Corvette Grand Sport Lights Up Geneva

Corvette Grand Sport

The Corvette Grand Sport has a long and proud tradition. Back in the 60’s, Zora Arkus-Duntov, the godfather of the Corvette, commissioned five specially modified Corvettes intended to dominate America’s race tracks. In 1963, General Motors suddenly decided to withdraw from all racing activities and the 5 original Grand Sports disappeared from the pit lane.

Original Corette Grand Sports
The five original Corvette Grand Sports. Photo Credit:

That wasn’t the end of it, though. Arkus-Duntov devised a passive aggressive strategy that paid lip service to corporate policy but still managed to slip quite a few special parts out the back door and into the hands of eager Corvette racers.  According to Car and Driver, those in the know were able to obtain larger brakes, bigger gas tanks, and the mighty L88 engine that was as close to a racing powerplant as ever came off a production line.

The Grand Sport name remained dormant until 1996, when Chevrolet dusted it off and applied it to a special version of the C4 Corvette. That car, which has now become quite the collector’s item, featured flared fenders wrapped around larger wheels and tires. It also had an engine that cranked out 30 extra horsepower. Chevrolet went back to the well in 2010 to create a Grand Sport version of the C6 Corvette. Once again, it took the wider wheels and tires and the upgraded suspension of the top of the line Z06 to make a special model that was almost as tenacious on the race track but cost less than the Z06.

This week in Geneva, Chevrolet is at it again. The latest Grand Sport follows in the tradition of taking the suspension pieces from the Z06 and bolting them to a standard Corvette. The springs and roll bars are upgraded, the electronically controlled differential is standard, the engine comes with dry sump lubrication to avoid oil starvation in high speed turns, and the optional dual mode exhaust is fitted which gives the car 5 more ponies under the hood.

Wheels are 19″ in the front and 20″ in the rear. They are shod with the same 285/30 and 335/25 Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber worn by the Z06. Brakes get special attention, too. Brembo 6 piston calipers squeeze 14″ diameter rotors up front. 4 piston Brembos work on 13.4″ rotors in the rear. For those who need more, order the Z07 package and get Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, carbon ceramic brakes, and a host of functional carbon fiber aerodynamic pieces designed to make the Grand Sport fly around a race track just a little bit faster. The Grand Sport will be available in both coupe and convertible versions.

Corvette Grand Sport

Later this year, Corvette will introduce a special Collector’s Edition. That car will be finished in Watkins Glen Gray with Tension Blue racing stripes across the front fenders, just the way they were on 1996 cars. The interior will be trimmed in matching blue leather.

Prices have not been announced yet, but since 1996, the Grand Sport program has always been about offering a car that has higher cornering limits for a few dollars more than the standard car and a few dollars less than the most powerful model that sits on top of the Corvette world at the moment. Car and Driver estimates the basic Grand Sport package will add about $5,000 to the normal bottom line.

Speaking of higher cornering limits, Corvette claims the Grand Sport will pull 1.20 g in hard cornering. Car and Driver says they have seen 1.19 g on their 300′ skidpad with the Z07 wheels and tires. Whether the new car has grip that is ferocious or merely tenacious, there are very few drivers who will ever find its limits in real world driving.

Corvette Grand Sport

Photo credits: Car and Driver

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.