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Celebrity Stature

Celebrity Grand Sport

Story and Photos by Steve Temple

TV’s Home Improvement; The Santa Clause movies; Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear; and Commander Taggart in Galaxy Quest. The list goes on and on. Comedian/actor Tim Allen is a national treasure. And so is the original ’63 Grand Sport Corvette.

After all, it bested Shelby’s Cobras during a memorable few days at Nassau Speed Week in December 1963. Many years later, Shelby privately admitted that he’d been “outgunned,” since Duntov made his cars ultralightweight and ultrapowerful. In the end, they weighed in at about 1,900 pounds, about 1,350 pounds lighter than a stock Corvette coupe. And they were armed with a 377-cubic-inch, aluminum V8 engines putting out 550 hp. Although 125 were initially planned, only five Grand Sports were ever built.

So what’s the connection with Tim Allen? Well, he’s a a car guy raised in Detroit, known for being handy with tools, along with the catch phrase, “More power!” What better car to own than a double throw-down Vetterod, a replica of arguably the greatest Corvette ever built?

Despite his self-admitted limitations as an actor (he once told a magazine that his range as an actor is, “Strictly limited. I can only play a part if I can draw on personal experience, and that well can go dry pretty quickly.”), he knows his cars.

How so? He related in another interview that it’s a link to his father. “He was a big car nut. The guy would take the manifold off my mom’s new Ford wagon and put on an aluminum high-rise manifold and four-barrel, dual exhaust, and glass-packs. … He’d do this to every one of her wagons. They’d sound like race cars. He bought his mom a Galaxie 500 with the Thunderbird engine in it, so my grandmother had a dual-exhaust, four-barrel, 390 four-door Galaxie 500 she had no business being in.”

Which helps to explain why his character in TV’s Last Man Standing asserts his manhood in a house full of estrogen. All told, it’s no surprise that Allen expressed his macho by injecting some serious testosterone into a recreation of a competition Corvette.

But the car would get even more upgrades after Allen’s ownership. It passed onto another owner, and then Rocky and Delee Becker, who are very appreciative caretakers. Just as the Grand Sport was the right ride for Allen, so too for Rocky, who works as a ship repair manager by day, but is a Corvette enthusiast by nature. How did he come across Allen’s car?

“The ’63 Grand Sport is something that fits my personality,” he says. “I purchased a ’63 Split Window Corvette that had been modified to race; pretty cool, however nothing compared to the ’63 Grand Sports.” (Especially in view of the weight difference.) So he started checking out various manufacturers of replicas as an affordable option — since an original is made of “unobtanium.” He shopped around until one fateful day.

“Then bam! On eBay in Gresham, Oregon, I found the tribute GS built by Tim Allen. Game over!” he relates. He has now spent the last six years improving all aspects of the build, getting it closer to the real-deal chassis 003.

To make things a bit easier, the component package manufactured by D&D Corvette (no longer in business) was patterned after that particular race car. The chassis has a four-inch round-tube frame, fabricated to closely match that of 003. Instead of transverse leaf springs, however, D&D installed coil-overs on a Corvette C4 suspension, plus a Corvette C4 rack-and-pinion.

The engine Allen had was an iron-block 350 with Weber side-drafts, good for about 526 hp, but toned down by baffles in the side pipes. The second owner of the GS replaced that engine with an aluminum 327, which Rocky later pulled and had rebuilt at Gibson Motor Works with a Scat stroker crank for a displacement of 377 cubes, as per the original.

In addition to forged Arias pistons and Comp cams with hydraulic roller lifters, he added a Moon aluminum cross intake also topped by Weber side drafts. Other modifications include a pre-lube system, electric fans and pumps, and harmonic balancer. He also removed the baffles in the side pipes, “so it sounds a lot meaner.” Another improvement was in the front suspension, to make it more track-ready, which required some new tie rods and machining at a race shop.

Once all the work was done, he managed to talk his way into a brief backstage meeting with Tim Allen, who was performing standup at a local casino. He marveled at all the upgrades when Rocky showed him in a two-inch photo scrapbook on the car, and expressed genuine interest in all the modifications, which included custom-painted racing numbers and livery. (Allen received a packet of vinyl numbers, but never put them on the car.)

Rocky even has a photo signed by Allen with the warning: “Don’t try doing a doughnut.” That sounds like the voice of experience from a guy who knows firsthand what it’s like to get carried away by “More power!”

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