When ever we’re talking about Corvette performance around the office, one of the first names that springs to our minds is always Lingenfelter, and for good reason. Lingenfelter has been building high-horsepower, mind-boggling Corvettes for well over 40 years now. And you don’t earn the reputation that they have by resting on your laurels—though they easily could. Enter Superformance’s Corvette Grand Sport replica kit, combine it with a little Lingenfelter knowhow and you’re off to the races—literally and figuratively.
The OG GS
But first, lets jump back to 1962, when the now renowned Chevrolet Chief Engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov first commissioned 125 purpose-built Corvettes, called the Grand Sport (internal designation: “The Lightweight”), to compete in the GT class of the 24 Hours of LeMans. His goal at the time was to provide racers with a car that could compete—nay destroy—the Cobra at endurance racing. However, GM was in the midst of a “racing ban” that put the kibosh on any car produced solely for the purpose of racing. It was rumored the Carol Shelby himself had said that the reason the Cobra was so successful was because of the corporate red tape that had created a hurdle for Duntov. And while the car did eventually make it to production, only five were ever built before Chevrolet axed the project all together after figuring out what was going on.
Zora himself kept the first two ever made. Number three, four, and five were eventually sent to John Mecum of Houston, Texas who then sold the remaining cars to Texas-natives Alan Sevadjian, Delmo Johnson, and Jim Hall respectively. The three cars then went on to do what they were designed to do, race. Featuring all forms of motivation ranging from the infamous all aluminum 377 cubic inch small-block—which produced a staggering 550 hp and featured four Weber carburetors on a cross ram intake—to the very first racing big-block to ever leave Chevrolet, and an overall body and chassis structure that had been lightened by some 800 pounds, these cars weren’t for the faint of heart. The cars were piloted by some of the greatest hot foots (feet?) of their generation, including A.J. Foyt, Roger Penske, Jim Hall and Dick Guldstrand.
Today, an original 1962 Corvette Grand Sport is priceless, as you’d be lucky to even find one being sold, much less to have the spare scratch to pick one up—the last one offered up for bid in 2008 ended up not selling for $4.9 million. So where does that leave you if you yearn to feel like A.J. Foyt blasting down the Ullman Straight at the 12 Hours of Sebring?
Well, that’s when you turn to Superformance for one of their Grand Sport replica kits. And while it may be blasphemous to say, the replica’s chassis, suspension, and engine (when paired with Lingenfelter), is better in almost every way than the original. Technology has come a long way and the kit you can now buy from Superformance has the benefit of over 50 year’s worth of technology.
The Superformance Platform
Each car comes complete with independent front and rear suspension and tips the scales at a mere 2,500 pounds. While this is heavier than the original (which weighed a svelte 1,800 pounds), keep in mind that many of these cars include air conditioning and other accouterments that a racecar typically goes without to cut down on weight. Each comes to you as a factory assembled rolling chassis, complete with suspension, brakes, interior, steering and “show quality PPG paint finishes.”
Not only do they do most of the hard work for you, but the car is officially licensed by GM itself. Meaning that this is as close to a perfect replica as you will ever get. Most of the car was designed working from the originals—and we’re here to tell you that it shows.
When the guys over at Lingenfelter, more specifically Ken Lingenfelter himself, got a whiff of the new Grand Sport rolling out the doors of Superformance, he knew they had to have one for his personal collection. So they approached Superformance to broker a partnership that ended with Lingenfelter bringing one of the first reproduction Grand Sport’s to the world. This also began a partnership in which you can now buy a Grand Sport and have it sent to Lingenfelter for all of the drivetrain work.
“When a customer buys the car, they have several options from an engine and tranmission perspective,” said Mark Rapson of Lingenfelter Performance Engineering. “We’re somewhat of a preferred option, and that’s when a customer will decide exactly what they want in the powertrain. They can specify exactly what they want in the engine as far as induction and power.”
When the car first entered the hallow halls of Lingenfelter, it was little more than just a husk—albeit a great looking one—that was searching for a little bit of soul. Lingenfelter wanted the car to retain the spirit of the old Grand Sport but with the modern performance and amenities of an engine built in this millennia.
They eventually landed on a bullet that would give a nod to the past while embracing the future of the Chevrolet small-block. An LS7 was selected for motivational duties which, in case you have been hiding under a rock since 2006, is a 427 cubic inch LS. In a way, the engine acknowledges the famed 427 cubic inch big-blocks that were king of the hill in Chevy-land back in the Grand Sport’s hey day, while embracing the superb performance, drivability, and fuel economy of a modern mill.
“We were interested in putting what would be a 427 cubic inch motor in it,” Rapson said. “Those were the holy grail motors back in the day and we thought it would be great to have the best of both worlds.”
Not only did they want the engine displacement to be a throw back, they wanted it to look the part as well. They opted to go with a Holley intake manifold plumbed for the use of two four barrels. But instead of using carburetors, they selected two four-barrel Holley throttle bodies that would allow liberal doses of atmosphere to reach the Lingenfelter Performance Engineering ported cylinder heads.
“We wanted it to look like the classic dual-quad manifold setup,” Rapson said. “Obviously we still wanted the fuel injection for drivability reasons, but for all intents and purposes, it looks like a carbureted setup. It was important to us that it sounded like it would have back in the day, too.”
The entire setup is controlled by a Holley EFI system that subtly makes itself known when the engine fires to life after only a crank or two from the starter. However, the lope and sound give no indication that anything but an old-school brute is lurking under the louvered hood of the GS. An LPE GT21 camshaft gives the mill its idle characteristics while custom Kooks headers speed spent exhaust gases to the era-correct side pipes, on which you can definitely still burn your leg—we know from personal experience.
Most would consider the LS7’s well-thought-out bottom end plenty for naturally aspirated duties, but not Lingenfelter. The rotating assembly was swapped for a Callies forged crankshaft spinning Eagle forged rods. Diamond forged slugs convert combustion into crank and help to ensure the bullet will handle any RPM.
A Tremec T-56 6-speed transmission houses the cogs and routes all 660 horsepower of the LS7’s considerable grunt to the independent rear suspension. Wilwood binders add the whoa to the LS7’s considerable go and provides consistent stopping performance even the harshest track conditions.
And while the car may lack the rarity of the original, it comes with a myriad of its own benefits; such as A/C, improved drivability, and the ability to flog it around the track with out possibly wrecking something that costs more than some Malibu beach houses. And can you really put a price on that?
If you want one, but don’t care to have anything but an old-school big- or small-block between the fenders, Lingenfelter can build anything your heart desires—although, we mean, come on. Why would you choose anything else these days?
If you’re headed to SEMA this year, you’ll be able to see Lingenfelter’s work up close and personal at their booth.
“We’re building another one right now that you will most likely be seeing at SEMA,” Rapson said. “It has a little different motor package and a lot of other trick items that we will offer. They are built in limited quantities, you’ll never see hundreds of them hit the streets, but we’re in a position to do them as quickly as they turn them out.”