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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 135 - '69 - '71 Phase III GT
"60s Style GT Corvette"
The term “GT” is arguably one of the most misused automotive designations. The term dates back to the ‘30s in Europe and is an abbreviation for the words “grand touring,” or as they say in Italy, “grand turismo.” In the classic sense, a GT car was a road going , lightweight, semi-luxurious coupe, built on a high performance chassis. If your plan was to take a big trip, you needed a performance car with enough power, a strong chassis to deal with the rough roads, and creature comforts to make the journey more pleasant. Car makers such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Austin-Martin and others, all offered GT cars for their affluent customers.
In the ‘60s, American car makers started to apply the GT term to their new pony and intermediate-size cars. But some enthusiasts wanted more from their cars. Some sought out the help of specialty shops that would super tune or build a package car for a price. The original Shelby Mustangs were the most noticeable of the turn-key super cars. But at a small shop in Baldwin, New York on Long Island, Motion Performance speedshop owner, Joel Rosen was making his own brand of performance cars called the Baldwin-Motion SS and Phase III Supercars.
Rosen was a successful drag racer and turner with a proven reputation for building dependable, high-horsepower big-block Chevy engines. He partnered with local Baldwin Chevrolet to build brand new, under warranty, enhanced versions of Chevy muscle cars. A few others were making similar cars, but Rosen’s cars were much more extreme. And Baldwin-Motion was the only brand building Corvette Supercars.
Phase III Supercars were reasonably priced for a turn-key car that was guaranteed to run 11.5 in the quarter-mile, or quicker with a Motion-approved driver at a NHRA or AHRA drag strip. In Joel’s limited spare time, he was dreaming of his own GT car, a machine that would put a hurt’n on Europe’s best. Within the Chevrolet lineup, there was one obvious place to start - the L71 427/435 big-block Corvette.
Rosen’s Phase III GT began where the regular Phase III Corvette ended. Since every car was built to the customer’s specs, we’ll examine Joel’s prototype GT. First the engine was disassembled and blueprinted. A low-restriction air filter was used with a 1,050-cfm Holley three-barrel carb on an aluminum high-rise manifold. The engine had tube headers, a Motion Super/Spark CD ignition, and M/T finned valve covers. The exhaust was a factory side-pipe system with chambered pipes. Horsepower was rated at 500 on Rosen’s dyno. The suspension received special shocks, bushings, and springs, along with a single traction bar. The wheels were 15-inch slotted alloy on wide Goodyear Polyglass tires.
What rocked everyone at the GT’s ‘69 New York International Auto Show debut was it’s stunning, muscular good looks. The Monza red ‘68 donor car had a distinctive black stripe that wrapped around the back end of the car, up the rear deck, over the roof and ended on the ’67 427-style scoop. All four wheel opening were flared to cover the wide tires, the side vents were reversed, and remote controlled mirrors were used. Most noticeable was the fastback rear window that opened up the rear storage area and a Le Mans quick-fill gas cap replaced the stock gas cap door.
Zora Arkus-Duntov was at the show and spent time with Rosen talking about big-block engines and gave the GT his blessings. Rosen’s promotion literature quickly ran out, but he got two deposits to build cars. The starting price for the GT was $10,500, over double the cost of a stock ‘69 Vette. When Rosen started building GTs, two major body changes were incorporated. The stock pop-up headlights were replaced with single, fixed headlights that were faired into the front fenders. And at the back end, the classic four round Corvette taillights were replaced with two sets of three slotted taillights.
The Phase III GT Corvettes were only built from ’69 to ‘71. Rosen anticipated building 10-to-12 cars per year, but it turned out that he only made approximately 12 cars total and no two cars were alike. No doubt, the maga-buck price was a major factor back then. A 1970 Phase III GT turned out to be one of the most expensive, costing a mind-bending $13,000 in ’70. The car was Daytona Yellow and packed a 535-horsepower 454 engine with open-chamber heads, a modified automatic trans with a Hone overdrive, 4.88 gears, and air conditioning.
