Recently, a phone call came to our office that caught us by surprise. It was Tadge Juechter, Chief Engineer for Corvette. He had just finished reading our Grand Sport lifestyle story featured in the November 2016 issue. He wanted Vette to provide his Corvette Team with a historical perspective about the five original Grand Sports featured in our story. He invited us to speak at his Corvette Team Meeting at the GM Warren Technical Center. They are held quarterly and anyone who is involved in the development of the Corvette is invited. They meet inside the Vehicle Engineering Center, at the Technical Center campus in Warren, Michigan. The 2-hour event took place on September 12, 2016. We prepared our presentation, booked our flights and headed to Warren.
The Technical Center is an imposing complex and the gate guard directed us to the Vehicle Engineering Center. Shuttle busses take you from the parking lots to the front door. You enter a large lobby where you sign in and wait while the receptionist covers your cell phone camera and registers your laptop. Next, they call your contact (Tadge Juechter) to escort you to the meeting. Juechter was very prompt and we followed him through an electronic rotary door and a hallway that led us to our meeting auditorium. The large, wide hallway has no windows on either side, just doors to various engineering areas. When we arrived we were greeted by Barbara Armbruster (Planning & Program Manager-Corvette). Armbruster added our presentation to the agenda and soon the room was filled with almost 300 Corvette Team members. While Juechter gave the group a program update, we waited outside.
Juechter then introduced us to the group and we began our 30-minute presentation. Our goal was to give an overview of the non-racing GM corporate environment in the late-’50s and ’60s. Zora Arkus-Duntov was a passionate racing advocate who never stopped looking for ways to keep Corvette competitive without violating the AMA (American Manufacturers Association) non-racing agreement GM had signed. The Grand Sport was a secret project approved by Bunkie Knudsen, General Manager of Chevrolet. Zora planned to build 125 “lightweight” (2,000-pound) Grand Sports and sell them to customers to race. They took the first completed Grand Sport (#001) to Sebring for a secret brake test in December 1962. Word of the test got back to GM Chairman Fredrick Donner and he quickly ordered Zora to cancel the program. Zora had enough parts to build five Grand Sports, which he did. We then discussed the racing history of these five cars and where they are now. Juechter asked for questions and it was obvious that the group was very interested in the history of these significant Corvettes. We experienced firsthand how dedicated and enthusiastic these team members are about our beloved Corvette. We are looking forward to seeing what other nice surprises they have in store for us in the near future.
Our presentation was followed by Ron Kiino who is responsible for Corvette and Camaro Media activities. Kiino gave an update on the positive reaction the 2017 Grand Sport option is receiving from the press. Juechter then updated the group on Corvette Racing’s 102nd race win, which drew a big applause. The final speaker was Mike Simcoe, the new VP of GM Global Design. Simcoe gave an overview of his background with his vision for the direction of GM design. He complimented the Corvette Team for their effective design, engineering and customer awareness. The meeting ended and the team dispersed to continue work on our favorite sports car: the Corvette.