1963 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport - Grand Performance

Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery.

PJ Rentie Nov 1, 2000 0 Comment(s)

While the five original Grand Sports were '63s, Bill chose a '64 to avoid the arduous task of converting the split window into a single rear window. Working on the Vette in his spare time, Bill removed the body and traded the engine, trans, fuel tank, frame, and suspension to a friend, Gene Townsend, owner of Gene Townsend Autobody in exchange for parts, paint, and bodywork. He then found a totaled '87 Corvette and grafted the suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, and brakes (including all the ABS componentry) to a custom frame he'd made for the '64 body. The C4 suspension was modified with a set of Alden coilover shocks in lieu of the front and rear composite transverse leaf springs.

While the original Grand Sports were small-block powered, Bill wanted to add a little "excitement" (as if a GS isn't exciting enough!) to his car, so he built a vintage, date-coded L88. The rambunctious 12.5:1 Rat motor is fitted with genuine L88, parts including cylinder heads, intake manifold, and a 780-cfm Holley, plus a set of Comp Cams roller rockers, and a MSD 6AL ignition. They all work in harmony to produce an estimated 630 horsepower. The headers and exhaust system were custom fabricated by Bob Butler and ceramic-coated by Olympic Coatings. Power is routed through a Richmond Gear five-speed that was rebuilt by Bill and taken from a '78 Corvette he'd owned. The transfer of power travels through the '87 Corvette differential equipped with 3.55:1 gears before it finally hits the ground via a set of PS Engineering wheels made up like the original Halibrands. They measure 15x71/2 in the front and 15x91/2 at the rear, rolling on Goodyear Eagle ST tires measuring 235/60-15 in front and 275/60-15 in rear.

Bill had mixed feelings when it was time to move to the interior. While he wanted to keep it looking original, he didn't care much for the original style "marine vinyl" upholstery. "It looked too plain," Bill explains. So he employed the services of upholsterer Howard McKee. Armed with a bolt of vintage 1961 Jewel Blue Vinyl and matching fabric, Howard created a set of custom race seats, based on modified, aftermarket Cobra seats. The carpeting was supplied by AutoMat in OEM-like medium blue, while the gauges and dash kept the vintage Grand Sport look, right down to a '63 steering column and teak steering wheel. To add to the custom touches, Bill mounted a custom air conditioning unit in the trunk, and directs cold air through a vent that's disguised as an aluminum panel under the dash. The system is operated by hidden switches located under the dash. A Fuel Safe fuel cell also resides in the trunk, where the original tank used to be.

When the time came to get the body together, Bill put his engineering skill to use. Using the photographs, he painstakingly and faithfully reproduced every aspect of Grand Sport #3, right down to the roof lights and fuel tank vent. If it wasn't available, Bill fabricated it. He handled all of the "fab" work, while Doug Pratte of Gene Townsend Autobody (who else?) handled the rest of the bodywork. Each body panel was faithfully reproduced to look like a Grand Sport. The finished product was sprayed with a gorgeous shade of Bonzai Blue.

The project took 10 years to complete, since Guentzler and crew worked on it in their spare time. However, the finished product is so good looking, and faithful to the original-except for the big-block-that it could easily be mistaken for the genuine article. Would he build another one? Maybe, maybe not. With all of the one-of-a-kind, custom-fabricated parts, the cost of time and labor almost rival that of an original GS. Anyway, Bill didn't build the car to fool anyone, or to sell as a kit-he built it purely to show that he could. Point well taken.

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