In the late ‘80s Rosen began looking for one of his old GT cars. He was able to locate the ‘70 Daytona Yellow GT , had the car fully restored and displayed it at the ’93 New York Auto Show. Joel later sold the car to a private collector in ‘01. Specialty Corvettes have come a long way since ’69 and many others have applied the same concept to their dream machines. Only five of the Phase III GT cars are known to still exist, making this one of the rarest of all the specialty Corvettes ever made. K. Scott Teeters
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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 39 - Baldwin Motion 1969 Phase III Corvette
"The Shelby Mustang of Corvettes"
From 1967 to 1969, the hottest street Corvette was the 427/435 L71. Not a bad ride for most folks. But Joel Rosen isn't "most folks."
Rosen owned Motion Performance in Brooklyn, New York in the late '50s and '60s, and was having considerable success as a local drag racer-tuner. In '67 Joel struck a deal with the owners of Baldwin Chevrolet, in Baldwin, New York, to make 427-engine versions of the new Camaro. When the '68 Corvette came out, Joel knew that he had to make a special red-hot version. The '69 Baldwin-Motion SS-427 Phase III Corvette was born.
The deal with Baldwin Chevrolet was that Motion would perform all of the conversion work and the car's warranty would still be maintained. To keep everything balanced, the car was beefed up, inside and out! You simply could not miss these cars. Even sitting still they looked nasty and serious. A '67 427-style hood scoop was grafted on top of the stock 427 hood along with a Pontiac hood-mounted tachometer. The wider tires were covered with wheelwell flares. Side pipes were either '65-'67 style, '69 style, or Hooker Header side pipes. An optional fastback window opened up the luggage space. Finished off with a unique stripe design, the car looked like a killer.
The 427 received an 850 Holly three-barrel on top of a high-rise manifold. Ignition used a modified Mallory setup with Ramcharger wires. Other goodies included a close-ratio Muncie four-speed, blow-proof clutch, heavy-duty suspension, and 60-series tires on Anson Sprint wheels. Every Phase III car was guaranteed to run 12.50 et @120 mph with a M/P approved driver at a NHRA or AHRA track.
Unfortunately, Rosen was a high-profile, big fish in a small pond. In 1974, after seven years of building super cars, the Feds threatened to shut down and fine Rosen $50,000 per car for violation of the Clean Air Act. Rosen's lawyer explained that he wasn't operating a huge assembly line. Luckily, Joel got off with just a $500 fine, but the party was over. That's what a little too much success, publicity, and horsepower can do to you.
Recently, Rosen was able to buy back the last Phase III Corvette he made, a 1974 model. K. Scott Teeters
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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 75 - 1987 - Callaway Corvette
"Chevy's Back-Door Supercar"
After 13 years of Corvette buyers only having one engine choice, Dave McLellan determined that it was time to start working on a new engine. But an exotic turbo-Vette would be an excellent offering to put the Corvette into supercar territory, while
waiting for exotic LT5.
Not long after the C4 was released, work began on a new powerplant for the Corvette. All sorts of combinations were considered, with a turbocharged V-8 finally winning out. Dave McLellan was aware of Reeves Callaway's turbo work on quality European and certain Japanese engines. McLellan thought it made sense to forge a relationship with Callaway and let the Connecticut firm develop a turbo-Vette for quick release.
After several prototype Turbo Corvettes were built, a deal was struck in June '86 that created the official 1987 Corvette option number "RPO B2K" as the "Callaway Twin Turbo" option. Cost? A hefty $19,995 on top of the $27,999 base price, plus the mandatory Z51 Handling Package for an additional $795. A completed Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette could be yours for only $48,785! However, if you wanted 345 net horsepower with 465 ft-lb of torque at 2,200 rpm, that was the price of the party. The car ran 0-60 in just 4.5 seconds and the quarter-mile in 13.2!
Performance like that far surpassed the old 427 and 454 days, but it wasn't easy. The L98 350 engine received a complete blueprint - and - balance rebuild, Roto Master 1H1 RHB52 twin turbos nested on both sides of the engine, and an air-to-air intercooling system was used. Special parts to accomodate the demands of the turbo instalation replaced many stock parts, including; Cosworth 7.5:1 forged pistons, a high-output Melling oil pump, an auxiliary solid-state fuel enrichment system, and a heavy-duty brass and copper radiator. Hood mounted NACA ducts were considered, but it was found that ducting from under the front of the car worked better. The only visual change on the car was the elimination of the heavy stock wheels and the use of 17-inch, 9.5-inch wide light-alloy Dymag wheels and 275/40ZR Goodyear Eagle tires.
