Despite its long twelve year production life, the C4 Corvette really only has two truly collectable models. There’s the first generation ZR-1, a car that introduced a different flavor of sophistication to Chevrolet and continues to be popular today. And then there’s the ZR-1’s more exclusive sibling, the 1996 Corvette Grand Sport. The two cars share a lot of the same DNA, with the mighty Grand Sport benefitting from lessons learned during five years of ZR-1 production. But with only 1,000 units built, 810 of those being coupes, the Grand Sport is definitely the hotter collectible. Loaded with a long list of standard equipment, including a 330 horsepower LT4 engine, 1996 Corvette Grand Sport #516 shows only 8,433 original miles and currently presents a virtually flawless original appearance. If you’re in the market for a clean, unmolested Corvette that has serious collector appeal, this sensational C4 is the car for you!
The most striking feature of Chevrolet’s C4 Grand Sport, is, of course, the paint job. I don’t know what kind of favors John Heinricy and his crew had to promise to get it built, but 90s General Motors culture usually didn’t let stuff like this see the light of day. The Admiral Blue base, a Corvette mainstay for many years, is a brilliant, vivid hue that seems to literally glow when it hits the sunlight. The stripes are Arctic White, another familiar Chevy color. And of course, the two bright red hash marks on the driver’s side front fender are a hat tip to the historic Grand Sports that used red tape for identification on the race track. At any rate, this car has been beautifully maintained and, as you know, Grand Sports have been collector’s items from the moment they were announced. By 1996 Corvette build quality was excellent, and the fit and finish on this Grand Sport suggests the guys in Bowling Green knew they were building something that would be remembered for decades to come.
Beyond that bright paint, there’s not a lot of detail work on this Vette. The car did get its own chrome badges on the front fenders, just in case you happened to miss said paint. GS coupes also received rear fender flares which were designed to cover 11 inch ZR-1 spec wheels, the largest wheels ever fitted to a C4 Corvette. Because of their obvious paint ridges, a lot of guys think Grand Sports are actually white cars that had Admiral Blue painted around their center stripes. But, in reality, vinyl secondary stripes, which border the car’s main stripe, were created half Arctic White and half Admiral Blue to provide the illusion of paint ridges. Fortunately, even as decals, the smaller stripes are in excellent condition. The car’s Glass is all original and undamaged, and the markings you see on the hatch are the result of the polarized glass used to help control interior temperatures, as well as the lenses in our super sensitive cameras.
As I mentioned earlier, power comes from the best iteration of the second generation of Chevy’s small block V8. Dubbed the LT4, and boasting 330 horsepower and 340 lb./ft. of torque (up 30 horsepower and 10 lb./ft. from the stock C4 Corvette’s LT1), this stout engine is one of the most potent pushrod Chevy blocks to date. As with its body, this car’s mill is dressed up in fine fashion, with a bright red intake manifold, a special throttle body, bright red ignition wires and a special plate with red lettering unique to its model. The car’s engine compartment is in excellent condition, showing few signs of use and a very factory-correct appearance in every way. Like every other GS, the car is was loaded with options, including AC, power steering, and a traction control system that GM calls Automatic Slip Regulation (ASR). Those very clean ancillary components still carry all their original belts, hoses and decals. And since this Corvette is already a Bloomington winner, all it needs is preservation and excellent care to continue to be perfect in virtually in every way.
The only drivetrain available in the Grand Sport was a 6-speed manual transmission and a set of 3.45 gears. Although equipped with the dreaded “skip-shift” feature (which is easily defeated by giving the throttle an extra squeeze before making the 1-2 shift), this car’s slick ZF gearbox is one of the most durable units ever mounted in a Chevrolet. The Grand Sport coupe received a more aggressive suspension setup than its convertible counterpart, as well as those aforementioned extra-large wheels. The chassis on this coupe is well preserved and nicely detailed, showing only minimal usage befitting a car of its age and mileage. Its floors are clean. Its A-arms are still bright aluminum. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the brakes still have their original pads and rotors. And speaking of aluminum, the car’s awesome A-mold wheels, painted black with a machined lip --- one of the first times now familiar black wheels made an appearance on a production car, wear ZR-1-sized 275/40/17 front and 315/35/17 rear Goodyear GS-C performance radials that are original to the car. Impressive!
Two interior choices were available with the Grand Sport, black leather or red leather. But, not surprisingly, most enthusiasts chose black. With the bright colors on these car’s bodies, an all-business interior made sense. And this Corvette’s Ebony cockpit shows only minor wear that’s certainly appropriate to its mileage. The Grand Sport-specific seats are extremely comfortable and, once you’re settled into them, you’re enveloped by a pure driver’s environment. The combination digital and analog gauge cluster is fully functional, and despite criticisms of the time, has aged well and still looks cool. Things like automatic climate control, a powerful stereo system, power seats and windows, and just about every other feature you can imagine were standard on the Grand Sport. And you’ll also find a reasonable storage area under the rear hatch.
The sale of this rare Grand Sport includes an original owner’s manual, an original warranty booklet, the car’s pre-delivery checklist and inspection report, and a copy of it''s Bloomington Gold award.
Despite one of its siblings being called the “Collector’s Edition”, the only 1996 Corvette that’s worth owning as an investment piece is the super exclusive Grand Sport. Rare, documented, and highly desirable both then and now, the car represents a rare event at 90s-era General Motors --- the creation of a truly special platform that’s more than just a paint and decal package. With fantastic performance, stunning good looks, low mileage and excellent presentation, this awesome Grand Sport is certainly the investment to make if you’re looking for a future collectible. So, drive it sparingly and enjoy the benefits of being a part of the most enthusiastic group of car guys in the world!