For Corvette fans, few words carry as much weight as “Grand Sport.” In 1963, Corvette chief engineer (also known as “The Father of the Corvette”) Zora Arkus-Duntov planned on building 125 lightweight, wide-body Corvettes to take on the Shelby Cobra at racetracks around the world. Unfortunately, GM pulled the plug on the program after just five cars had been built, stopping the Grand Sports before they could set the world on fire.
But their untapped potential made them legendary with Corvette fans, and in 1996, Chevy saw the C4 Corvette off with a revived Grand Sport model, with its now-iconic Admiral Blue paint, white racing stripe, red “hash marks” on its left front fender, and 330 horsepower LT4 V8. The cars quickly became some of the most sought-after C4s built.
In 2010, the Grand Sport retuned as a handling-focused model for the C6 Corvette, and now, with the C7 quickly making the argument for best-handling ‘Vette of all-time, Chevy has unveiled an all-new Grand Sport to dial the car in even further. According to the company:
The Grand Sport returns, leveraging more than 50 years of technology transfer from the track, while incorporating the distinctive styling attributes and special-edition aura that made previous versions popular with collectors. It is also the first production model to incorporate the chassis and suspension elements of the high-performance supercharged model in addition to its wider tires and fenders.
And by that, it means that the next Grand Sport will essentially be a naturally aspirated Z06. For purists who still like their engines breathing free, this is very big news.
This time around, the ’96 style hash marks make it to both front fenders, with the motif repeated on subtle “Grand Sport” badges on the front vents. Powered by the 6.2 liter LT1 V8, the Grand Sport cranks out 460 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. The bad news is that the new car is down 190 horsepower compared to the supercharged Z06, but with its big brakes and Z07 aerodynamic package available, Chevy claims that the Grand Sport is only 0.6 seconds slower around GM’s Milford Proving Ground than the Z06.
But “slower” might not exactly be the right word here. Zero to 60 still comes in 3.6 seconds, A row-your-own seven-speed manual and eight-speed automatic will help you get there, and wider tires and fenders help let people know what just passed them.
While the C7.R Le Mans car is really the spiritual successor to the ’60s-era Grand Sports, it was a no brainer for Chevy to bring back the nameplate. As it points out on its site, the C6 Grand Sport “… became the Corvette lineup’s most popular model, accounting for more than half of sales by the close of the sixth generation in 2013.” With the current-generation car that much better than the old model, this Grand Sport should prove to be one for the ages. There’s no word on pricing yet, but if the C6 version is any indication, it should start at significantly less than the $80K Z06. If that’s the case, you may be looking at the best track-day bargain on the planet.