It wasn’t very long ago that Mid America Motorworks (MAM) put out an awesome VIN decoding tool, which we were happy to share with all of our readers. Anyone who has done some significant research on a car can certainly appreciate the amount of time and energy that it takes to cover all the facets that make up an automobile, and ultimately decipher the pieces that can help to tell an honest example, from one they may not be exactly original.
That being said, MAM has been hard at work diving into all things C4 Grand Sport and has compiled one outstanding guide. With these cars seemingly growing in popularity, do yourself a favor and give this a thorough read if you think you’ll ever be sitting behind the wheel of your own 1996 Grand Sport.
Everyone wants to find that “matching numbers” Corvette, but what does that really mean? Unfortunately, there are some cars that claim to be something they aren’t. One way to ensure that you’re really purchasing a Grand Sport is to check the Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN, located on the driver side of the dash. A true 1996 Grand Sport will have a VIN that falls between 1G1YY2251T5600001 and 1G1YY2251T5601000. Note the “T56” in the 10th thru 12th positions in the VIN, which is unique to 1996 Corvette Grand Sports. Also note the last 4 digits, which are the sequence number or what we simply call the “GS #” ranging from 0001 to 1000.
There are were only a handful of options available with the 1996 Grand Sport as most were included as standard equipment in the RPO Z16 (Grand Sport Package).The main options that you should look for are the body style (coupe or convertible), interior color (black or red/black), and suspension (FE1 base, Z51 [coupe only], or F45). The box to the right describes how many 1996 Grand Sports were produced with the major option combinations.
It’s no secret that if you’re shopping for a new vehicle, you want to get the best price. As with any Corvette, the fall or winter is generally a better time to buy than in the spring or summer. It should be noted that the rarer (red/black interior) or more expensive (convertible) options will always garner a higher price for a particular Grand Sport, given all other factors remain constant.
The following describes how many 1996 Grand Sports were produced with the major option combinations:
1000 Total Grand Sports
810 Grand Sport Coupes
593 Coupes with black interior
197 Coupes with black interior and FE1 base suspension
206 Coupes with Black Interior and F45 Suspension
190 Coupes with Black Interior and Z51 Suspension
217 Coupes with Red/Black Interior
40 Coupes with Red/Black Interior and FE1 Base Suspension
91 Coupes with Red/Black Interior and F45 Suspension
86 Coupes with Red/Black Interior and Z51 Suspension
190 Grand Sport Convertibles
137 Convertibles with Black Interior
76 Convertibles with Black Interior and F45 Suspension
61 Convertibles with Black Interior and FE1 Base Suspension
53 Convertibles with Red/Black Interior
42 Convertibles with Red/Black Interior and F45 Suspension
11 Convertibles with Red/Black Interior and FE1 Base Suspension
A Grand Sport looks great on the outside with its Admiral Blue paint, large Arctic White skunk stripe down the middle and red hashmarks on the left front fender. You will want to examine the exterior in bright sunlight or under fluorescent light as this makes it easier to find surface imperfections. Here are some things to look for:
The Admiral Blue color shows slight clear coat scratches easily. Do not be too concerned about these unless they are very deep. Be concerned more about rock chips and deep scratches through the clear coat.
The skunk stripe is painted on (Arctic White) but the blue/white pinstripes on the edges are a two-color decal. Make sure that these are not missing or damaged, as GM no longer stocks individual replacement stripe components.
- The Grand Sport cockpit has the look and feel of a fighter plane and is very comfortable once you get inside it. It is not the easiest interior to climb in and out of, but you will soon get used to the drill. Here are some tips when examining the car’s interior:
- Pull up the floor mats and look at the carpet for signs of wear or fading. Look closely at the door sills; these tend to take the most abuse.
- On coupes, check the operation and general condition of the rear hatch shade.
- Remove the roof panel (coupe) or put down the convertible top and check operation and look for signs of wear throughout.
- Check the operation of comfort/convenience options: interior lighting, rear defogger, side view mirror controls, seat lumbar adjusments, power seat adjustments, radio, power antenna, windows, locks, etc.
- Turn the key to the ignition on position to verify that all of the idiot lights on the Digital Information Center (DIC) are illuminated for a few seconds.
