One of America's most famous racecars, the Penske Grand Sport represented the state-of-the-art of American road racing. The first of five Grand Sport racers developed by Chevrolet, Chassis 001 was converted to a spectacular roadster after the GM Board of Directors withdrew direct support for the Chevrolet racing program. Later sold to Roger Penske, it is shown in its famous Penske livery as it raced at Sebring in 1966 (Drivers: Guldstrand and Thompson)
The big three American automobile manufacturers entered into a non-racing agreement near the close of the 1950s. This meant that there would be no factory support for racing. Ford was the first to forgo the agreement in 1962 with their support for the Carroll Shelby racers. Chevrolet had pranced around the agreement by stating their prototypes were tested at the racing circuit.
The Shelby designed vehicles were fast, scoring impressive finishes at racing circuits such as LeMans. GM tried to beat them with their Corvettes but they had their shortcomings. Their chassis was heavy and their brakes were not up to par. Zora Arkus-Duntov, the father of the Corvette, pushed GM executives to create a new vehicle that could compete with the Cobra. The resulting design was dubbed the Grand Sport. It was similar in design to a Corvette Coupe but clothed in fiberglass. Disc brakes replaced the drums. Weight was further reduced with the adoption of a ladder frame with oval tubes. A 377 cubic-inch fuel-injected V8 capable of producing 550 horsepower was proposed to power the Grand Sport, but never made it off the testing floor. Instead, a 327 cubic-inch engine producing 360 horsepower was installed.
Five examples, all in coupe form, were created and supplied to privateers for racing. To pass homologation requirements for GT racing, 100 examples needed to be produced. Since this requirement was not met, the Grand Sport raced in the prototype class where they were provided no competition to the powerful, mid-engined racers.
The Grand Sport did get an opportunity to challenge the Cobras at the 1963 Nassau Speed Week. An aluminum eight-cylinder engine capable of producing nearly 500 horsepower was installed into the mouth of the corvette. By the end of the race, the Grand Sport had proven their point and completely conquered the Cobras.
The Grand Sports were prepared for the 1964 Daytona and Sebring races. These tracks are extremely fast and vehicles with aerodynamic bodies have a better advantage. To capitalize, two of the vehicles were transformed to convertibles. Unfortunately, GM halted the project and the Grand Sports were not raced. The cars were sold to privateers where they were campaigned at various racing circuits. One of the famous privateers was Roger Penske who defended the Nassau GT Victory with a repeat in 1964. By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2006
It took 100's of hours of research and 5 years to build. This car is a replica of Mecom Chassis #003 as raced at Sebring in 1964 by A.J. Foyt & Jim Hall. It took promoter choice at Sevierville Corvette Expo and won Oliver Gavin Award at ALMS show at Mid-Ohio. It has been autographed by A.J. Foyt, has reached 175 mph, and was featured in Vette Vues Magazine.
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