In 1962, Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov initiated a program to develop a lightweight racer to compete against Carroll Shelby’s Cobras on the track. The Grand Sport Corvettes would weigh about 2000 pounds and draw power from a 377-cubic-inch V-8 with aluminum-block-and-head construction. A 1963 General Motors edict to end all racing involvement derailed the plan, but not before a handful of the Grand Sports were built. The prototype Vettes were delivered to private parties, who raced the cars with mixed success until 1967, but plans to homologate the car with a total production run of 125 copies were abandoned.
Factory Grand Sports finally rolled off a GM assembly line in 1996 to commemorate the retirement of the fourth-generation Corvette. Chevy built a total of 1000 coupes and convertibles featuring the 330-hp LT4 V-8 engine, a six-speed manual transmission, and black ZR-1 wheels. All C4 Grand Sports were dressed in the same outfit: deep blue paint, a fat white stripe, and two red hash marks on the driver’s-side fender.
The Grand Sport is back for 2010, again as a coupe or a convertible, only this time there’s no team uniform. Cars can be ordered in any of eight colors, and fender hash marks are merely an option, offered in four hues. Buyers looking for the wide stripe down the center will have to turn to the aftermarket.
Mechanically, the Grand Sport model replaces the Z51 package and bridges the gap between the base and Z06 Corvettes. The brakes are cross-drilled and upsized to 14.0 inches at the front and 13.4 inches in the rear, with six- and four-pot clampers, respectively. The suspension is stiffened with a mix of Z06 parts and Grand Sport-specific hardware. Power comes from the same 430-hp LS3 found in base cars, but manual transmissions are geared differently and automatic cars use a shorter final-drive ratio. Coupes equipped with a manual transmission also receive a rear-mounted battery, a dry-sump oil system, and a differential cooler. All stick-shift Corvettes have a launch-control program in 2010 for quick, consistent acceleration performance.
The Grand Sport’s body panels, which are borrowed from the Z06, add the front nostril, rear brake-cooling ducts, and a taller spoiler versus the base car. The Z06’s larger fenders also allow for wider wheels and tires. Unless optioned with the hash-mark decals, the Grand Sport’s only distinguishing cues are unique wheels, fender badging, and two additional slits incorporated into the fender vents.
We love the Corvette for its balance and capability, and the Grand Sport is no exception. We especially appreciated its tauter suspension and larger brakes when we hammered our way around the Milford Road Course at GM’s proving ground. The most appreciable change, though, comes from the wider Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar run-flat rubber. With more stick, the LS3-engined Corvette can now pull more than 1 g in lateral acceleration, according to GM.
There are no plans to limit production this time around. Instead, Chevy will build as many Grand Sports as buyers demand, at a $6000 premium over base models. Chevrolet suspects – as do we – that plenty of people will be clamoring for the Grand Sport’s style and hardware.
On Sale: Now
Engine: 6.2L V-8, 430 hp, 424 lb-ft