All of the extra hardware added up to 100 pounds, making the Callaway Corvette weigh in at 3,600 pounds. But it really didn't matter, because the extra 105 hp turned the Corvette into a genuine stump-puller!
Only 184 Callaway Corvettes were built for '87. Despite the outsourcing of the car, Corvette buffs considered it a "real" Corvette because it was on the order sheet. The ZR-1 was a full two years away, so the Callaway was the perfect interim exotic Corvette. - K. Scott Teeters
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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 85 - 1990 Callaway Twin-Turbo
While the ZR-1 was getting all of the attention from the automotive press, Reeves Callaway was quietly building his own "blessed by Chevrolet" super-Corvette, the Callaway Twin-Turbo.
The ZR-1 was distinctively European inspired. The all-aluminum, double-overhead-cam engine reflected a different approach to speed. The Callaway effort was uniquely American. It started off with a great pushrod performance engine and add lots of go-fast parts. Both ways get you to 180mph. One version is subtle, the other is not. Both were available from your local Chevy dealer!
Styling was another distinction. As amazing as the ZR-1 was, to the untrained eye, it was just another Corvette. The Callaway aero body kit had all sorts of vents and scoops that let the everyone know that "something special" is inside." The price of admission was similar as well. Priced at $26,895, the Callaway option cost $121 less than the ZR-1. But a loaded Callaway went for over $66,000!
Callaway blueprinted and balanced the stock Corvette engine then added a new forged steel crankshaft with new 4-bolt main bearing caps, and Mahle 7.5:1 compression pistons. Aluminum heads with new valves and springs finish off the main block. Then the real meat is added. Twin Rotomaster turbos and intercoolers finished off the top of the new engine. A Callaway Micro Fueler II fuel pump worked through stock injectors. The Z51 chassis option added a power steering cooler, stiffer spring rates, larger front brake rotors and calipers. A GM/ZF 6-speed transmission was used, along with the factory adjustable suspension. The custom body kit finished the exterior while the interior was stock.
Only 58 units were sold in 1990, making this a very rare, very expensive, 180mph Corvette! - K. Scott Teeters
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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 89 - 1991 Callaway Speedster - "Going Out With A Bang!"
Reeves Callaway carved out an impressive spot in Corvette history. His Callaway Twin-Turbo (RPO B2K) had a five year run from 1987 to 1991. Chevrolet wanted to move the Corvette in a different direction, so Callaway decided to go out with a bang.
The Callaway Corvettes were as fast as nearly anything on the planet at twice the cost of a regular Corvette. Having the Callaway option on the Corvette order sheet was great, but with so much attention given to the ZR-1 and the new C5 being worked out, Chevrolet decided to end the run of turbo Corvettes.
Reeves unleashed a "hail Mary" pass at the '91 Los Angeles Car Show with his final Twin-Turbo Corvette, the Callaway Speedster. The car was designed for Southern California where it almost never rains, so there was no hard top available. Between the speedster top, the body panels, racing wheels, and over-the-top paint, the car was in "super car" territory.
Since this was to be his last BK2 Corvette, more juice was needed. Compression was bumped from 7.5:1 to 8.2:1. Airflow was improved 190 percent with new hood scoops. But he biggest challenge was the additional set of injectors and computer management system. The net result was 450 horsepower and 600 lbs/ft torque. Plenty! To top it all off, the engine was emissions certified for California.
The Speedster's stunning looks almost made what was under the hood irrelevant. Reeves had designer Paul Deutschman use his existing Sledgehammer nose and side panels as a base for the new speedster design. The most complicated part was the structural integrity after cutting down the windshield. Chevrolet assisted calculating the resonate frequency of the windshield posts at half height. A thin steel band across the top edge of the glass ties the two a-pillars together. A .75--inch rubber lip along the top edge of the windshield kicks airflow up by 5-inches. The glass is from a Corvette convertible and was modified by Libby-Owens-Ford, the supplier for the solar reflective windshield on the ZR-1.
