Corvette Gran Sport

1963 Chevy Corvette Photo by Michael DiPLeco – “What’s in that damn dinosaur? It went by me like I was stopped.” A.J. Foyt, driving the latest 500 hp prototype at Sebring was not the last Ford racer to be stunned by the sheer acceleration of a Grand Sport. Intended as a series of 125, the “Lightweight”, at a 1000 pounds less than the production Sting Ray, was supposed to counter Carroll Shelby’s brand new Cobras in the GT World Championship races. But the Grand Sport program died almost the day it was born, killed by GM’s refusal to lift its ban on racing. When the ax fell at year-end 1962, only five cars existed at Chevrolet’s Research Center. Two were quickly “sold” to private teams. Alas, the orphaned cars could not be homologated as production GT’s like the Cobras, and consequently had to run in C Modified, a class for which they were never intended. Gran Sport.
Vindication came at the December, 1963 Nassau Speed week, a week-long party punctuated by races run to promote Sherman ‘Red’ Crise’s own rules. For the first time, the Grand Sports were allowed to compete directly with the Cobras. Earlier, two privateer Lightweights had been recalled by Chevrolet and, along with a third, extensively improved. Now fitted with 377 cubic inch aluminum engines, the cars were entered by “owner” John Mecom. Conveniently, a group of Chevrolet engineers chose Nassau for a one week vacation.
Driven during the week by Roger Penske, Jim Hall, Dick Thompson, John Cannon, and Augie Pabst, the Corvettes simply demolished their Cobra rivals. Wrote Leo Levine, “The Chevrolet equipment won so easily, there was even some embarrassment on the part of the factory personnel, who had hoped the journey South would escape unnoticed. But at the same time, they were smirking.”