Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
By the end of 1950s, Chevrolet was the world’s most successful brand in motorsport. While its factory efforts were mostly limited to United States with a few Le Mans outings, many private teams and constructors used Chevrolet running gear and small block V8 engines to win various races in their countries. However, Chevrolet needed a pure racing car and the opportunity for that was introduced with the new Corvette C2 Stingray in late 1962.
The man behind the Grand Sport
The main force behind the Corvette racer was Zora Arkus-Duntov, a highly respected engineer and racer who worked at Chevrolet and realized the big potential of the new car. Arkus-Duntov was also the Le Mans 1955 winner and wanted to make a race car that would dominate the sports car class around the globe. In 1962, Shelby introduced the famous Shelby Cobra 289 with Ford engine and started winning in America as well as in Europe.This prompted Zora Arkus-Duntov to act fast. The biggest problem was the weight; the Cobra was 500 kilograms lighter than the stock Corvette. Understandably, most of the development was directed towards making the Corvette lighter and of course, increasing its power.
An Ambitious plan
The original plan was to build 125 sample models by the end of 1963 to ensure homologation and to start racing as a marketing tool for presentation of the new road going model. Zora Arkus-Duntov with his team of engineers made a new and lighter chassis, similar to the stock one but kept the independent suspension with four wheel disc brakes. The body was made of hand laid fiberglass with just a few layers to keep the weight down. The first example had coupe body, but with bigger wheel arches and exposed headlights. The car was powered with a specially made small block engine with 377 cubic inches (6 liters) and over 550 bhp. It had multiple Webber carburators with individual throtle bodies to ensure big power and a high rpm. Unfortunately, before the car could be properly finished, there was bad news from the top of the General Motors. GM and all its brands were pulling out of all motorsport activities and were stopping the financing of any private team or racer.
The corporate shot down
This spelt disaster for Arkus-Duntov and the Grand Sport project which already had 5 cars made and no racing experience. However, Arkus-Duntov decided that is was time for a gamble. He give three cars to private drivers to enter the 1963 Nassau Speed Week. The Corvette Grand Sport proved its worth finishing third, fourth and sixth. Encouraged by the success in Nassau and with no reaction from the top of GM, Zora started preparing cars for 1964 Le Mans transforming two other chassis to roadsters, but as soon as the GM manegment find out stopped the program.
However, the Corvette Grand Sport models were sold to private owners and they were raced in few selected events. Luckly, all five cars still exist to this day and are very expensive and valuable. They may not have had a chance to race and win but they are surely part of motorsport history’s biggest ’what if’ stories in motorsport world and a great piece of automobile history.