Callaway explored several very loud paint colors, but was happy to coordinate the $7,500 paint option with the $12,000 German-made Connolly leather interior and wool carpeting.
During the 5-year Callaway run, there were 445 B2K option cars built, but Callaway made 510 Twin-Turbo Corvettes. The cost of the total Speedster package was $113,500! With 0-to-60 times of 4.4-seconds and a top speed of 185 mph, just don't stick your head up. - K. Scott Teeters
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lllustrated Corvette Series No. 96 1995 GS90 Corvette
"The Curse of the Grand Sport Continues"
Dick Guldstrand is a member of a very unique club. He is one of a dozen or so men who actually worked on and raced one of the original 1963 Grand Sport Corvettes. Designed to compete with the Shelby Cobra, only five Grand Sports were secretly built by Zora Arkus-Duntov before the big-wigs at GM caught wind of the plan to build and sell race cars. The axe fell on the light weight racer and all five cars were sold to privateers making the Grand Sport the ultimate "could-have-been" Corvette. Many were touched by the Grand Sport, some more than others. Dick Guldstrand never got over his Grand Sport experience.
"Goldie" went on to race many other Corvettes and eventually started a business tuning competition Corvettes. As one of Chevrolet's back door consultants, Guldstrand was very involved suspension development in the early days of the C4. By the late '80s Guldstrand was offering an enhanced version of the Corvette called the "GS80." The only problem in Dick's mind was that the car just looked like a Corvette with aftermarket wheels and tires. It was "Chevy's car" and he wanted "Dick's car." When the ZR-1 was released, Goldie saw an opportunity to bring back the Grand Sport... Dick Guldstrand-style.
Called the "GS90", Dick's car would prove to be the most elaborate and expensive specialty Corvette ever built. Guldstrand pitched the concept of a radically restyled, hopped-up ZR-1 to his pals at Chevrolet. Dick asked for 15 ZR-1s and a few million dollars. He got one car and a blessing.
The GS90 is essentially a reskinned ZR-1 Corvette with a 475 horsepower ZR-1 from D.K. Motorsports and a Guldstrand- modified suspension. Styling of the car was a throwback to the 1963 Ferrari GTO and the only stock Corvette body parts are the windshield and side windows. The lines are bold and muscular with a few cues from the C2 Corvette. Goldie threw every trick he knew into the GS90 from thicker anti-roll bars to coil-over shocks replacing the stock mono-leaf sprint. Then he capped it all off with 18-inch aluminum wheels from OZ in Italy and a Nassau blue paint job with a single bold white racing stripe. Performance was stunning with 0-to-60 in the low 4-second range and a top speed of over 175mph.
The only problem was the price. The GS90 cost $134,500 over the price of a $72,208 ZR-1, for a total of $206,208! As a result, only six GS90s were built and sold.
Guldstrand was planning roadster, speedster, and lightweight versions of the GS90 to be sold through Chevy dealers. But the Grand Sport "curse" returned when the big-wigs at GM killed the deal. In the end, Guldstrand made one more of "Dick's car" than the original five Grand Sports. - K. Scott Teeters
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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 136 - 1988 Callaway SLEDGEHAMMER
"Callaway’s 254.76 Corvette”
While the ‘09 ZR1 is receiving well-deserved kudos for its 200-plus-mph potential, it was nearly 20 years ago that Reeves Callaway and his team smashed the record books with a street-driven twin-turbo ’88 Corvette. The car was appropriately called “The Sledgehammer.”
Yes, the Sledgehammer was a radically enhanced version of an ’88 production Vette. But the operative word here is “production.” This was no one-of-a-kind exotic like the current Guinness World Record–holding Ultimate Aero, built by Shelby Supercars. And the Ultimate Aero’s record-setting average speed was 256.18 mph—not much more than the 254.76 mph achieved by the production-based Sledgehammer.
