Homebuilt Homage to Zora's Roadster

Posted September 18, 2018

As told by Sam Kalmuk

Photos courtesy of Sam Kalmuk

The inspiration to build my '64 Grand Sport started a long time ago, but didn’t really set in until I went to Corvettes at Carlisle one year. There was a white Grand Sport roadster there for sale, and I looked it over carefully. It had a TH400 Automatic, and was finished like George Wintersteen’s famous roadster, GS 002. This was it! But unfortunately, I already had two Corvettes at the time: a pristine 1955 Corvette finished in red and a 1963 tan on tan split window coupe (SWC). With only a two-car garage at home, one of them had to go, and the SWC was passed onto its next caretaker.

With the funds and freed-up space from the sale of the SWC, I could start the build of the Grand Sport. I did extensive research on the car and its reproductions, and decided to source the body panels from Jeff Leach at Mid-America Industries in Milan, Illinois. Finding the C4 Corvette suspension components was a little difficult, at the time, but I eventually tracked down all the parts I needed. After looking around Niagara for a frame builder, I got a reference from funny car racer Larry Dobbs. He highly recommended Lionel Chubaty from L&J Chassis in Burlington, Ontario. His work was outstanding, and he was surely qualified to construct my Grand Sport chassis.

With the body, suspension and frame squared away, the actual build process could begin. While the chassis was being built to Grand Sport specs, the 350-ci engine and M22 Muncie four-speed transmission would be assembled at The Balancing Act, in St. Catharines, Ontario.

When chassis and driveline parts were completed, I could begin to tackle assembly — not an easy task. First, Niagara Industrial Finishers of Niagara Falls, Ontario completed the body assembly and paintwork. Once painted white, red and blue, a local friend, Roly Borgatti, created the decals as per George Wintersteen’s livery from 1966. He did a fantastic job.

The complete build process took about 10 years to get the car running, driving and looking right, and I was on the road by 2009. Now that it was finished, I was not going to keep this Grand Sport as a showpiece (like my '55 Corvette), but instead, it would be driven regularly.

This Grand Sport handles better than any C2 Corvette I’ve ever driven, and is a lot lighter too. It weighs in at 2,450 pounds, almost 1,000 pounds lighter than a stock C2. Most summers I take it on cruises throughout Niagara, as it’s joy to drive, and I also frequent some of the local car shows. At shows, I give Hot Wheels model Grand Sports to the kids who really enjoy the car. Many people don’t immediately recognize what kind of Vette this is, but it sure stuns them, when I describe what went into the build. I call it Zora’s ’64

I hope that you enjoyed the build as I have.

Sam K.

Welland, Ontario.

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