Driving a classic, American muscle car is... an experience. The controls are vague, everything shakes at idle, there's a ton of noise and the smell of gasoline is a bit stronger than you might be comfortable with. Even the most brilliant restorations still have some of this gritty-Detroit je ne sais quoi. But that's part of what makes them so desirable.
Pristine examples of well-kept American muscle cars are harder and harder to come by these days, so more and more enthusiasts are finding happiness within the booming restomod scene. You get period-correct style and an authentic driving experience, but with modern hardware and build quality. For a lot of folks, it's the best of both worlds.
Superformance 1963 Corvette Grand Sport: What's old is new againSee all photos
That's where Superformance comes in. Since 1994, the Irvine, California-based outfitter has sold more than 4,000 examples of its "rolling chassis" replicas. And while Superformance is mostly known for its Shelby Cobra and GT40 recreations, the company offers quite a package with its Corvette Grand Sport coupe.
The original Corvette Grand Sport has a heck of a backstory. In the early 1960s, General Motors' Zora Arkus-Duntov wanted to build a lightweight, hella-fast Corvette with the ultimate goal of winning the GT class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The production run would be set at 125 examples to meet homologation rules, but after a pilot run of just 5 cars, General Motors killed the program, and demanded the cars be destroyed. Instead, Zora stored two, and sold the other three. God bless.
Superformance's 1963 Corvette Grand Sport replica is an ode to that project. The body is made of fiberglass, painted in white and Admiral Blue. The headlights and turn signals have a properly classic look. The wheels and tires are staggered, with 17-inch rollers up front and 18s out back, complete with central spinners and everything. The bulges and vents and flares are all beautiful to pore over as the Corvette soaks up the Southern California sun. It's absolutely beautiful.
Open the small driver's door and you find an interior that's a similar labor of love to classic American design. The pedals, shifter, hand brake and steering wheel all look like '60s sports car stuff. The driver's seat is adjustable, but the seating position is very true to this car's American muscle roots -- you sit kind of leaned back, and there isn't much in the way of actual torso support.
Push in the heavy clutch, turn the key and the Corvette comes to live with an absolute assault of V8 sound. This particular car uses GM's LS3 V8 engine -- the one you'll remember from the C6 Corvette -- with Borla 8-Stack fuel injection, and the wick turned way, way up to 525 horsepower. The LS3 is plenty loud all on its own, and the thick side-pipe exhausts are basically megaphones, amplifying the incredible roar. If a Ted Nugent guitar solo were a V8 wail, this would be it. I feel sorry for Superformance's neighbors in this otherwise quiet business park.
Good lord, do I love an eight-cylinder thoroughbred American engine, and the Grand Sport's LS3 is divine. There's tremendous power available, but it's delivered under the driver's terms. Go easy on the throttle and the Corvette will pull away from stoplights like a gentleman. Give it hell and the back end will shimmy a bit as you take off in a fury of thunder.
There's no other way to describe it: the Grand Sport's handling characteristics are super weird. On the one hand, you have fully independent front and rear suspension setups, so the coupe offers great ride comfort and respectable cornering poise, even on thick tires with meaty sidewalls. On the other hand, the power steering is almost hilariously vague, and you sort of have to rethink how much effort you have to dial in when turning.
Using the six-speed Tremec T-56 manual transmission is an oddly lovable experience. Vertical throws are appropriately long, but horizontal action through the shift gate is incredibly short. Gear engagement is solid, but swapping cogs isn't a quick process. If you want to execute a fourth-to-third downshift for a passing maneuver, some planning is required.
If you're looking for a canyon-carver, the Superformance Grand Sport is not your match. Closely spaced back-and-forth curves require work, from having to keep the transmission in a low enough gear to ensure the engine is on boil, to the effort required to point the car's nose where you want it to go. But for lazy backroads -- or, let's be honest, on the boulevards you'll take to get to a classic car meet -- the Superformance is a dream. Classic American muscle coupes were not made for tactile precision, and this Grand Sport keeps that spirit intact.
Of course, all of this comes at a price. This specific car starts at $114,900 -- a full $30,000 more than a brand-new, 650-horsepower 2019 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. And that's just the price for the chassis. The 525-horsepower LS3 is a $15,500 upgrade; the Borla 8-Stack is an additional $10,500. Add $3,495 for the transmission, factor in $22,845 worth of optional goodies (blue leather, air conditioning, power windows and so on), and don't forget about $10,500 for parts and labor and $1,000 for dealer prep and destination.
The total cost of the car you see here? $176,890. Holy smokes.
But no one ever said these restomods were cheap -- just look at the absolute mountains of cash Singer pulls in for its "reimagined" Porsche 911s. Consider that a company like Superformance is the Singer of the American muscle car world: the end product is period-correct perfect, but built with fully modern parts, some of which are even delivered under warranty. And that's something you just can't find on the used-car market.