Chevrolet constructs two nostalgic special Corvette editions
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
Grand Sport 1962: Corvette's legendary lightweight Sting Ray race cars -- consisting of only three coupes and two roadsters -- were built with tubular frames and covered by thin fiberglass skins, then rigged with small-block Chevy aluminum engines and steered to success on swift circuits by skillful driver with names like Penske, Foyt and Hall.
Grand Sport 1996: Special coupe and convertible Corvette editions -- boldly painted in Admiral Blue Metallic with crisp white racing stripe zipping up the exaggerated hood -- generate excessive horsepower from a high-output Chevy V8 and support special suspension components tuned for showroom stock, autocross and gymkhana enthusiasts.
Climb into the glove-tight Grand Sport seat, strap on a racing helmet, then buckle tight as Corvette tackles the twisty loop at Wisconsin's Road America, my favorite track.
When that 5.7-liter V8 cranks over, note the snort from 330 horses. Slip the manual stick into first of six forward gears, ease off clutch and roll to the head of a quarter-mile straight. At the flag, stomp the throttle and release fat 17-inch rubber as shoulders pin to leather.
A tachometer flips across the analog gauge and all that low-end torque hurls Grand Sport down the flat, speed rising rapidly with wrist twitching the lever to second gear.
First turn comes in a hard right as velocity climbs beyond 90 mph, so ease off the pedal and test those big disc brakes. In reaction, SC's front end dips and we're in the curve now, cutting to the apex before upshift to third.
Speed builds through wiggles descending into a broad right sweeper. Tap toe to brakes and the rumble strip indicates we're clear, drifting to the outer edge.
Now comes fun: The long inside straight, where highest speed will come -- 135 mph if gutsy enough to hold off brakes until only a block out of the dog-leg left. Tires protest in a controlled slide mere cars could not manage.
Gun it up the blind hill but brake before the top or Grand Sport won't make that tight left, much less the next right. Add throttle coming out of the second one for a downhill run to 90 mph until slowing for the sharp left, but drift out and build speed around that quarter-mile rightward sweep, pulling G-forces through your eyeballs with a lateral slide across the apex.
Another long and swift stretch follows with upshift to fourth, then down a notch to slip right and up to the blind left. Speed rips again toward that last right -- hardest of all to judge but most necessary to brake -- and it's flat out up a final hill to the finish flag.
Drive the 4-mile Road America loop conservatively with a sportster less powerful than this 'Vette and you won't come close to busting three minutes. Take it with aggression in Super Sport and you might cross the final line a hair or two under two-fifty.
Fun on wheels won't feel better than this -- and neither will Corvette.
Chevrolet packages all of the accoutrement of exacting performance and racing in a simple Grand Sport statement of muscle, power and panache -- then attaches a tag on top that runs to $43,823 in coupe, or for convertible, $51,288.
These are the versions that draw eyes and take your breath when running hard and fast.
Another special edition for Corvette with 1996 label, swan song for the fourth generational design, wears Sebring Silver paint and rolls on 5-spoke aluminum wheels.
Call this Corvette the Collector Edition, marking the end of an era like elite models of 1982 and 1988 once did.
It arrives as coupe or convertible with special cockpit-style interior features such as perforated sport seats with CE emblem embroidered in red, black or light gray. Further, Collector Edition sports ZR-rated 17-inch tires, then offers a choice of standard LT1 5.7-liter engine pumped to 300 hp, or the LT4 330 hp variation of Grand Sport with that 6-speed manual aboard.
What about Corvette's raucous ZR-1, stuffed with the outrageous LT5 405 hp V8 high-output engine?
Consider that one another Corvette collector's model because its run, beginning in 1990, ended with a final 448 issues of the 1995 model.
However, for the 1996 series Corvette also serves up a base coupe and convertible, each hauling the 300 hp LT1 engine linked to Chevy's electronically-controlled automatic 4-speed transmission.
Figures drop to $37,790 for the coupe.
For digits like those you get fanciful mechanical systems and high-tech hardware which extend to the point where Corvette becomes one of the most nimble, and fast, zippers on four wheels.
After engine and transmission some serious hardware shows up as standard equipment, beginning with a 4-wheel independent suspension system.
Power-assisted rack and pinion steering follows, plus 4-wheel disc brakes connected to a Bosch design providing both anti-lock action and traction control that combines engine spark retard, throttle close down and brake intervention. A button on the dash allows a driver to disconnect to produce more wheel slip for hard cornering.
Corvette's selective damping system, optional at all levels, sets sensors and accelerometers at each wheel to measure movement. Collected data passes through the powertrain controller that modulates a sophisticated ride management system with near-instant adjustments to shock absorbers for optimum vehicle control -- all aspects functioning in real time measured below 15 milliseconds.
The coupe's optional Z51 performance handling package brings new Bilstein shock absorbers and stiffer springs and front and rear stabilizer bars, plus more aggressive tires.
Dazzling electronic additions include the PASS-Key II theft-deterrent system and an inventive passive keyless entry device which automatically locks and unlocks doors (and arms or disarms a theft-deterrent system) when the battery-powered key fob moves away or toward a sensor connected to door locks.
This is a hands-free system -- walk away with the fob in your pocket and doors will lock. When you return, doors unlock just before you reach for the latch. It's magical.
The long list of standard figures for comfort and convenience apply to all Corvette editions, ranging from air conditioning and power windows to dual electric heated outside rearview mirrors, cruise control and twin airbags.
1996 CHEVROLET CORVETTE
| Vehicle Specifications:
| 1996 CHEVROLET CORVETTE Specs
||2-seat coupe, convertible
| Model Options:
||2-seat coupe, convertible
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||LT1 5.7-L V8
LT4 5.7-L V8 HO
| Gas Mileage:
||LT1: 16/24 mpg
LT4: 17/25 mpg
||$ 37,790 to $ 51,288