Grand Sport I’ve had lots of “fix-up” cars that I worked on and sold. I had VW Bugs, old Cadillacs, a hot rod Nova, street rods, a few boats, and three Harleys. I like working on and fixing cars, and I love driving my Grand Sport Corvette.”

Let’s talk a little about what makes the 1996 Grand Sport Corvettes so unique. The 1996 Grand Sport option listed for $3,250 for the coupe and $2,880 for the convertible. Here’s what was included: dedicated Admiral Blue paint with white center stripes, special details, 17-inch ZR-1-style 5-spoke wheels with painted black spokes shod with P275/40ZR17 tires on the front and P315/35ZR17 rear tires, rear-wheel flares, all-black interior or black/red interior, iconic red fender hash marks, and sequential serial numbers.

The convertible Grand Sports had slightly smaller tires – P255/45ZR17 on the front and P285/40ZR17 on the rear and no rear fender flares. The reason the convertible had slightly less wide tires was that engineering felt that the convertible owners would not be happy with a more grip with a less rigid chassis structure.  

Except for the red accents on the throttle body and the “Grand Sport” lettering, the LT4 looked identical to the LT1. Inside the LT4 it was hot rod heaven and included increased compression (10.8:1 vs 10.4:1) improved aluminum heads, Crane roller rocker arms, a revised camshaft, stronger crank, and revised pistons. All LT4-equipped 1996 Corvettes had 8,000-rpm tachometers. The Grand Sport option was a beautiful way to celebrate the end of the C4 Corvette line.

When it comes to collectability and desirability, low production numbers are key. Chevrolet offered six special edition C4 Corvettes:

1986 Pace Car Replica (all 1986 Convertibles): 7,315 units

1988 35th Special Edition Package: 2,050 units

1993 40th Anniversary: 6,749 units

1995 Pace Car Replica: 527 units

1996 Collector Edition: 5,412 units

1996 Grand Sport: 1,000 units – 810 Coupes, and 190 Convertibles

No one pays ANY attention to the 1986 Pace Car Replicas; the production numbers were too high and it was just a Corvette convertible with stickers. And while the 1995 Pace Car Replica has the lowest production numbers of all of the C4 special editions, the Grand Sports have the patina of one of the coolest Corvette monikers ever, as an honor to the original five 1963 Grand Sport Corvette racers.

Also, while the 1995 Pace Car Replica has just over half the production numbers than that of the Grand Sport, the Grand Sport has the better LT4 engine, performance suspension, fender flares for the coupe version, and ZR1 wheels and tires. Where the 1995 Pace Car replica is a pretty car, the Grand Sport is a tough guy!

John Meyerhoff and Ron Ellerman are perfect examples of people that got the “Corvette Fever” that’s permanent. Duntov always wanted his customer to “enjoy their Corvette.” So with only 1,000, Grand Sports built, what are the odds of these two unique Corvettes residing in the tiny town of Lake Placid, Florida just two blocks from one another? Pretty amazing! Scott

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John & Patti Hutchinson’s 1996 & 2017 Grand Sport Twins

Question: What’s better than a Grand Sport? Answer: TWO Grand Sports

Special Edition Corvettes are a fun part of the Corvette hobby. Production numbers for this group vary widely from as low as 20, 2009 Competition Edition Z06 cars to a staggering 11,632, 2004 Commemorative Edition coupes, convertibles, and Z06 cars. Chevrolet only made 1,000 1996 Grand Sports – 820 coupes and 180 convertibles, which puts the C4 Grand Sport in the rare zone of special edition Vettes. The Grand Sport convertible (only 180 units) is in the VERY rare category.

John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, owner of the Grand Sport Registry, says their current membership consists of 261 C4 (1996) Grand Sports. But he emphasizes that the GSR caters to all GS generations, be it C2, C4, C6, or C7, and that total membership is close to 800 Grand Sport enthusiasts from across the USA and 12 other countries. So, yes, all Grand Sport Corvettes are indeed special. Corvette product planners have a unique way of surprising the Corvette faithful with special editions. But in 1996, no one dreamed that the Grand Sport would become what it is today.

Hutch and Patti Hutchinson are the proud owners of TWO Grand Sport Corvette convertibles, both obtained Continue reading

John & Patti Hutchinson’s 1996 & 2017 Grand Sport Twins”

The December 2017 Vette of the Month Contest Winner is…

John and Patti Hutchinson, of Orlando, Florida, and owners of The Grand Sport Registry (, are the winners of Corvette Report’s first “Vette of the Month” photo contest with their Grand Sport Twins!

Dateline: 12-31-17, Photos by John Hutchinson: I know that I’m preaching to the choir about the origin of what it now arguably the single most popular Corvette model ever offered by Chevrolet – the Grand Sport. The original Grand Sport concept was Zora Arkus-Duntov’s secret weapon to battle the Shelby Cobra, but GM’s adherence to the AMA Racing Ban forced Zora’s covert operation to a screeching halt. Only five cars were built, and unfortunately never given proper development. Sports car racing was progressing so fast that within two years, the Grand Sports were outdated and ten years later, nearly totally forgotten!

