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Haunted Highways: A Series Exploring The Ghosts Of Cars Gone By (Quickly)

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On: Mon, May 2, 2011 at 5:49PM | By: Lou Ruggieri


Haunted Highways:  A Series Exploring The Ghosts Of Cars Gone By (Quickly)

Every once in a while a car company gets it right. They mix the right blend of power, beauty, and mystique into the pot and come out with something that elicits an image of several engineers in lab coats smoking cigars and patting each other on the back as they stand at the end of the production line when the first model rolls off. In 1996 those crafty Chevy engineers had every right to celebrate when they made the very limited Corvette Grand Sport.

Even though there were only 1000 models made (810 coupes and 190 convertibles), the Grand Sport was a car that got worldwide attention. The C4 Corvette (fourth generation) was in its final model year, but after being around for 12 years (1984-1996), it seems Chevy wanted it to go out with a bang instead of a whimper.

Named after the illustrious purpose-built Grand Sports of the early 1960s, the 1996 version retained the paint scheme but upgraded almost everything else. Starting with a modified version of the venerable reverse-flow iron block aluminum-headed LT1 engine, the Grand Sport got a hotter cam, better flowing heads, larger valves, and more compression (10.4:1 to 10.8:1) that made an underrated 330 hp at 5800 rpm (versus the standard 300) and the LT4 designation.

Sitting on ZR-1 sized 275/40ZR-17s up front and 315/35ZR/17 steam rollers out back, these Admiral Blue badasses ripped to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds flat, and got through the quarter mile in a tick over 13 seconds (13.3 @ 109 mph). Big 13.0-inch front and 12.0-inch rear vented disc brakes hauled the striped beast down from that 60 mph mark in a very efficient 121 feet, and thanks to the Z51 Package (and those monstrous tires) the Grand Sport could pull 0.88g on a 200-ft skidpad and 62.6 mph through a 700-ft slalom course. Once you rowed your way through the ZF six-speed transmission, assuming you kept your nerve and foot on the gas, you would hit a top speed of just under 170 mph.

But the Grand Sport was more than just a modded C4. Although the white stripe, powder-coated black rims, and tell-tale red fender hash marks made it look the part of a racer, it just seemed to have an aura about it. As if, somehow the GM guys managed to channel Dick Guldstrand himself and infuse it into the Torch Red interior. Anyone that sees one of these endangered species knows instantly that they are witnessing something out of the ordinary, and they are right.

Now, if you were lucky enough to get a Grand Sport back in 1996 for anything close to its $37,225 base price (as tested prices usually crept closer to the mid-40s for the coupe and just shy of 50 grand for the convertible), and kept it in reasonable shape, you had a set of keys to a small investment. With low miles and a car that has been kept close to stock, the 1996 Corvette Grand Sports are worth today very close to their sticker prices when they first rolled off the line. Obviously if they have been beaten on, or modified, you can find them cheaper, it just depends on what you are looking for in your potential Grand Sport. You can’t go wrong with a car that GM engineers got right.

For the right price you can be one of those guys (or gals) getting pat on the back by colleagues and coworkers for making the right decision too. So if you want a collector piece to add to your collection, you certainly won’t be disappointed because even with the advent of the 2010 Corvette C6 Grand Sport, they are not making any more of the 1996 version. Or if you just want an extremely rare vehicle that embodies a rich racing heritage, while commanding attention anywhere it goes, you’ve got yourself one grand sports car in this magical Corvette


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