1963 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport - Grand Performance

Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery.

PJ Rentie Nov 1, 2000 0 Comment(s)
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Once in a great while, an automobile manufacturer produces a car that is so fast, so powerful, so "bad" looking, that it very nature could be described in one word: evil. The 1963 Corvette Grand Sport is such a car.

The '63 Grand Sport was born of Zora Arkus-Duntov's yearning to beat Europe's endurance racing elite, at the ultimate endurance race-LeMans-with an all-American race car. With inferred approval from Chevrolet Division's then-chief, "Bunkie" Knudsen, work was begun on an ultra-lightweight version of the '63 Sting Ray, complete with its four-wheel independent suspension. The result was a tubular-framed racer with a 377 cubic-inch, all-aluminum small-block and an almost paper-thin but OE-appearing Sting Ray body shell that weighed in, race-ready, at a svelte 2,000 pounds.

The original plan was to unleash 125 of these monsters (the number necessary to "homologate" them) on the unsuspecting hordes of Cobras and Ferraris, vanquishing them in the name of a Manufacturer's Championship. Only five examples had been constructed when orders came down from the GM executive suites killing the program, and with it, all direct GM participation in racing. All five original Grand Sports survive to this day, are the highly coveted centerpieces of collections, and are each worth well in excess of a million dollars.

If your last name isn't Gates or Trump, and you're not a professional athlete or entertainer earning multi-millions per year, you're more likely to be struck by lightning-twice-than to own a '63 Grand Sport. For the rest of us, at least those with the desire but not the dineros, the only alternative is to build a replica GS. There are some Grand Sports "kit cars" on the market, but in the end, you still have a kit car, and some of them don't capture the correct lines and character of the original-making for a cheesy kit car at that.

Bill Guentzler of San Diego has quite a bit of experience with building cars, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Guentzler is in a professor of engineering at San Diego State University and also has a business, Motorsports International, which he operates with his wife, Marge, building aluminum-bodied replica Cobras from scratch for customers, using frames and bodies made to his specifications. While the faux Cobra business is great, Bill wanted another challenge. A project car was needed, but what? He found his answer one day in the late '80s at the Palm Springs Grand Prix, a vintage race event. There, he spotted one of the five original Grand Sports, chassis #3, which was then owned by Bob Patterson. With permission from the owner, he whipped out his camera and snapped off a ton of detail pictures. After the race, Bill researched the Grand Sports, and wanted to build one of his own. He wasn't satisfied with the looks or workmanship of the kits available, and decided that if he was going to do it, he was going to do it right. "The only way to capture the true spirit of the Grand Sport is to start off with a real Corvette," Bill said. So, he and Marge began to search for a suitable project car. Since this car wasn't going to be built for a customer, and he had plenty of business, they took their time.

The following year, Bill once again saw GS #3 at the Palm Springs Grand Prix, now owned by a gentleman named Tom Armstrong. They talked, and again, Bill snapped a few photographs. Shortly thereafter, Bill came across a '64 that had been damaged due to an engine fire. The hood was melted, as well as the firewall and a portion of the right front fender. However, the rest of the car was salvageable.

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