Back in the late '80s, General Motors had a concept that was the brainchild of then Corvette Chief Engineer Dave McClellan. The idea was to build the ultimate Corvette, one with great horsepower and handling, and to reset the bar for the zenith in Corvette performance. This ultimate Corvette would have to have an amazing engine with great sophistication and plenty of upgraded handling to make it all work right. After all, great power requires competent handling; they go hand in hand.
The concept turned out to be the ZR-1 Corvette that was sprung in the press in the spring of 1989. But before that introduction, the folks at Goodyear, to ready their tires for the upcoming ZR-1 platform, did some significant tire testing at the world-renowned Talladega Superspeedway. To aid in this effort, Goodyear and GM enlisted the talents of legendary Corvette hot-shot and all-around Corvette technical expert Dick Guldstrand. Dick readied one of his impressive GS-80 Corvettes-an '88 test mule, so to speak-for the efforts. The car was a great platform for the test, having just set a record at Germany's Hockenheim track, clicking off a better overall time than competitive Ferrari Testarossas and Porsche Carrera Turbos.
Because the ZR-1 would use larger-than-stock tires, the Guldstrand GS-80 was modified via the enlargement of the rear fenders to house the P315 wide tires. Several other suspension upgrades were made, as well as some engine enhancements from Dick's next-door neighbor, Traco Engineering in Culver City, California, which built the 383ci small-block stroker engine. For those not familiar with the Traco name, these were the same folks that built the most successful Trans-Am racing engines of the era, including the Donohue/Penske '68 and '69 Camaro engines, the Scarab, and a host of historically significant race powerplants.
The result of the Alabama tire test was a 180-plus-mph average time for the GS-80 in ZR-1 tires around the Talladega Superspeedway, setting the closed-course record at the time. Moreover, test drivers felt the impressive engine torque gave the car amazing off-the-line performance and great high-bank holding ability. Tire testing at the track consisted of infrared sensors positioned behind small holes in the wheelwell for a direct line between the sensors and the tire's treaded surface. In this manner, data was recorded that helped Goodyear create the awesome ZR-1 tires.
Today, Guldstrand still drives this mobile testbed for fun around Burbank, California (his new shop location). With the 4+3 manual transmission and performance gearing, the car is a blast to drive and easy on the backside with soft, streetable suspension. While he has considered selling the black machine, it has been tough to part with such a great piece of Corvette history, the missing link between the stock C4 and the ultimate Corvette, the ZR-1.
What's a GS-80?
The GS-80 shown here reflects Dick Guldstrand's imaginative engineering and knowledge from years of modifying Corvettes. The GS-80 modifications can be applied to any '85 and newer C4 Corvette.