See the original Grand Sports in action at Sebring 1962 and Nassau 1963!
Dateline: 8.13.18 – Photo: GM Archives Last week while finishing up a story about Bill Tower’s Grand Sport #005 Corvette for Vette Magazine, I came across two YouTube videos posted by GM Heritage Center. The videos are silent and were probably shot with an 8mm camera that someone brought along to the events. The film looks like hand-held and amateurish, not at all the same quality of the Jam Handy films from that era. But, you do get to see the Grand Sports in action.
The above film was shot in December 1962 when Zora Arkus-Duntov took Grand Sport #001 to Sebring for testing. Note how “stock” the original batch of Grand Sports, originally called the “Lightweights” looked. Grand Sport Corvettes always suffered from front end lift which was mostly attributed to the shape of the Sting Ray. While the front end design of the Sting Ray indeed let way too much air flow UNDER the car, another big factor in the lift was how the new Corvette’s rear suspension would “squat” down.
This was a problem all the way into the ’70s until John Greenwood designed his “anti-squat” Greenwood suspension setup. After the Sebring test session, GM president Frederick Donner found out about Duntov and Chevrolet General Manager Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen’s, now not-so-secret plan to build and sell race cars. Donner came down on old Bunkie like a ton of bricks. Or as Zora described, “The program came to a screeching halt!”
The above film shows the Grand Sports #003, #004, and #005 arriving at Nassau for the 1963 Speed Week races and racing at the track. While the Grand Sport program was officially dead, it didn’t stop Duntov from letting Grand Sports #003, #004, and #005 out to privateer racers through the 1963 racing season. But without proper factory engineering support, results were spotty and inconsistent.
At the end of the 1963 racing season, Duntov called in the Grand Sports for some “upgrades” that famously debuted a Nassau in what is known in Corvette lore as, “the Nassau Invasion”. It was glorious and the Cobras were savaged.
The following March at the 1964 12 Hours of Sebring, Roger Penske driving the Grand Sport #005 took a class win. This was arguably the Grand Sport’s finest moment. Grand Sport #005 has been owned by Bill Tower of Plant City, Florida for 40 years this December 24, 2018 and is in the Sebring ’64 configuration! – Scott
Bill Tower’s #005 Grand Sport Corvette “America’s Old Glory” signed and numbered 11” x 17” art prints are available in out Amazon store, HERE.