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						1963 Corvette Grand Sport Replica 1

'63 Corvette Grand Sport replica hand built for racing

Text and photos by Steve Temple

Some reproduction cars are racy-looking, others actually race. The latter is the case with this ’63 Corvette Grand Sport built by Lee Benson of All Pro Cars. Looking at the depth of his background in building both Cobras and Corvettes of all stripes and styles, this fact shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Benson started out as a dealer for Contemporary Classic in the 1980s, building more than 50 Cobras all told along with GT40 replicas as well. He also became a dealer for Shelby American (during my tenure there as Director of Marketing), and built a number of 427 and 289 roadsters, plus Daytona coupes. Today, he restores and customizes later-model Corvettes, along with one-of-a-kind rides. So he’s turned more than a few wrenches over the years.

Taking more than a year to complete in all, this Grand Sport project started out as a scratch-built frame, using dimensions taken directly off an original (but Benson declines to reveal which one). It’s a combination of four-inch and 1 3/4-inch DOM tubing. While the basic frame is an exact copy of the authentic item, Benson took a few liberties with the chassis and engine—in a good way.

For extra safety and track duty at vintage races, he added a roll cage as well. Suspension pieces in the front are custom-fabricated upper and lower A-arms and Corvette spindles, and the rearend is from a ’68 Corvette, modified with custom trailing arms and AFCO shocks. Rolling stock consists of Halibrand pin-drive rims fitted with Hoosier rubber.

As for motive power, the original Corvette Grand Sports raced with several different setups, but the most serious factory engine was a 377ci, all-aluminum, small block with four Weber side-draft carburetors, delivering 550 hp at 6400 rpm.

Benson went even bigger, a fact that’s impossible to ignore when he lights it up, and the ground shakes beneath your feet. The ’74 454 Bow Tie block thunders with a whopping 620 horses. Miller’s Automotive tailored it with Wiseco pistons and Eagle H-beam rods and crank, and also dressed with a Weiand intake topped by an 830cfm NASCAR Holley. All balanced, blueprinted and ported, and backed by a Tex 101A trans with a Tilton 7 1/4-inch, 3-disc clutch. Race-ready indeed.

In keeping with the original’s ultra-light body, this one from Advanced Automotive Composites was hand-laid with 1.5-ounce matte and black gelcoat, then later sprayed with Matrix ’63 Corvette white and LeMans blue stripes. Other competition-grade features include a custom-built circuit breaker system for the wiring harness, and the omission of an A/C system.

After completion, this Grand Sport was recognized and accepted by numerous vintage racing organizations (SVRA, HSR, HRG, etc). Typically only authentic vehicles are allowed to compete in these prestigious vintage events. Being SVRA/HSR/HRG legal and period correct, the Grand Sport race car clone now holds valid SVRA and HRG/SCCA Logbooks for use in track participation. Since its completion, the grand Sport has competed in three vintage races, most recently in the US Vintage Grand Prix hosted at Watkins Glen Raceway.

While the cost to build this car is a bit above six-figures, that’s a mere fraction of what original Grand Sports have gone for in recent years (unobtanium, actually). So with this repro, you can still relish the priceless comp experience of an ultra-rare racer for a real-world sum. And that qualifies it as a true Track Star in our logbook.

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