2017 Corvette Grand Sport: Legacy fulfilled -- track ready and street refined
By Mike Blake - Carlisle Events
Thursday, August 17, 2017
The term “street-legal race car” may be overused today, but it certainly is accurate when describing the new 2017 Corvette Grand Sport, which builds on the legacy established in 1963, when five Grand Sport race cars were built under the direction of the Corvette’s first chief engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov.
The historic Corvette Grand Sport was conceived as a light-weight, factory-built speed machine built to compete on domestic and foreign race tracks. Only five hand-assembled cars were built, and they were all driven by racing Hall of Famers including A.J. Foyt, Roger Penske, Jim Hall, Bob Bondurant, Dick Guldstrand and Dick Thompson, who won the Watkins Glen Sports Car Club of America race in a Grand Sport in August, 1963.
The light track cars, manufactured with thinner-than-normal fiberglass body panels and a light steel-tube frame, raced with various engines, but the most common among the plants used was the uncommon GS engine, an all-aluminum 377ci small-block V-8 with four Weber side-draft carburetors, combining to stampede out 550 horses.
Brought back in limited edition in 1996, with 1000 vehicles all wearing Admiral Blue paint with a white center stripe and red “hash mark” graphics on the left front wheel arch, to pay homage to the look of some of the original race cars, 1996 GS was offered with a 330hp LT4 V-8 engine that produced 340 lb-ft of torque.
Reborn again in 2010, Grand Sport evolves in 2017 to a C7 derivative, making it an on-point expression of the car’s motorsports-bred pedigree. Both the Coupe and Convertible versions combine a lightweight architecture, track-honed aerodynamics package, and a naturally aspirated engine. Architecturally, Grand Sport employs heritage-inspired design cues and exclusive features to acknowledge its historic legacy. Unique exterior elements include specific front fender inserts and Z06-style grille.
Built in Bowling Green, KY, the Grand Sport borrows from Stingray design cues with a touch of Z06, including the front grille and wider rear fenders, which give it a more aggressive stance and a wider track. The front and rear wheels are offset, measuring 19 by 10 inches up front with bigger and wider 20-by-12-inch wheels in the rear, covered in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires for solid traction. Grand Sport offers several exterior customization options to enhance its look, including the Heritage Package that adds hash-mark fender graphics in your choice of six colors with matching details on the brushed-aluminum trim in the cabin. The GS measures a sculpted 176.9 inches long, a wide-body road-hugging 77.4 inches wide and stable 48.7 inches high on a 106.7-inch wheelbase; from every angle, it screams Corvette.
Grand Sport performance is legendary, and the 2017 version lives up to the legacy. Weighing in at 3487 lbs. for the Convertible, GS has power to launch with its cast aluminum LT1 6.2-liter V-8 VVT with direct injection and Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation). The powerplant thunders out 460hp and 465 lb-ft of torque and can be mated to either a 7-speed manual with Active Rev Match or an 8-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission. The automatic is heavy and adds $1725 to the cost and the manual is so much more fun, so we went with the stick.
My test GS blazed as advertised, smoking tires in a 3.8-second hand-timed zero-to-60mph sprint and a sonic 12.3-second quarter-mile. Can you say "street-legal race car"?
The GS hugs the pavement with a Short/long arm double wishbone front and rear suspension, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, transverse-mounted composite spring and Magnetic Selective Ride Control – with Grand Sport-specific spring rate and stabilizer bar size.
EPA rated at 16/25, my test Grand Sport averaged 18mpg in mixed-use tests and a ton of fun pedal mashing.
In the cockpit, Grand Sport fits like the proverbial racing glove. With the top down, experiencing open-air driving exhilaration, there is nothing like Corvette. With the compartment closed, the driver and passenger are surrounded by leather, electronics and comfortable seating, with headroom a cozy 38 inches, legroom a spacious 43 inches and shoulder and hip room a cavernous 55 and 54 inches.
The 2017 Corvette Grand Sport is offered in 1LT, 2LT and 3LT trims, with the Base Coupe (1LT) starting at $66,445 and the base Convertible starting at $70,445 (both including $995 in destination and freight charges). The Convertible is assembled in rear-wheel-drive with a 9-speaker Bose® audio system, three seat color options and two 8-inch HD color displays for the 1LT. The 2LT trim starts at $74,900 and adds console and door panels in interior color, lumbar/wing adjust, heated/vented seats, seat emblems and more. My test ride was the top trim 3LT. Priced at $80,190, my GS added a custom leather-wrapped interior, sueded microfiber upper interior trim, Performance Data Recorder (optional on 1LT/2LT) and Napa leather seating surfaces. Premium paint can cost $995, but my test ride was in Arctic White and a Blue Center Stripe (for an additional $995) and Volcano Orange hash marks and Black Convertible Top at no extra charge. The Premium floor mats with Grand Sport logo, and GS Heritage package added $1790. There are cosmetic packages galore, but as we already had stripes and Volcano Orange fender hashmarks, the GS was cool enough as it was and the net price-as-tested was $81,980.
You can see new, old and classic Corvette Grand Sports and more than 5,000 Corvettes representing all generations of America’s classic sports car at the 35th annual Corvettes at Carlisle, Aug 24-27 at the Carlisle (PA) Fairgrounds. The largest and most fun-filled Corvette event in the world, Corvettes at Carlisle features a wide variety of vendors, an all-Corvette car corral, autocross, burnouts and the parade through historic downtown Carlisle.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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