We all think our rides are something special, but retired Chicago business owner Paul DeLucia, now living in Stuart, Florida, has one of the most eye-catching special Corvettes we've seen: a beautiful vintage '63 Grand Sport replica. And it isn't your run-of-the-mill kit car, but a ground-shaker for both the street and racetrack.
Paul and I got some pretty memorable looks as we drove this car to the site of the photo shoot. With only five authentic '63 Grand Sports built, you don't see Corvettes like this on the road every day. Paul said, "I have people stop me whenever I drive it and say, 'This isn't a real Grand Sport, is it?'"
Paul purchased this traffic-stopper from Mid-West Corvettes in Moline, Illinois, in 1989. Mid-West installed the Grand Sport replica body on a '63 Corvette "street" chassis (the originals were tube-frame), but making it into the beauty it is today took a lot more work. "Before I picked up the car, I shipped to Mid-West Corvettes the "then" 355ci (now 377ci) Donovan aluminum motor for them to install," explained Paul. "After that, my friend Chuck Brightly called his buddy Ron Kaplan, the well-known '70s-era Trans Am team owner to help with the suspension setup at Chuck's shop. Ron really helped us a lot in finding all the right parts and pieces. We worked almost day and night for two weeks, installing the rollcage, fuel cell, and finishing everything off before its first race in the 1990 Chicago Historics at Road America."
Racing the car off and on over the last decade, mainly in East Coast Vintage/Historic events, Paul gradually started making improvements to his '63 that made it the ground-shaker it is today. After burning a couple of pistons in an HSR race at the legendary Sebring International Raceway in March 1993, Paul changed from Brodix to Dart heads that the Donovan-block aluminum motor now carries. In addition, a new crank pumped up the already stout motor to its present 377ci size, while the drop in compression from the new heads boosted low-end torque to 500-plus lb-ft, with more than 596 hp on tap.
Then, in 2000, Paul decided he wanted to enjoy the car's attributes on the street, in addition to the track. "I decided that I wanted to modify the car just enough to drive it on the street," he said. "I had Larry Maas' shop back in Illinois put Borla inserts in the side-mount exhausts. After that, we modified the rollcage with a removable crossmember that allowed me to add the passenger to the car. I changed from the original Ultralights to Torq-Thrust D wheels for the street, with 81/2-inch fronts and 10-inch rears, mounted with 225/60-15 front and 275/60-15 rear Hoosier DOT-approved rubber."
With the necessary modifications to drive his '63 beauty on the street, it was only a matter of time till someone challenged Paul to a friendly street race. "I met a gentleman at a local car show who owns a Cobra 427 replica. He lives nearby and was having trouble finding racing gas for his car," explained Paul. "He called me one day and said, 'Let's take a ride over to the gas station.' So I met him at the bridge that leads to the mainland. We started over the bridge, and I looked in my rearview mirror and see that he's pulled out and hammered it. So I did too. He found out real quick his 427 wasn't up to the task of passing--or ever catching--my small-block 377. We went on to the gas station, then back by his house, and took some pictures of the cars. I haven't heard a word from him since."
That tells us the owner of the 427 believes this little Grand Sport replica is something special too.