There's a song from 1968 by the Troggs called "Wild Thing" with the lyrics, "Wild thing, I think I love you...But I wanna know for sure". Patti Hutchinson found herself questioning her love for "Wild Thing", her husband's '96 Grand Sport coupe. The performance modifications seemed to grow on a daily basis-a Comp Cams 210/224 bumpstick, Hooker headers, Random Technology high-flow catalytic converters, Power Effects cat-back exhaust system, BFG drag radials, and so on.
"I like modifieds", says Patti, somewhat defensively, "But not for daily driving or for trips. When we lived in Hawaii in the late '70s, we did a lot of autocrossing with the '76. John did minor mods to make it run better. We've got all kinds of trophies from there."
John and Patti Hutchinson got married in 1970. Patti remembers first falling in love with Hutch, then with his '68 big-block Corvette. Through 31 years of marriage and 17 Corvettes, Patti has enjoyed the rides and the life long friends they made in the clubs.
Still, her Corvette experience was definitely suffering with the intense modifications to the Grand Sport. Eventually, they realized the solution was to get Patti her own Corvette. "It's kind of a cute story", Hutch laughs out loud. "I'm very much into performance and she prefers her cars stock and smooth and quiet. Every time I wanted to put something else on my car, it kind of ticked her off a little bit because I was putting this extra money into the car and turning it into a race car."
Hutch could certainly understand Patti's feelings. He told us, "I finally got to the point where I said, 'Well, I'll just get you your own.'"
At first, Patti got a '94 red convertible, which was a great car. Then, their good friend Roger Judski, who owns Roger's Corvette Center in Maitland, FL. (near the Hutchison's home in Orlando), came up with a pristine '96 Grand Sport convertible for sale.
This car seemed just the perfect Corvette for the Hutchisons. Patti told us, "Hutch loves Grand Sports, and this one had the red interior, which we had always wanted. So there was really no question about it when we found it."
Hutch explained why he was so attracted to this specialty series C4, "When they first came out I thought the paint job was real distinctive, and that's the first thing you see. And it was the last year of the C4s, so that's typically the best model year of a series. I liked the high performance of the engine, and the fact they were unique and distinctive. We always picked cars that were a little bit different."
Chevrolet built exactly 1,000 Grand Sports, divided between 810 coupes and 190 convertibles. Patti pointed out to us exactly 53 of the 190 came with the red interior, which she likes so well and plans to keep "as long as I can."
Hutch's Grand Sport, despite the stock look, is far from the factory configuration, including a custom front spoiler from Eckler's and new paint.
Hutch told us, "It's all been completely redone. On the factory Grand Sport the pinstripes and hash marks on the front fender are decals, they are tape. When I had this car redone, I had them put down the exact same dimensions, but all that stuff is in paint now with multiple coats of hand rubbed clear coat on top. So, when you run your finger over the stripes you don't feel any bumps. That is all paint under there. It just provides a much, much higher gloss to the car."
The LT4 350, likewise, looks stock. Hutch liked the factory engine graphics so well he wasn't about to change them. However, instead of the factory 330hp, Hutch's LT4 was recently dynoed at 364 to the rear wheels. He says this figure equates to about 450 at the flywheel. (Editor's note: We equate rear wheel horsepower to "crank" horsepower figuring a more conservative 15 percent drivetrain loss factor, which would equal slightly over 428 horses at the flywheel, which is exceptionally respectable territory on which to play.) The major change is a set of heads from CNC Heads. These are brand new factory LT4 castings, reworked by CNC Heads, a company near Tampa. The rest of the mods are bolt-on, including a 52mm throttle body, ram-air, and the aforementioned cam and exhaust mods.
Hutch's main goal was quicker ETs at the dragstrip, so he installed a Kurt White short throw shifter and a set of "Viper" gears. These are the same 4.10 gears that Dodge options in Vipers.
Hutch's best e.t. at the strip is a 12.7 at 109 mph, reached before he installed his newer, more radical 222/230 duration Crane cam. He explained, "I really think this longer duration camshaft is worth another 20hp. I think I'll be into the 12.5s, but I just haven't had it out yet. I'm still experimenting with tire pressures with the BFGoodrich drag radials. I just don't get out enough. You need to do it a lot if you want to get good at this stuff."
In the final analysis, Patti likes her Vette best, but also likes Hutch's Grand Sport. Hutch feels the same way, in reverse. He summed up their two car love affair, "We've got both cars to choose from. If we want to go out on a cruise, we put the top down on her car. It's a really nice fun car to drive around in, but when we want to go racing or something like that, then we've got the performance car. Of course, driving both cars to shows is a lot of fun. We park them together. We call them the Grand Sport twins. My car is called the Wild Thing. And her's? I tease her. I call it the Mild Thing."