In 1963, Chevrolet built five of the most hard-core Corvettes ever assembled-the Grand Sports. All five of these legendary racecars have survived the years and are possibly the most valuable Corvettes in existence. In 1996, as a tribute to the legacy of the Grand Sport racers, Chevrolet produced a limited edition of 1,000 Grand Sport Corvettes. The "new" Grand Sports featured the 330hp LT4 engine with a six-speed transmission, and were available as both a coupe and a roadster. They were offered in only one color, Admiral Blue, with a wide, white center stripe flanked by a thin white stripe on each side, and two red "hash marks" on the left front fender. Two interior colors were offered-black or red-with the words "Grand Sport" embroidered in the headrest portion of the seats. The '96 Grand Sport featured the same aluminum five-spoke wheels used on '95 ZR-1's, but finished in an ominous black. Numerous detail differences set the '96 Grand Sports out as something unique, while still providing the same comfort and sophistication offered by the regular production C4s.
In September 1996, Grand Sport #300, a coupe, was purchased for a young U.S. Navy man stationed in the San Diego area by his uncle, who paid cash for it. The Vette featured every option available except for the "low tire pressure warning" system. On a dark night in December of 1996, while traveling a two-lane road on the outskirts of San Diego at around 100 mph, the 19-year-old lost control of his Vette, and veered off the road into a stand of eucalyptus trees. The wild ride ended when the car slammed backwards into one final tree. Unfortunately, the driver suffered fatal injuries when loose stereo gear in the rear struck him in the head, breaking his neck. This sounds like the end for GS #300 as well, but here is where its story really begins.
In the weeks following the crash, word of the fate of Grand Sport #300 reached long-time Corvette enthusiast Ron Austin. The GS was uninsured and had received severe damage, the majority of which was caused by trees shearing away body parts, and by the rear-end collision. Though the body was destroyed, every system in the Vette had, surprisingly, survived the wreck. In fact, the devastated Corvette was still idling when the first rescuers arrived at the scene of the crash. Ron is a three-time past president of a San Diego-area Corvette club, and has owned a long string of Corvettes over the years. He'd modified every one of them, to varying extents and to suit his tastes. For some time, he'd been looking for an LT1 drivetrain to drop into his wife's '63. But when Ron noted the condition of the GS's components, ideas started forming in his head, ideas for a one-of-a-kind car that would be "a blend of old and new, and would bear the marque of Grand Sport with all reverence due the name." Ron soon bought the wreckage, completely dismantled the car, and inventoried all the pieces he had.
After locating a trashed out '63 roadster "tub," Ron removed its entire firewall and what was left of the floor section. He chose this tub because the steel part of it, the only section he really needed, was in pretty good shape. The '96 firewall and floors, which had been surgically removed from the GS, were trimmed and grafted into the mid-year tub. The C-4's interior width was four inches wider than the mid-year, creating the need for a great deal of narrowing, reshaping, and custom fitting pieces throughout the entire project.