While hot rodding's historical imperative has always been to make as much power as possible, the reality is that the less mass there is to carry, the less power it will require to move it admirably. Tyler Powell's Grand Sport Corvette is a prime example of this physics lesson. It's a simple matter of economics. At a mere 2,590 pounds, it performs just as well or better with 370 wheel horsepower as much heavier cars with more than twice the grunt. The sidebar to this is that the lighter vehicle is likely to spend more time on the track and less time fixing the parts that the weight helped to compromise.
Tyler began his history with a relatively heavy car, of course. When he was in high school, his dad bought his mom a 1976 Corvette. By degrees, Tyler confiscated it, pumping his summer money into it year after year. When he graduated college and worked a real job, he did a body-off resto that included an LS engine and a T-56 transmission and he underwrote them with muscular suspension and gritty braking programs.
He liked the results he realized with the 1976 but hankered for a clean palette, a platform that could be customized along the way. He sold the Corvette and seriously considered a Factory Five Daytona Coupe or Cobra. The Chevrolet equivalent, however, was being celebrated at Mongoose Motorsports in Ravenna, Ohio. Among other pertinent bloodlines, Mongoose produces replicas (in various states of completion) of the Grand Sport Corvette, which seemed just the ticket for Tyler. He rang up Gary Krause and ordered a deluxe package, a roller that included the gel-coat fiberglass body, a round tube frame, and a box full of optional parts. By July 2010, all the stuff was sitting in friend and co-worker Justin's big-floor garage.
Tyler drew confidence from this experience. He learned how to prep and sand the fiberglass. He learned how to sew. He learned how to build from scratch. Two months in, he took the Grand Sport for its first test drive, completely bare save for body, frame, and a stock LS2 engine. He was impressed with the raw product. It was a poignant moment, and one punctuated by large quantities of energy drinks. For the following seven months, he thrashed on the body, paint, and interior, all the while driving the Mongoose to work every day.
He wanted his race car to be street-friendly, too, replete with audio as well as frigid air. He envisioned a one-off interior treatment, but the nearest such Mecca was Mobile, Alabama, about 60 miles from his home. The inquiries he made about upholstery jail were so off-putting (1-2 years!) he decided he'd learn to operate a sewing machine. Everything was a custom deal; there were no off-the-shelf parts. And since the interior was such an open proposition, he could customize at will.
Then he went a little crazy, maybe from all those Rock Star cocktails. In early 2012, he decided to sell the work, "mostly because I wanted to build another. Luckily, right before I was to set up the transaction for the sale, I snapped out it. I decided to build upon what I'd already created."
And what he'd created has produced pleasing results so far. He's run a best of 11.6 at 123 mph at the dragstrip, and in the Grand Sport's first official outing at the 2013 Holley LS Fest, he placed 14th out of 93 entries in the autocross, slicing and dicing the course in 37.620 seconds. From strap-operated side windows and faux snakeskin vinyl to the big ol' hairy side pipes shooting flames, Tyler Powell is looking for the next big thing.