Until the Corvette came along in 1953, sports car enthusiasts had little to get excited about in the United States. Maybe that's one of the reasons why hot rodding became so popular. We didn't have anything lightweight, low to the ground, and powerful enough, so some of us customized the family grocery-getters and made them go fast and look cool. British sports cars also became popular in North America after World War II, with Morris Garages importing the MGTC, TD, and later TF models through the mid-'50s. Jaguar introduced its sensuous XK120 roadster, cabriolet, and fixed head coupe in '49. When it came stateside soon after, the 120, 140, and eventually the larger and later restyled XK150 helped usher in a yearning in this country for two-seat sports machines that were as long on performance as they were in the looks department. When Chevrolet introduced the Corvette in '53, it looked fabulous. With a long hood and short deck, it was designed after the Jaguar XK120. Though the powerplant was called the Blue Flame Special, it was actually a hopped-up version of the straight-six-cylinder engine that powered GM family sedans. The engine produced just 150 hp. If they were truly sports cars, Corvettes needed more power and better handling.
The roadster was painted to...
The roadster was painted to copy the Roger Penske Chevrolet team entry.
Chevrolet introduced the 265ci V-8 in '55 and began offering the V-8 engine in the '56 Corvette. Finally, the Corvette had grunt and consequently found a buying public. The second-generation Corvette, or C2, was introduced in the fall of '62. It had an all-independent-suspension chassis, various V-8 drivetrains available, and appeared spaceship swift at rest. Though the Automobile Manufacturer's Association had effectively banned the Big Three American automobile companies from racing in '57, Ford and Chrysler announced they were going to ignore the AMA's edict and would pursue racing in '62. Semon E. "Bunkie" Knudsen, divisional head of Chevrolet, was a fan of high performance, as was the lead engineer for the Corvette, Zora Arkus Duntov. Bunkie gave Duntov the green light to produce five Grand Sport prototypes. The plan was to build the prototypes, test them, and develop 125 for sale to the public to meet FIA racing homologation rules to be eligible for racing in the Grand Touring class.
Both cars have 502ci GM crate...
Both cars have 502ci GM crate engines. The coupe's engine bay also includes a Vintage Air A/C compressor.
Duntov was able to build the five prototypes, three coupes and two roadsters, before another anti-racing edict came down from higher up in GM in January '63. The five prototypes were pushed out the back door to various race teams. What is so amazing about these five special race cars is that they all still exist today. They were campaigned by various privateers in the '60s, vintage-raced in the '80s and '90s, and are still around in '07. All five of the Grand Sports were on display at the '03 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.
For those of us who can't afford one of the original five Grand Sports, Mongoose Motorsports makes a faithful reproduction of both the coupe and the roadster. At the Carlisle Nats, we photographed the roadster, painted to replicate the original #001 Roger Penske Chevrolet team #10 car. We also photographed the coupe at the Nats and later at the London Cobra Show during the autocross. The coupe is painted to copy John Mecom's race team #3, wearing race number 2.
What if the mandate to end racing had never come down from above at GM in '63? Then names like Bill Thomas with the Chevrolet 327ci-powered Cheetah and Zora Arkus Duntov with the Grand Sport coupe and roadster might be even more famous today in American racing lore than Carroll Shelby with the Cobra 289FIA, Daytona coupe, Shelby GT350, and Cobra 427SC.
We understand that Mongoose Motorsports has decided to bring the Grand Sport coupe, roadster, and the Corvette GTP to the Run 'N' Gun this year for a bit of what-if analysis. There's no way to rewrite history, but it sure will be fun to see how well these GM-powered Corvettes run at Gateway International Raceway on the road course, at the autocross, and on the dragstrip against the many Cobras, Daytona coupes, GT40s, Lotus Super Sevens, and other replica racers participating. We hope to see you at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois, October 11-13. For more information, visit the Run 'N' Gun Web site, www.runngun.net. Until then, check out these two snake charmers in repose and at speed; they're Plastic Fantastic, indeed!
At the London Cobra Show autocross,...
At the London Cobra Show autocross, the Grand Sport coupe tore it up, posting the fastest time until it had a bit of mechanical difficulty and had to retire in the afternoon.
The Mongoose Motorsports Grand...
The Mongoose Motorsports Grand Sport cars get fully reconditioned C4 Corvette independent front and rear suspensions installed on an all-new tubular steel chassis.
The original roadster wore...
The original roadster wore the #10 for the Sebring race in '66.
At the autocross we learned...
At the autocross we learned that Mongoose Motorsports equipped the coupe with a lightweight aluminum driveshaft, which wasn't up to the demands of the course.
Trimmed in vinyl as the genuine...
Trimmed in vinyl as the genuine ones were, the roadster seats and the coupe seats were the same.
One can tell this is the coupe's...
One can tell this is the coupe's dashboard with the Vintage Air controls in the center console.
1963 Grand Sport coupe & roadster replicas
|Frame: ||4-inch tubular steel chassis|
|Wheelbase: ||98 inches|
|Rearend: ||Dana 44|
|Rear Suspension: ||C4 Corvette|
|Front Suspension: ||C4 Corvette|
|Rear Brakes: ||C4 Corvette|
|Front Brakes: ||C5 Corvette|
|Brake Lines: ||Stainless steel|
|Master Cylinder: ||C4 Corvette|
|Brake Booster: ||C4 Corvette|
|Steering: ||C4 rack-and-pinion, Flaming River column|
|Front Wheel |
|Make & Size: ||17x9-inch PS Engineering bolt on|
|Rear Wheel |
|Make & Size: ||17x11-inch PS Engineering bolt on|
|Front Tire Make & Size: ||275/40/17 Michelin Pilot (coupe), 275/40/17 Sumitomo radial (roadster)|
|Rear Tire Make & Size: ||335/35/17 Michelin Pilot (coupe), 315/35/17 Sumitomo radial (roadster)|
|Paint Brand/Type: ||PPG basecoat clearcoat|
|Windshield/Glass: ||Stock C2 Corvette (coupe), Stock C2 Corvette cut down (roadster)|
|Top: ||Hard top (coupe), None (roadster)|
|Roll Bar: ||Replicates original|
|Grille: ||Replicates original|
|Lights: ||Replicates original|
|Mirrors: ||Replicates original|
|Emblems and Trim: ||Replicates original|
|Fuel System: ||Electric fuel-pump|
|Fuel Tank: ||Aluminum|
|Gauges: ||Auto Meter|
|Wiring: ||Painless Performance Products|
|Steering Wheel: ||Mahogany and chrome|
|Seating: ||Grand Sport style seats|
|ENGINE & TRANS|
|Make: ||GM crate engine|
|Engine Type: ||502ci with 502 hp|
|Water Pump: ||Billet Specialties|
|Radiator: ||Griffin aluminum|
|Air Cleaner: ||K&N filter 11-inch round|
|Ignition: ||Electronic GM|
|Exhaust System: ||4-inch-diameter side exhaust with Spiral turbo mufflers|
|Transmission Type: ||Tremec T56 six-speed (coupe), Tremec TKO-600 five-speed (roadster)|
|Air Conditioning: ||Vintage Air (coupe), None (roadster)|
|Battery: ||Car Quest|
|Engine Brackets: ||Billet Specialties|
|Accessories: ||Tilt wheel (both), Power windows (coupe), AM/FM stereo (both)|