The culmination of the Corvette’s early development came in 1963 with the five Grand Sports. These were emblematic of the Corvette’s potential and fired public imagination that a production-based sports car could hold its own with European marques at Le Mans, Daytona, the Targa Florio, Sebring, and Monza.
The first hint of ambitions came with the 1957 Corvette SS, a lightweight front-engine race car. GM turned thumbs down on any racing program, but Dr. Dick Thompson raced it in the SCCA in 1959–60.
Five Grand Sports were begun in 1962 with twin tube frames, beefy cross-members, and fully independent suspension. The engines were 377-ci aluminum masterpieces with hemi heads, dry-sump lubrication, and four side-draft Webers. The brakes were vented discs.
Tests were made at Sebring, but the racing ban was reimposed. However, Zora Arkus-Duntov sneaked two cars out to Chevy dealer Dick Doane and Grady Davis of Gulf Oil, and Dick Thompson won SCCA C/Modified at Watkins Glen. Duntov then sent three cars to Nassau for Speed Week and they finished 3rd, 4th, and 6th. He planned on Daytona and cut down two cars into roadsters, but management intervened again and Chevrolet backed out of racing for good.