1963 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
Chassis Number : GS002 Horsepower : 480 Displacement : 8-cylinder, 7.0 L Wheelbase : 98"
In early 1962 Corvette chief Zora Arkus-Duntov began in the development of a car known inside the division simply as the “Lightweight.” The objective was overall victory at FIA endurance races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The project had the approval of Chevrolet head Bunkie Knudson, but due to the ban on all racing activities by the corporate leaders at GM, the plan was a tightly-held secret.
Five Grand Sports were built. The cars were designed to be as light and as powerful as possible. The chassis, bodies, and virtually all other components were specially designed and handmade by the team of engineers – even small items like hood and door hinges were hand-fabricated out of aluminum. With this extensive use of aluminum, combined with a lightweight tube frames, fabricated suspension, and special ultra-thin fiberglass bodies, the Grand Sports weighed under 2000 pounds – 1100 pounds less than production Corvettes.
In 1963, Grand Sports 003 and 004 were extensively raced, undergoing continuous development over the season. At the end of the year, all five cars underwent engine, drive-train, and body upgrades. Most significantly, the almost stock engines were replaced with full-race aluminum 377 cubic inch engines that produced over 550 horsepower. The upgrades proved themselves at Nassau in December, with Grand Sports 003, 004 and 005 overwhelming the Cobras and Ferraris. Then, as a final step in the Grand Sport’s evolution, the engineers converted 001 and 002 to roadsters for the upcoming 1964 Daytona endurance race. These two roadsters became the lightest-weight and fastest Grand Sports of all.
But in early 1964, higher-ups at General Motors ordered the project canceled, and the cars destroyed. Instead, the engineers quickly transferred 003, 004 and 005 to private racers, and somehow managed to keep the two roadsters hidden at Chevrolet for two more years.
Finally in 1966, the roadsters were sold to Roger Penske. They were repainted (one blue, one white), and converted to 427 power. Penske entered 001 at Sebring where despite its immense power, it was now outclassed by the mid-engined Chaparrals and GT-40’s. Penske then sold 002 to George Wintersteen, who briefly campaigned the car in the 1966 USRRC series.
Although 002 later changed hands a few times, it remained in its 1966 Wintersteen-raced condition, virtually untouched for over thirty years.
When Jim Jaeger purchased Grand Sport 002 in 1990 it was, remarkably, still in “as-raced-in-1966” condition. Jaeger showed the car several years in this configuration, before deciding on a very unique restoration path.
Grand Sport 002 was the only car of the five that had never been restored. As a result, the car held a wealth of historic information. Much of the car was so original, many of its handmade parts still had the scribed, painted and even wax-pencil markings made by Corvette engineers during the car’s construction in 1963. In order to preserve the original body (still in its 1966 privateer colors), Jaeger commissioned a precise duplicate of the body to be crafted and finished exactly to the original Corvette Engineering configuration, and an all-aluminum 377 cubic inch engine to be built to 1964 specifications. Needless to say, no aftermarket or replica parts were used in this multi-year, Smithsonian-grade project.
The original body was carefully removed from the chassis. It was thoroughly researched, compared to original blueprints, measured, weighed, and photographed for reference. Every individual component, body panel, marking, and fastener was completely documented. (The information is already being used to refine details on other Grand Sports.)
Hundreds of components, from large to miniature, were precisely recreated in aluminum, fiberglass and steel. Dozens of molds were developed from the original body using a new plaster based technology. Finally the original silver-blue metallic color had been protected under the door sill plates, and a perfect match was mixed in lacquer.
This unique restoration philosophy resolved a well-known dilemma for owners of historically significant cars. One can choose to preserve the past, by keeping a car in its time-worn, but original condition. Or instead, one can recreate the past, by restoring a car to perfection, while losing the originality fever. The restoration of 002 cleverly accomplishes both, by preserving the unrestored original, and painstakingly recreating the most historic point in the car’s past.