The Amazing Legend of the Grand Sport Corvette
How a passionate Corvette engineer created the Grand Sport Racing Machine to be one of the fastest and most fierce in all the land.
(As of early October 2009, four car magazines feature the new 2010 Grand Sport Corvette on the front covers of their recent issues-Road & Track, Car & Driver, Motor Trend and Corvette Magazine. And in the next week, the December issue of Vette magazine will be out and feature a 2 page color art spread, K. Scott Teeters’ 150th Illustrated Corvette Series called Three Generations of Grand Sport Corvettes and it will prominently feature the new 2010 Grand Sport – Don’t Miss It! – In the meantime enjoy this history of the Grand Sport in fairytale form)
by K. Scott Teeters
Corvette was the most beautiful machine in the entire kingdom of The General.
Yes, a white-haired mechanical wizard fell in love with the young and beautiful Princess of The General (General Motors), in the stylish house of Chevrolet. Her name was Corvette and under the good graces of the House of Chevrolet’s Lord of Styling and Good Looks, Master Harley Earl, she was the most beautiful machine in the entire kingdom of The General. Now the wizard’s name was Duntov, Zora Arkus-Duntov and he had a passion for racing like no one else in the House of Chevrolet. Zora the Gray (in honor of his white head of locks, a sign of wisdom) focused his unbridled passion for racing on the young Corvette and before long, she was winning races all across the land.
Mitchell christened her “Corvette Sting Ray”
But as the sixth decade of the last century of the second millennia of the new age dawned, it was decreed that it was time for the young and beautiful Corvette to enter into a new stage of life. A body and chassis makeover the likes of which the Kingdom of Detroit and lands far and away had never seen before. For this new phase of life, the creative and ambitious new Lord of Styling for the House of Chevrolet, one William “The Shark” Mitchell, saw that Princess Corvette needed a second name for her new stage of life and christened her, “Corvette Sting Ray.”
Shelby, Wizard of the Cobras, creates a racer, one of the fastest and most fierce in all the land near and far.
Now the Wizard Duntov never stopped toiling away to make his most favored of all of the cars in the House of Chevrolet one of the fastest and most fierce in all the land near and far. But alas, there will always be challengers and this time was no different. Coming out of the tall weeds in rural Texas and the warm, sunny land of southern California, were venomous snakes owned by a chicken farmer named Shelby. This Shelby person had no pedigree but was a wily driver of sports cars and not unlike Duntov the Gray, was a wizard, the Wizard of the Cobras.
Cobras from Texas came out of the grass with a vengeance,
hobbling the new Sting Ray
Zora made this grim discovery on the eve of the new Corvette Sting Ray’s debut while testing a new package of racing parts called the Z06 Option. The new racing suspension, brakes, and oversized 35-gallon fuel tank were supposed to work in concert with the new 4-wheel independent suspension and lower center of gravity to give the Sting Ray the advantage over her competition. Instead, the Cobras from Texas came out of the grass with a vengeance, hobbling the new Sting Ray before she even had a chance. But hey, that’s life in the arena of the race track.
6 lightweight Sting Ray racers to take on the Cobras from Texas
But the Wizard Duntov would have none of this, and in fact, had anticipated it with his superior ability to see into the future. Zora shared his secret plan with a special friend from inside the hallowed halls of the House of Chevrolet – one Baron Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen. While Semon was a loyal servant of the House of Chevrolet, in his heart, he wanted to be in a Sting Ray, in the racing arena. But it was not to be for Ol’ Bunkie. His role was much more important. Barron Knudsen made sure that Zora the Gray was supplied with a special lair and a secret black budget to build 6 lightweight Sting Ray racers to take on the Cobras from Texas and their chicken farmer lord and master! It was deemed that the new Cobra-killers were to be christened, “Grand Sport” because it was going to be “sport” decimating the snakes.
Grand Sports savaged the Shelby Cobras
While the new Grand Sport looked like a regular Corvette, minor details were different. It was what was under the thin fiberglass skin that made the difference. Duntov made sure the Grand Sport had a strong, lightweight steel tube frame with light weight suspension parts and an all-aluminum hemi engine. While the exotic engine was part of the dream, reality set in and the Corvette’s tried and proven Fuelie engine was pressed into service. Preliminary tests were encouraging, but the front end of the Grand Sport was capturing too much air and bigger tires were sorely needed. Rather than tap the talented stylists from the Lord of Styling, Sir William Mitchell, engineers from within Duntov’s lair worked on the car’s problems with a plethora of scoops, vents, flares, and other racing arena details. When the new Grand Sport made her debut on the island of Bahamas, the Cobra Master from Texas was not a happy wizard. Only five of the proposed six Grand Sports were built and while they had their problems, they savaged the Cobras. Indeed, it was a glorious day for the wizard, Duntov the Gray and his team of engineers. But a little too much of glory’s lime light shown upon the merry men. That’s right, The General found out and was NOT happy!
Barons of Speed at the House of Ford and Chrysler started racing.
Duntov the Gray was looking for every advantage he and his team could think of.
The General was displeased with the Grand Sports of Duntov the Gray because The General had signed a treaty with the other Masters of the Automobile in the Land of America, pledging that they would not “glorify the dangers of speed” by supporting the racing of their cars. But only after a short time, the Barons of Speed at the House of Ford and Chrysler fell into forgetfulness and let their passions for speed get the better of them, and started racing their cars with all their heart and soul. In fact, they were having a damn good party, experiencing the drunkenness that comes from victory.
