During this 50th Anniversary year of the Chevrolet Corvette, perhaps the most significant display took place at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 9th. For the first time ever, all five Grand Sports were united. Unfortunately, it rained on their parade.
The 8th edition of the world–class concours at Amelia Island, Florida, was a victim of the weather. The day began with thunderstorms and heavy rain that lasted well into the afternoon.
Quick thinking and the efforts of many salvaged the show which employed the previous evening’s RM auction tents, the Ritz–Carlton’s ballroom and its adjacent garage. Although the concours was far removed from what it could have been, the event was not a washout. The day also ended in thunder, but this time courtesy of the Corvette Grand Sports as they assembled in front of the Ritz–Carlton for a group photo to commemorate the historic occasion.
The Grand Sport was conceived and constructed in the shadows of General Motors in 1962–’63 by Zora Arkus–Duntov in an effort to challenge Carroll Shelby’s Cobra. Five cars were built before GM’s upper management blew the whistle on the project. Although the Grand Sports were quietly let out the back door to race, they were relegated to run in the modified classes because of insufficient production. Consequently, the ultimate Corvettes failed to achieve their intended goal. They are now regarded as rare tokens of Duntov’s master plan to place Corvette in the winners’ circle of the world’s most prestigious races—an achievement that would finally come at Le Mans in 2001.
All five Grand Sports were originally built as coupes. The first two built were the last to enter competition after being rebodied by GM as roadsters. In the above photo the roadster in the front row is the first Grand Sport built (001) that is currently owned by Harry Yeaggy of Cincinnati, Ohio. The white coupe is the last built (005) and is owned by Bill Tower of Plant City, Florida, who also organized this historic gathering. On the left in the back row is the second roadster (002) owned by Jim Jaeger of Cincinnati, making the Ohio city the home of both roadsters. In the middle is coupe 003, owned and extensively raced in historic events by Tom Armstrong of Issaquah, Washington. Miles Collier's coupe (004) is fresh from a exacting restoration and is housed in Collier’s world–class automobile collection in Naples, Florida.
It may have rained on their parade, but, in retrospect, the Grand Sports’ competition career saw little sun......Art Eastman.