The reason behind why super-fast cars are built is often just as interesting as how they are built. Plans for the Sledgehammer began after a heavily modified Callaway Twin-Turbo stomped the competition at Car & Driver’s “Gathering of the Eagles” top-speed event in August of 1987. Reeves Callaway drove the car to a winning top-speed of 231 mph. (A production Callaway Twin-Turbo topped of 187 mph.) The high-speed flier was very fast, but it was unacceptably crude for a Callaway. It was rough, hot, smelly, and challenging to drive. So, Reeves began to wonder: Could he build a “real” version of the car?
Later, Reeves was discussing a German article about the 231-mph car with Corvette Chief Engineer Dave McClellan. The article was titled “Des Is Der Hammer.” Referring to the new car, McClellan joked, “Des Is Der Sledgehammer!” The name stuck, and Callaway got to work. Reeves wanted to build a comfortable, streetable 250-mph GT. The modification regimen was relatively simple: engine tuning to produce least 900 tractable horsepower, suspension tweaks for high-speed stability, interior mods for safety, and a body kit to enhance aerodynamics. Drag-racing legend John Lingenfelter was contracted for the engine work. Deutschman Design created the body kit to be stable at 250 mph. Road-racer Carroll Smith was contracted for the suspension work, and Callaway employees Tim Good, Elmer Coy, and Dave Hendricks were assigned to oversee the project.
The 349.8ci, 4-bolt-main Chevy Bowtie block used a cross-drilled Cosworth crankshaft, Crower rods, Jesel roller rockers and stud girdle, and Crane roller lifters. A mild Cam Techniques camshaft kept the engine livable on the street. The Brodix heads were O-ringed with copper gaskets, and studs were used instead of bolts. A Barnes 10-quart dry-sump oil system was also employed. Compression was just 7.5:1, and the twin Turbonetics T04B-Series turbos with stainless-steel wastegates were set at 22 psi. The largest intercoolers available were mounted behind the front bumper, and the turbos were mounted just behind the front grill panels, aft of the front wheels. Callaway-made stainless-steel headers connected to huge-diameter exhaust pipes and SuperTrapp mufflers. It all added up to 898 horsepower!
The suspension was lowered one inch, and the lower control arms were repositioned to reduce bumpsteer. Adjustable Koni shocks controlled dampening. Special high-speed Goodyear tires were mounted on 17 x 9.5-inch Dymag magnesium wheels at the front and back. A Doug Nash five-speed gearbox was built to racing specs and equipped with a special overdrive unit for the final top-speed push. The driveshaft, yokes, and axles were beefed up, and a special Spicer/Dana rear was installed.
The interior was stock except for the leather-covered roll bar, a fire-suppression system, and additional monitoring equipment on the passenger side of the dash. A modified Toshiba laptop PC was used to gather and measure vital statistics.
On October 19, 1988, the Callaway team left for the Transportation Research Center in Ohio. To demonstrate its street-car bona fides, the Sledgehammer was driven all the way to the facility. Once on the 7.5-mile oval track, numerous bugs had to be worked out. A 135-mph misfire was traced to dirty fuel injectors. Then, a minor 198-mph oil leak was discovered and fixed. Nasty weather followed, with heavy rain, wind, and snow flurries. Reeves, who was recovering from the flu, left the driving to John Lingenfelter. On October 26, 1988, with Lingenfelter at the wheel, the Sledgehammer lived up to its name, blasting through the timers at nearly 255 mph.
After some celebration, the team packed up, and the Sledgehammer was driven home to Connecticut. Like Joel Rosen from nearly 20 years earlier, Reeves hoped to build many more of his highly tuned supercars. But priced at $400,000 each, he had no takers. Still, Callaway had bested Europe’s finest and earned yet another place in the Corvette history books. - K. Scott Teeters
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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 141 - Specialty Corvette Files:
"Mallett Cars, LTD."
Every generation seems to have its own crop of enthusiasts who aren’t satisfied with the status quo. Even though the godfather of Corvette performance, Zora Arkus-Duntov, made sure Vette buyers had plenty of hot hardware to play with, for some, it still wasn’t enough. Carroll Shelby was the first performance tuner to make a big splash in the muscle car era. And what Shelby did for the Mustang, Joel Rosen did for Chevy fans with his Phase III Supercars. After the performance thaw in the mid-’80s, Reeves Callaway stepped up to provide exhilarating speed-tuned Corvettes for monied enthusiasts. Then, in the mid-to-late ‘90s, two new names surfaced in the specialty-Corvette arena: Chuck and Lance Mallett.
