SPEED’s Chop Cut Rebuild Builds a Grand Sport Tribute
Story richard Truesdell / Images Richard Truesdell and Edward Peghin
Corvettes and television go together like tea and honey, going all the way back to the Corvette’s inception in 1953, when both were in their infancy.
To many, the connection reached its height with Route 66, which ran from 1960 to 1964 on the CBS network. Tod (Martin Milner) and Buz (George Maharis, whose character was later replaced by Linc, played by Glenn Corbett) took to the highway and the Corvette was forever linked to the Mother Road.
In the years since, Corvettes have starred in prominent roles in dozens of other TV programs, movies, and popular culture.
At the same time that Tod and Linc drove off into the sunset, there was a Corvette that was to become an icon of the marque, the Grand Sport. Developed by Zora Arkus-Dontov, it was a lightweight racing version of the Corvette whose styling mirrored the then-new C2 Sting Ray. Over the years, countless Grand Sport replicas and tributes have been built, some based on C2 Corvettes, others on custom frames.
But what if you could combine the styling cues of the original Grand Sport, but underpin it with the state-of-the-art chassis of a C6 Corvette? That question wasn’t lost on Dan Woods, host of the popular wrenching show Chop Cut Rebuild (CCR) that airs on the SPEED Channel along with Laurent and Mike Bensaid of Corvette Specialty of California (CSOC), located in Riverside, California.
Chop Cut Rebuild works on concurrent builds over the course of 13 episodes. In its seventh season in 2010, the CCR team worked on two start-to-finish build-ups. One was a 1969 Dodge Hemi Charger; the other was a Corvette Grand Sport tribute built on a contemporary C6 chassis.
The build was planned in late 2009 and early 2010 with the design and renderings – by CSOC’s in-house artist Gaston Gardeazabal – completed in mid-February, 2010. This would give the CSOC and CCR teams less than nine months to complete the car in time for its planned debut at the 2010 SEMA Show. Dan Woods is a very hands-on host, so he had the opportunity to do something that most of us can only dream of, cutting up and modifying the bodywork on a current-generation Corvette.
While the car would be fitted with an E-Force Edelbrock supercharger, many of the segments would be centered on the extensive modifications to the body. This presented a dilemma to Woods and series director Ed Peghin, who noted, “We quickly realized that documenting the Grand Sport, or GS as we called it, would be a challenge. How much entertainment could we extract from the build of a fiberglass vehicle? Designing a vehicle out of fiberglass is a laborious and painstaking process that does not make for exciting television once the viewer understands the process. How much filler, sanding, gluing, and more sanding, sanding, sanding can we show beyond one episode?”
Starting on the morning of March 18, 2010, Laurent attacked the C6 ’Vette like a man on a mission. Front bumper, rear bumper, rear fenders — all removed. The rear window, gone. The interior was stripped down to its barest essentials.
With the first segments in the can, it would be a month before the CCR team would return. When they did, the CSOC team had applied the fiberglass and filler to the rear and the seductive shape, with the split-window treatment, was taking shape. Dan Woods got an education in the art in applying fiberglass, which was chronicled in front of the CCR cameras.
As the bodywork progressed, maintaining a rigid schedule, attention turned to the mechanicals. In addition to the planned modifications under the hood, the GS was treated to a comprehensive suspension upgrade with components supplied by Pfadt Race Engineering in Salt Lake City, Utah. But there was a complication in the build process.
With winter moving into spring, the economy impacted the build. Mike and Laurent had to deal with several small family-owned suppliers going out of business, threatening to derail the build process. The solution was to purchase a second Corvette to install the mechanical upgrades while the body fabrication would proceed on the initial car.
Next, the CCR team visited the Edelbrock facility in Torrance, California, to detail the fabrication of the E-Force supercharger that would add 200 horsepower to GS. For the next episode, they returned the following week to CSOC with the hardware to document the installation of the E-Force supercharger on the second C6. This was followed by the installation of Baer brakes and Rated X wheels, designed by Jason Rushforth of Rushforth Wheels in Huntington Beach, California.
While the mechanical upgrades on car two kept the project on schedule, Laurent and Mike redesigned the Corvette’s stock interior. The interior received a complete facelift, with the stock trim replaced with leather and suede everywhere, in shades of black and gray accented with contrasting blue stitching. When the installation was complete, there was no low-rent vinyl to be seen anywhere in the cockpit.
Over the last two months, molds were produced so the rear-quarter, split-window treatment could be applied to the second C6. This was followed by painting, cutting, and buffing of the now-completed bodywork. Like many similar efforts, the design is polarizing with some loving it, while others have their reservations. One thing is certain: the craftsmanship is flawless, in a way that reflects well on everyone connected with the project.
Combining two generations of Corvettes into a single car is something that many have attempted. Getting the two generations to mesh perfectly is elusive, but not in this case as everyone connected with this ambitious build has something to be proud of.
The fact that every important step of the way was documented by the cameras of CCR (and is available for purchase as a DVD of the seventh season), make this a special treat for ’Vette fans.
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