The 1960s brought about significant and revolutionary performance improvements in racing. This is when engines started to move rearward behind the driver, when tires became lower and wider, and aerodynamics became more and more of a focus. These revelations caught the attention of Corvette engineers at the time as well, and the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicles began steadily trickling out. These vehicles showcased the possibilities of what GM could enter in motorsports… had it not been participating in the American Manufacturer’s Association ban on direct factory racing participation.
Aside from Zora Arkus Duntov and his team sneaking a couple of Corvette Grand Sport racecars out the back door before they got caught by the No Fun Police, this ban limited manufacturers to only create research vehicles and assisting private teams. So in 1964, the Grand Sport II research vehicle that was used for aerodynamics testing by none other than motorsports pioneer Jim Hall and his Chaparral Racing program.
Just as the C2 Corvette Sting Ray was taking the sports car scene by storm, the 1964 Grand Sport II research vehicle featured much of the same talent that was put into the legendary Corvette. Larry Shinoda was the designer, Jerry Mrlik developed the radical single-speed automatic transmission, and Frank Winchell served as chief engineer.
It’s said that the Grand Sport II is based loosely on Chevy’s Monza GT concept car that used Corvair running gear in Chevrolet’s first monocoque design. But unlike the Monza GT, the GS II took the theme several steps further by using thinner steel for added lightness, an experimental aluminum 327 V8, and the aforementioned single-speed automatic transmission.
Chief Engineer Winchell was looking for a location to test the limits of the Grand Sport II away from the eyes of spy photographers and competitors, and Hall’s Rattlesnake Raceway in Midland, TX served as the perfect spot. However, the GS II was rather unceremoniously destroyed that same year following testing, but was quickly replaced by its improved successor, the Grand Sport IIB, which is pictured. The monocoque chassis was riveted and bonded together using .032″ sheet aluminum, and was also able to accommodate wider tires than before.
GS IIB was then shipped to Rattlesnake where it underwent extensive testing. Jim Hall was behind the wheel for the majority of the GS IIB’s high-speed runs.
To celebrate the arrival of the C8 Corvette, the 2020 Amelia Island Concors d’Elegance will showcase an unprecedented amount of mid-engine Corvette predecessors. This includes the rarely paraded Grand Sport IIB, which currently spends its days at the Chaparral Gallery at the Petroleum Museum in Midland. This is the first time the GS IIB has appeared outside the museum. It will join the CERV I, CERV II, Corvette XP-819. XP-895, XP-897 GT, Aerovette, CERV III and the Indy Corvette on the Amelia Concours’ Silver Anniversary field on March 8, 2020 for an unprecedented Corvette reunion to celebrate the arrival of the mid-engine C8. In fact, the field is large enough to where Amelia Island is officially hosting a “Mid-Engine Corvette Class” for a chance for one of these historic supercars to take top honors.
The concours takes place March 8, 2020.