Wizard Duntov needed to beat the Houses of Ford and Chrysler
At the other end of the Kingdom of Automobiles called Detroit, Duntov the Gray was spiritually cut from the same cloth as the Lords of Speed at Ford and Chrysler and longed for the taste of victory he had experienced in his younger days racing for the Lords of Speed at Porsche, in the Land of Germany. In Zora’s wildest dreams, he wanted to build hundreds, then thousands of Grand Sports so that Corvette racers far and wide could go forth, battle, and be victorious – thus experiencing the taste of victory for themselves. But it was not to be. It seemed the Wizard Duntov had run out of friends in high places… But perhaps not.
Saved from the CRUSHER
It was Lord Edward Cole that first saw potential in Duntov back in ‘53 when the Corvette first arrived in the Kingdom of Chevrolet. Cole was a friend and quiet supporter of Zora the Gray’s wild ideas for making the Corvette into a respected race car first, so that it could then be a respected street sports car. We will never know for sure, but perhaps it was Lord Cole that spared the only five Grand Sport Corvettes in existence from the dreaded fate of the CRUSHER. That’s the usual fate of unwanted, special project cars that officially “don’t exist.” Off to the CRUSHER, never to be seen again!
Sold to Privateers
But somehow, the five Grand Sports were spared that compressing fate and were sold off into servitude to privateers.
Like dogs of war, privateer racers only care about two things – winning and prize booty. Thus began a new and difficult phase of life for the racing Grand Sports. Orphaned by their parents, all five Grand Sports went through many alterations by their various owners – some good, some not so good. Their godfather, Zora the Gray looked after them from afar, assisting the various teams with special, “in development” parts that were “loaned” to the teams for “field testing.” The Grand Sports were owned and driven by some of the most famous princes of racing in their day. Names such as Mecom, Penske, Hall, Winterstein, Foyt, Thompson, Davis, Pabst, and many others experienced the pure joy and challenge of driving a Grand Sport Corvette.
Grand Sport no match for the Cobras
But the young prince’s coffers were meager compared to those in the House of Ford that resided in the Kingdom of Dearborn, making the Grand Sport no match for the Cobras that rebounded with additional development. Competition and development was moving at blinding speed. It was only a matter of a few years before the Grand Sport was hopelessly out gunned due to a lack of deep pockets and big purses needed to refine and develop the Grand Sport Corvettes for competition.
By the end of the decade, the Grand Sports had been modified and repainted to the point where they had all but vanished. It wasn’t until the middle of the following decade then people began asking, “Whatever happened to those Grand Sport Corvettes? Has anyone seen them? Are they still around? Details were beginning to get fuzzy and wild stories became the stuff of bench racing tall tales from Corvette lovers. Gradually, one by one, the cars surfaced – some nothing but basket cases, others still reasonably in tack, considering how many times the cars had been bought, sold, modified. One was even forced into duty as a custom street machine!
A Very Happy Ending! All five Grand Sports are alive and well.
Fortunately, the story has a very happy ending. All five Grand Sport Corvettes are alive and well. They have all been restored to what is considered by most fans of the Grand Sport legend to be their best configuration. The two Grand Sports that were converted to open roadsters still look as they did on their best day. No one knows for sure or remembers how much The General was paid when the cars were sold off, rather than going to the crusher. Probably less than $10,000. They were just something to “get rid of and forget.” Over four decades later, the five restored cars are now worth millions of dollars and are considered running, functional, automotive art.
1963 Grand Sport replicar
But do not despair dear reader if you do not have the liquid assets to spend millions for an exotic piece of automotive history. The Grand Sport Corvette legend has greeted legions of loyal followers and craftsmen and women with extraordinary skill and artistry. For as much as one would pay for some of the new, specialty Corvettes, you can have a 1963 Grand Sport replicar that is a spot on facsimile of the original. The new wizards of our time have solved all of the problems of the original Grand Sports due to the lack of development time and gold backing. New Grand Sports from Duntov Motors weigh just 2,150 pounds and pack a 700-horsepower, all-aluminum small block Chevrolet engine. That’s a power-to-weight ratio of just 3.07-to-1. A contemporary Corvette weighs 3,217-pounds with 430-horsepower – that a power-to-weight ration of 7.48:1. And the most powerful production Corvette ever offered from the House of Chevrolet, the 2009 ZR1 weighs 3,333-pounds with 638-horsepower under the hood for a power-to-weight ration of 5.22:1. The new ZR1 will run 0-to-60 –mph in just 3.3-seconds with a restricted top speed of 205-mph. Now look at the Grand Sport replicar from Duntov Motors. Yea, OH WOW!
That’s The Legend of the Grand Sport Corvette
Close your eyes, clear your mind, and try to imagine for a moment… what an additional 62-horsepower would be like in a car weighing 1,183 pounds less than a C6 ZR1. Unless you have experience behind the wheel with some of the most powerful cars in history, you can’t. That’s The Legend of the Grand Sport Corvette. – K. Scott Teeters
2010 Grand Sport Corvette.
Postscript: Chevrolet made a big splash in the Spring of 2009 with the debut of the new 2010 Grand Sport Corvette. While not an all-out racing machine, it’s more than just a stripe and décor package. All of the goodies from the Z51 Performance Package are included, plus the cool body enhancements from the Z06, plus dedicated front fender vents and very stylish 5-spoke mag wheels. Unlike the ‘96 Grand Sport, the 2010 version is available in all standard 2010 Corvette colors. With a wide assortment of accessories, colors, and wheels, we’re bound to see some stunningly good-looking Grand Sport Corvettes in the years to come. And this is a Grand Sport that could be your everyday driver. For a marquee that was for decades the ultimate Corvette, “could have been” car, I’d say that’s a VERY Happy Ending!
For more Grand Sport articles and illustrations by K. Scott Teeters, visit www.GrandSportCorvetteLegend.com
K. Scott Teeters
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