The introduction of the C4 in 1983 ushered in a new era of racing Corvettes that simply dominated their competition. The Vette was so fast, in fact, that it was booted out of the SCCA Showroom Stock Series at the end of the ’88 season. The car came back for ‘89 in the marque-exclusive Corvette Challenge. Chuck Mallett worked as crew chief on several of the Challenge cars and developed an intimate knowledge of how to enhance the performance of the C4. He went on to build the full tube frame and roll cage for Tommy Morrison’s ‘91 Daytona 24-Hour EDS ZR-1. When the C5 was released in 1997, the Mallett brothers were ready to take the already hot new Vette to new levels.
The introduction of the all-aluminum LS1 engine essentially leveled the playing field for small-block-Chevy engine builders. The traditional SBC had a reputation for responding well to modifications, and the LS1 would prove to be no different. With an outstanding new chassis and powerplant to work with, the Mallett brothers, along with partner Dave Sarafian, founded Mallett Cars, Ltd., and started outlining plans for a bumper-to-bumper specialty Corvette. Mercedes had its Hammer; the Corvette world would have a Mallett.
Even a performance car like the Corvette embodies a collection of compromises made to achieve acceptable levels of ride comfort, interior noise, and fuel economy. Specialty-car builders, on the other hand, get to do things the big manufacturers would never dream of trying. It took a year for the Mallett team to sort out its first Mallett package—the 435. It’s a magical number that harkens back to the days of the L71 427. Because of the LS1’s tight bore spacing and iron cylinder liners, boring out the engine for extra cubes was out of the question. But there was room for a .3-inch-longer stroke, enough to bump displacement by 26 ci and yield 372 cubes. Compression was raised to 11:0:1 with Wiseco pistons. The stock LS1 heads were excellent as delivered, needing only minor porting and a set of stiffer springs. The intake tract received a K&N air filter, and the stock exhaust manifolds were used with barrel-type mufflers wrapped in carbon fiber. On the dyno, the modified LS1 produced 435 hp and 450 lb-ft or torque—increases of 90 horses and 100 lb-ft over stock. The factory transaxle was left alone, but the shifter’s rubber bushings were eliminated for improved shift action.
The Z51 suspension option was used because it came with a power-steering-fluid cooler and a larger rear anti-roll bar. The car was lowered 1.25-inches, but the stock springs were kept. A larger front anti-roll bar was installed, along with Penske manually adjustable shocks. Mallett-designed alloy wheels on Goodyear Eagle ZR-S tires and a set of fade-resistant brake pads completed the mechanical mods. “Mallett 435” emblems on the front fenders and headrests wrapped up the package.
So, how well did the performance mods work? Zero-to-60 times were a full second quicker than stock, at 4.1 seconds. Quarter-mile times, meanwhile, plunged from 13.6 seconds at 106 mph to 12.5 at 116. Top speed saw a 17-mph increase over stock, up to 188 mph.
Mallett Corvettes have competed in several One Lap of America competitions, coming in Second overall in 1997. The company went on to offer a line of C5 and C6 performance packages and recently took delivery of an ’09 ZR1 that will get the full Mallett treatment. Could a 250-mph Mallett ZR1 be in the offing? We’ll see. - K. Scott Teeters
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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 142 -
"Dick Guldstrand's Signature Edition 50th Anniversary Z06 Corvette"
Specialty-car builders have been showing us for decades just how well engineered the basic Corvette is. The first guy to market a successful performance-package Vette was Joel Rosen, with his Phase III cars. Rosen’s approach was to overbuild a big engine so it could easily produce 500 horsepower, then make sure every part of the drivetrain and suspension could handle the extra output. Throw in some killer body mods, and the Phase III became a highly desirable specialty Corvette. Some specialty Vettes, including certain Callaway models, are so heavily modified that they bear little resemblance to the car on which they’re based. Then there are others, such as the Mallett offerings and this month’s topic, the ‘03 Dick Guldstrand Signature Edition 50th Anniversary Corvette, that take a more basic approach.
