by David Cook, images by David Cook and Doug Breithaupt

Corvette GS Premier Edition - Matchbox

Corvette GS (regular issue) - Matchbox

Corvette GS Premier Edition - Matchbox

1996 Corvette GS Premier Edition - Matchbox

The Grand Sport Corvettes were the brainchild of Corvette "Godfather" Zora Arkus-Duntov. They were designed to take on Carroll Shelby's hot new Cobras but unfortunately, during this time, the corporate climate at GM was strictly "anti-racing". Mr. Arkus-Duntov had to run the program in secret, stealing bits and pieces of hardware and budget here and there to make the first half-dozen examples. His ultimate goal was to manufacture 100+ units to be eligible to race in the FIA GT class at Sebring and LeMans.

The project began in 1963 with the first cars racing in SCCA "C" production class. These examples had stock 327-ci engines in a lightweight body. During the early 1960's, the North American racing season ended with the December Nassau "Speed Weeks", several days of hard-core, no-holds-barred racing and partying! The Corvette Grand Sports arrived in the Bahamas looking like they were on steroids- flared fenders, hood scoops and wider wheels and tires were the visible changes. Under the hoods were new 377-ci all aluminum engines sporting side-draft Weber carbs (high-tech for the time). Several of these engines were diverted to Jim Hall's Chaparral project (the subject of a later article to appear here). In this form, of course, the Grand Sports caused a sensation and blew the doors off everything in their class.

The first big race of the 1964 season was Sebring and the Grand Sports showed up here with a few more modifications and innovations, including one of the first pneumatic jack systems for quicker pit stops. They managed to finish this grueling race first in class, though well down in the field.

By now, however, GM management was catching on to Zora's little game and he was forced to hand over his toys to privateers, Roger Penske being one of the first. Penske was also blessed with the latest 427-ci engine, so powerful that the lightweight coupes could lift the front wheels off the ground in all four gears! At Nassau that year, he won one race outright and finished well up in others.

The privateer Grand Sports continued to race throughout 1965 and into 1966 but without corporate support they were outclassed and the titanic struggle between Ford and Ferrari took center stage on the world's sports car tracks.

It's ironic that after they quashed the program in the 1960's Corvette would now celebrate this effort with the C4 version of the Grand Sport, manufactured one year only in 1996.

Only two small-scale versions of Corvette's GS have been done but both are quite good. Matchbox produced the GS and it has seen many color variations from historically correct to hysterically ugly. The GS was also a popular subject for the Matchbox Premier Edition line. The three examples shown here are some of the best color combinations. In addition, Matchbox did their Corvette C4 convertible in 1996 GS colors as part of the Premier Edition line.

Johnny Lightning also did the GS in their comprehensive line of Corvette models. It has also come in a variety of colors, all quite realistic.

Corvette GS - Johnny Lightning

Corvette GS - Johnny Lightning

Corvette GS - Johnny Lightning

1996 Corvette GS (real car)