The five Grand Sports were bought and sold over and over. Gradually proper owners acquired the cars and took good care of them, such as Bill Tower’s Grand Sport #005 that wears the Jim Hall & Roger Penske blue and white livery.

Today, all five cars are accounted for and the Wintersteen L88-powered Grand Sport is one of the prize cars in the Simeone Collection in Philadelphia. Over the years different kit versions have been produced. But since as race cars, unlike the class-dominating Cobras, the Grand Sports didn’t win any championships, so they never got much attention outside the Corvette community. Continue reading

The December 2017 Vette of the Month Contest Winner is…”

C4 Grand Sport Coupe & Convertible On Block at Mecum Anaheim – TWO VIDEOS

by Scott Teeters, Editor of Corvette Report
Sellers disappointed when reserves not met.


Dateline 11.23.15: The 1996 Grand Sport was the sixth Special Edition Corvette and did more to bring the moniker “Grand Sport” back into the consciousness of the Corvette community than anything else. Prior to 1996, it was mostly Corvette racing fans that knew what a “Grand Sport Corvette” really was – Zora Arkus-Duntov’s lightweight Cobra killer that he envisioned being offered in every Chevrolet dealership in America. It was a noble concept, but even Chevrolet General Manager Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen couldn’t get a special exemption from GM’s management to allow the Chevrolet build and sell Corvette race cars. (I know, it’s a bummer, man!)

As the original 1963 Grand Sport racers faded into the collective memory of motorsports, the legend turned into a myth, until slowly but surely, Continue reading

C4 Grand Sport Coupe & Convertible On Block at Mecum Anaheim – TWO VIDEOS”

Vette Shows: The Sights of C4 Corvettes at the 2011 30th Corvettes at Carlisle Show

Dateline: 9.1.11
2011 Corvettes at Carlisle Week continues with coverage of 1984 to 1996 C5 Corvettes!

This is Michael Beal's custom 1991 ZR-1 Roadster. The LT-5 engine in the car was built by Corvete racing legend Kim Baker.

From 1984 to 1996 the C4 Corvettes arguably made more progress in terms of performance than any other generation Corvette. The ‘84 model arrived with the 205-horsepower “Cross-Fire Injection” engine and was quickly replaced with a real “fuelie,” the 230-horsepower L98 Bosch Tuned Port Injection engine. By ‘90 the 375-horsepower LT-5 engine arrived in the new ZR-1 and was bumped up to 405-horsepower by ‘93. The L98 received incremental improvements and hit 250-horsepower by ‘91 and was replaced with the 300-horsepower LT1 in ‘92. So, we saw some impressive power gains during the rein of the C4s.

And there were several interesting special edition C4s as well. There was the ‘86 Pace Car Special, the ‘88 35th Anniversary Edition, the ‘90 to ‘95 ZR-1 option (the single most expensive optional package in Corvette history!), the ‘93 40th Anniversary Edition, the ‘95 Pace Car, the ‘96 Collector Edition, and the ‘96 Grand Sport. That’s tremendous progress and consistent special editions that kept the C4s fresh and interesting.

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Corvettes so heavily dominated the SCCA Showroom Stock racing series they were kicked out! So, the Corvette Challenge “Corvettes only” race series was created. Morrison Motorsports blasted a 50-year speed record with a mildly-modified ZR-1 and Callaway build their 898-horsepower, 254.76-MPH Sledgehammer. Tuners such as Callaway, Greenwood, and Guldstrand offered Continue reading “Vette Shows: The Sights of C4 Corvettes at the 2011 30th Corvettes at Carlisle Show”

Tom Falconer & James Mann C4 Corvette Book Review

Tom Falconer's Collector's Originality Cuide for Corvette C4

“Collector’s Originality Guide: Corvette C4 1984 – 1996” by Tom Falconer & Photography by James Mann

The introduction of the C4 Corvette in the Fall of ‘83 was a much anticipated automotive event. Times were tough through the ‘70s and no one anticipated in ‘68 that the new Mako Shark-inspired car would have a 15-model-year production run. And when you consider that the car was riding on a chassis designed in ‘60-’61 for the C2 Sting Ray, it’s all the more amazing that the late C3 cars set all-time sales records.

Just like all Corvettes from the beginning, the C4 was a car that was in constant evolution. Every year, Corvette Chief Engineer, Dave McLellan and his devoted crew of engineers and stylists made small improvements, with an occasional big leap forward. Little did we know when the C4 was first shown at the end of ‘83 that this Corvette generation would last almost as long as the C3 generation – 13 model years. Continue reading “Tom Falconer & James Mann C4 Corvette Book Review”