Although the factory-built 50th Anniversary Corvette was a beautiful car, many Vette fans were hoping for more, much more. For those insatiable (and deep-pocketed) few, the Guldstrand version offered a legitimate fix. Let’s take a look at how the two cars compare. The factory option was available on the ‘03 coupe and convertible—but not the Z06—for $5,000 over the base price of the car ($43,895 for the coupe and $50,370 for the convertible). The package included model-specific Red “Xirallic crystal” paint, special interior and exterior decoration, Magnetic Selective Ride Control, and the 1SB option, which bundled electrochromic mirrors with various other minor upgrades. There was no extra power and, aside from the active suspension option, no additional performance.
It’s no surprise that a Dick Guldstrand–designed 50th Anniversary Vette would turn out much different. Guldstrand is part of the old guard of veteran Corvette racers, having started his road-racing career thundering around tracks in solid-axle, fuel-injected C1s. He’s also one of the privileged few to have actually raced a ‘63 Grand Sport. “Guldie” has competed and won at Sebring, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. If you look back at those old C1, C2, and the early-C3 racing Corvettes, you’ll see that they’re astonishingly stock compared with today’s racers. It stands to reason, then, that Dick Guldstrand knows how to coax a little—and sometimes a lot—of extra oomph from a relatively unmodified production Corvette.
Obtaining a Guldstrand Signature Edition 50th Anniversary Corvette was an uncomplicated—if not inexpensive—process. First, you purchased a new ‘03 Z06 Corvette for $51,155. Contracts were then drawn up, with payment due in full upon signing. Next, your Z06 was sent to the Guldstrand Motor Products assembly facility in Troy, Michigan, where its transformation into a Signature Edition model would take between 8 and 16 weeks.
Guldstrand’s approach to tuning the car was pretty straightforward. Like Rosen with his big-block Phase III Vettes, he started off with the toughest factory ‘03 Corvette available, the Z06. He then overbuilt the engine for extra power and durability, lowered the car and slightly enhanced the suspension, added racing-inspired wheels and tires, and installed a handsome body package conceived by Corvette designer John Schinella.
If anyone knows how to build Gen III Corvette engines for power and longevity, it’s the team at Katech—the same folks responsible for the C5-R and C6.R racing mills. The Z06’s LS6 engine was re-machined, bored, and stroked to 427 cubic inches. The bottom end received a 4340 forged crankshaft connected to Katech pistons and Carrillo rods, yielding a 10.8:1 compression ratio. Billet steel was used for the main caps as well as the head and main-bearing studs. The heads were ported and refitted with the stock rocker arms. A special performance camshaft with higher lift and longer duration orchestrated valve action. A ported throttle body and a pair of Flowmaster mufflers with new tailpipes rounded out the horsepower modifications.
The suspension remained Z06-stock except for an overall height reduction of one inch and the addition of larger, Guldstrand-designed front and rear stabilizer bars. The wheel/tire combination was also upgraded and enlarged, with gummy Michelin Pilot Sport rubber (275/35ZR18 front and 295/35ZR19 rear) mounted on stunning Fikse forged rims.
The first thing you’ll notice about the car is its brilliant Anniversary Gold paint and contrasting Cobalt Blue side decoration. A closer look reveals some very interesting bodywork. The front chin spoiler and side skirts are toned-down versions of the C5-R pieces, while the rear features a mild spoiler and small flares behind the wheels. The hood accentuates the stock twin “humps” and adds a set of vents towards the front. The Z06’s signature rear fender scoops remain.
Magazine reviewers who appreciated Corvettes loved the car, praising its race-inspired edginess and distinctive good looks. They really liked the 500 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque, which were sufficient to push the Vette through the quarter mile in just 12.4 seconds.
Guldstrand’s goal was to commemorate the Corvette’s golden anniversary with a limited run of 50 cars that harkened back to the marque’s early high-performance days. To do so, he took a classic formula and applied it to a modern sports car, with astonishing results. Was the Signature Edition the fastest, baddest specialty Corvette ever made? Probably not, but it’s still an exceptional car. Oh, and the price? In addition to the cost of an ‘03 Z06, the Guldstrand package commanded an extra $49,330. - K. Scott Teeters