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 From there, the GS Corvettes were raced, hammered on, became outdated, sold, resold, and at one point in the early ‘70s were nearly lost.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.
4. Design boss, Ed Welburn (no pun intended) heard about the story and being a Corvette guy, looked into the story and came up empty handed. Allegedly, the search didn’t find anything, but because there was no 6th GS to “find.” that doesn’t mean there never was one. (Now that’s a lot of help!)
5. Mecom also says that GM chief of styling, Bill Mitchell got the 6th GS and turned it into a styling exercise. Mecom says that that’s what Mitchell told him. Mecom also said that the GS books got a lot of the details wrong because they never interviewed him and should have.
6. Then there was an interesting Grand Sport Corvette forum tidbit from “Skia” that talked about befriending Larry Shinoda. Skia says that Larry quietly told him that concerning the GS Corvettes, “There were more than five.”
Here’s the link where the above info was gleaned…
There also seems to be some slight confusion over the ‘66 prototype L88 being a GS Corvette. The preproduction ‘66 L88 was the car that was given (sold?) to Roger Penske and prepared to be an all-out racer. While the car has a real bad-ass look, it is NOT a Grand Sport. The car was originally raced with a red paint job but Penske’s sponsor Sunoco, requested that if Penske wanted to continue racing the car with their sponsorship, the car needed to be painted Sunoco blue. This car has been beautifully restored by Corvette Repair.
As I read through the somewhat tangled mess of anecdotal stories, the part about the 6th GS being “burned” jumped out at me. While I’ve never worked for GM, I have been following the Corvette and muscle car world for a very long time and have never heard of a car being disposed of by fire. The dreaded CRUSHER is the usual method of disposal.
An editor friend told me that he had heard that there were parts for a 6th GS that was never built., which makes sense. Duntov was a foxy, cagy fellow. He managed to get enough parts for a second Corvette SS car under the pretense of building a mule car. The chassis of the Corvette SS mule later found its way under Bill Mitchell’s Stingray Racer. The Corvette SS mule was the R&D car used to sort out the parts for the finished “pretty” version of the Corvette SS.
So, were there “parts” enough for a 6th GS? Probably. Was there any “proof” that a 6th car was built? No. And if there was, it’s not likely that it would have been a total secret for nearly 50 years.
My editor friend also explained that, as he understands GM’s MO, cars to be crushed were witnessed by accountants to assure that EVERYTHING was destroyed. Before that, R&D guys would remove all the good parts (picked clean the carcass) and crush what little was left. Grim stuff for those of us that have a passion for prototype and R&D cars.
And lastly, I asked a friend that’s in the Corvette restoration business if the story was “fact or fiction.” His response was simple and to the point… “Fiction.”
So, there you have it, several intriguing anecdotal stories and zero documentation, paperwork, or photos. It’s a neat story, but it’s also highly unlikely that something like that could have been kept under wraps for so long. Until something tangible comes along, specs, a work order, photos, etc, I’m weighing in with my restoration friend. The story, while fun to consider, is most likely fiction. I’d call it “a modern, Corvette urban legend.” – Scott
PS – If you know of any more details on the story, we’d love to hear from you. The Contact link is at the top of the page, or you can “Leave a Reply” in the box below.
Here are a few links connected to the topic…
Stop by, www.GrandSportCorvetteLegend.com/