- Verify operation of the LCD display and analog gauges.
- Check the operation of the Passive Keyless Entry (PKE) key fob, the parking brake, the alarm and the horn
- Suspension, Chassis, Wheels & Underside
- Familiarize yourself with the different suspension options available with the Grand Sport. The black wheels and special brake calipers really set it apart.
- Verify the presence of the spare (if applicable) and tire stowage bag (coupe only) in the spare tire carrier.
- Make sure each wheel has one locking lug nut and that the special security lug nut socket stored inside the car matches.
Under The Hood
- The clamshell hood is one of the coolest features on any C4. Nothing like exposing the entire front end of a vehicle like a race car! Pop the hood and make sure that it opens and lifts with little effort and without interference.
- Review pictures of LT4 engines prior to looking at the car. This will give you a reference as to what the engine compartment should look like.
- If the Grand Sport VIN is between 00012 thru 00363, verify from GM that the roller rocker arm recall campaign has been performed.
- Check the front end for any signs of damage or fiberglass repairs.
- Note the throttle body cover plate emblazoned with the words “Grand Sport.” All LT4 equipped Corvettes, Z16 Grand Sport and otherwise, came with this plate from the factory.
- Check plug wires for signs of cracking, if you are an originality freak, the original wires are red and will be numbered 1-8 for each cylinder.
- Do not be concerned if you see minor visible evidence of overspray or blotches of blue paint under the hood, particularly in the area around the hood latch pins and receptacles.
Fire It Up!
- The LT4 is a strong and durable power plant. Even higher mileage Grand Sports should still exhibit strong engines, provided that they have been properly maintained. Now, the moment of truth. Leave the hood up while you start it up.
- The engine should fire just a couple of seconds after turning the key and without touching the accelerator pedal. Don’t pump the pedal
- Have a buddy look for signs of oil smoke through the exhaust upon start up or have the owner turn the key and you do the looking.
- With the car in neutral and the parking brake on, let the engine idle until it reaches operating temperature. During this time, listen for any odd noises and verify the operation of the gauges.
- With the engine running, check the operation of the air conditioning and automatic climate control to see if it works properly.
- Verify that the outside temperature reading is relatively accurate.
- With the A/C on, verify that both radiator coolant fans are running.
- With the car in gear and the parking brake off, slowly engage the clutch and listen for any signs of chattering or slipping. It should be noted the ZF6 transmission is somewhat noisy.
- Make sure that there is not any trouble in shifting the car into reverse, if there is this might indicate a clutch in need of replacement.
- Ensure the car is on a level surface then put the car in 4th gear and slowly release the clutch pedal to ensure the car inches forward. If the car does not move without a lot of throttle and clutch slippage, this is indicative that the clutch plate is worn and needs replacement.
- At last…time to get it on the road!
- If the car has not had the Computer Aided Gear Selection (CAGS) bypassed, while shifting at low RPM out of first gear the computer will force you to shift from first to fourth, bypassing second and third.
- A cruising temp around 190 degrees is normal and at idle or in traffic, the cooling fans of an unmodified car will not kick on until temperatures near 230 degrees.
- The car is equipped with dual engine cooling fans. The primary fan should be spinning whenever the engine is running.
- Make sure that you take the car up near redline to verify that it pulls like an LT4 should.
- If the car has the optional F45 Selective Real Time Damping suspension option, try the different positions of the console switch (tour, sport, performance) as you drive the car over the same rough section of road.
Buying a car, and especially a Corvette, is an emotional experience. We would recommend having an independent individual such as a friend knowledgeable about Corvettes with you to look at the car or have an experienced mechanic or independent inspection service examine the car. Carefully inspect the car, but remain courteous to the seller. Remember, you can always just walk away.
Even though only 1,000 1996 Grand Sports were built, on any given day there is actually a fairly good selection of them for sale. The Internet has certainly helped in making Grand Sports and other sought after vehicles much more available to buyers throughout the country. If you are dead set on particular options, mileage, condition and pricing, be patient. The right car will eventually be on the selling block. Good luck and enjoy that Grand Sport!
For more in-depth tips on buying a Grand Sport Corvette, check out this Buyers Guide compiled by Paul Martens and updated by John “Hutch” Hutchinson.