As discussed at length in our December '05 issue, the '96 Grand Sport was a unique Corvette. Externally, the GS paid reverence to the Grand Sports from 1963. The car bore an Admiral Blue paint job with a wide white stripe covering the middle of the hood, roof, and rear portion of the body and included a pair of red hash marks placed over the left front fender. Red was used on the '96 GS as a styling cue to tie the two generations together. Unique Grand Sport badging was placed on each side of the hood above the side-fender vents, and a unique chrome-plated Corvette emblem was placed on the nose and gas lid. Interior color choices for the Grand Sport were limited to all black or a unique Torch Red and black combination, with red seats and trim and black carpeting with the Grand Sport name embroidered on the seat headrests.
All Grand Sport coupes used ZR-1-style, five-spoke rims with 275/40ZR17 rubber on the front and 315/35ZR17 on the rear. With all this rubber on the car, GM had to find a way to legally get the tires inside the wheelwells, so they decided to use an offset wheel and European flares already in the GM parts bin. The GS convertibles did not receive the fender flares and wider tires of the coupes. The wider tire/rim combination would not fit in a convertible (as a flat tire), so the convertibles were equipped with 255/45ZR17s in front and 285/45ZR17s out back to solve that problem.
From the beginning of the '96 GS project, everyone involved in the development of the car agreed the main ingredient should be about performance. To give the GS a unique engine of its own, the final solution was to redesign the current LT1 and offer it as a manual-transmission-only powerplant in all C4s, with the final engine named the LT4. This engine would come as standard equipment in all Grand Sports.
Beginning with the LT1 foundation, Chevrolet then added larger high-performance aluminum cylinder heads, a bigger camshaft, bigger valves, a higher 10.8:1 compression ratio, roller rocker arms, and new fuel injectors. These changes resulted in 330 hp at 5,800 rpm. Red spark-plug wires, a red intake manifold, and red "Corvette" and "Grand Sport" lettering on the manifold and throttle-body cover completed the special engine.
The LPE 383 conversion consisted of a LPE custom block preparation, a Lunati custom forged-steel stroker crank, Oliver billet rods, custom 10.8:1 forged aluminum pistons, and an LPE hydraulic roller cam. LPE also performed a CNC three-angle valve job on the stock GM heads, while new 2.00/1.56-inch LPE stainless valves were installed along with LPE double springs and titanium retainers. Comp Cams 1.6:1 S/S full roller rocker arms capped off the valvetrain. LPE/Hooker 131/44-inch shorty headers were installed to get the gases back to the CORSA exhaust system. A custom LPE 58mm high-flow billet throttle body topped off the mill. The modifications performed at Lingenfelter turned the already stout 330-horse 350 into a fire-breathing 450-horse 383ci supercar.
The Grand Sport was Dick's daily driver for eight months out of the year and is capable of adjusting anyone's blood pressure and heart rate quite quickly. Over the years, he made his annual pilgrimage to Corvettes at Carlisle; in 2000, the '96 was selected from more than 2,000 cars in the Corvette fun display to receive a Celebrity Pick award.
Unfortunately, in August of 2005, Dick fell ill and subsequently passed away the following November from cancer. Lingenfelter had just completed a complete rebuild on the car prior to his death.
In honor of their father and the Tenth Anniversary of the Grand Sport, Lloyd and Michael Pfahler made the trip to Corvettes at Carlisle 2006, which is where we met them. At the Grand Sport banquet, a seriously heated auction was held for the one-off Tenth Anniversary GS banner with the proceeds going to the Chip Miller foundation for cancer research. It only seemed fitting that the brothers were the high bidders on the banner after being presented the Celebrity Pick award by Chip Miller years earlier.
Although the car has been retired from daily use, it will be undergoing a slight cosmetic restoration and be retained in the family's car collection for future generations to enjoy.