Nineteen eighty-three marked the introduction of Chevrolet’s fourth-generation Corvette, which until the mid-1990s would be improved and modified by a variety of in-house and aftermarket specialists.
Of the various aftermarket tuners, one of the most impressive was Guldstrand Specialty Automobiles (GSA) out of California. Company founder Dick Guldstrand had developed a formidable reputation in the 1960s as a successful Corvette racing driver at Daytona, Le Mans, and for Roger Penske’s Grand Sport Team.
He went into race car production shortly thereafter, before producing his first road car in the 1980s. In 1995, “Mr. Corvette,” as Guldstrand was often called, introduced the GS90 and its soft-top sibling, the Nassau Roadster, so named for the legendary Grand Sport victory over Shelby’s Cobras at Nassau in 1963. Fitted with a supercharged, 420-horsepower LT1 engine, Guldstrand’s carbon fiber-bodied Roadster set new performance standards, backed by over three decades of Corvette racing experience.
The second of only six ever produced, this Nassau Roadster has less than 7,000 original miles and was acquired by mega-collector Al Wiseman from its original owner. Finished in metallic blue with a white center stripe, the paint is virtually flawless and in excellent, factory-original condition. The black Haartz cloth convertible top, glass, and five-spoke O.Z. wheels are all as-new and free of any damage.
While the body is an original design, factory Corvette touches are visible on the interior, which appears to be entirely original and features charcoal black leather upholstery throughout. Both the engine compartment and undercarriage seem to be untouched, clean, and well preserved. The aluminum supercharger housing, in particular, has been nicely polished and is indicative of the car’s low mileage and outstanding overall condition.
Complete with an original owner’s manual, window sticker, and center console-mounted plaque, the Nassau Roadster is one of the rarest collector Corvettes ever produced.
|Vehicle:||1995 Guldstrand Nassau Roadster|
|Original List Price:||$85,000 approx.|
|SCM Valuation:||n/a ($34,000–$46,300 for 1995 ZR-1)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$350|
|Chassis Number Location:||Driver’s side dash at windshield|
|Engine Number Location:||Pad forward of cylinder head on right side|
|Club Info:||National Council of Corvette Clubs|
|Alternatives:||1987–91 Callaway Twin-Turbo 1990–96 Callaway Supernatural 1990–95 Corvette ZR-1|
This car sold for $57,200 at RM’s auction of the Al Wiseman Collection in Tarpon Springs, Florida, on December 1, 2007.
Ever since there was a Corvette, there have been those whose goal it was to improve it. As early as 1954, supercharger kits were developed to add some much-needed power to the original 155-hp Blue Flame Six. The Corvette’s style also came under scrutiny, with everyone from Pinin Farina and Bertone to the King of Kustoms, George Barris, getting in on the act. But of all the Corvette tuners, no one has had the credentials of Dick Guldstrand.
While working as an electrical engineer in the aerospace industry, Guldstrand began racing a battered 1956 Corvette on the West Coast. By the early 1960s, Guldstrand dominated California B Production racing. He won three consecutive SCCA Pacific Coast Championships from 1963 to 1965, and was named the California Sports Car Club Driver of the Year in ’64.
His reputation was spreading, and in 1966, “Goldie” (as his friends call him) was hired by Roger Penske on the recommendation of Zora Arkus-Duntov. Guldstrand was to prepare and drive Penske’s ex-Works Grand Sport Corvette roadster in the Prototype class in the 12 Hours of Sebring that year. “For an old front-engined car, we sure made them know we were there,” said Guldstrand. “The car was a dinosaur—it was the last of the front-engined cars.” The Grand Sport crashed out of the event in the wee hours, but Guldstrand concluded, “we were proud of our efforts.”
Guldstrand hit 171.5 mph on the Mulsanne
In 1967, when Duntov wanted to enter the new L88 Corvette in the 24 Hours of Le Mans—and do it without direct factory support—he turned to Guldstrand, who was working at Dana Chevrolet in Los Angeles at the time. In near-stock trim, the L88 hit 171.5 mph on the three-mile-long Mulsanne Straight, and it led the GT class for nearly twelve hours until the stock connecting rods failed.
In 1968, he founded Guldstrand Engineering in Culver City, California, building Corvette race cars for actor-turned-racer James Garner and others. By the 1970s, 70% of the racing Corvettes on the West Coast came from Guldstrand. In 1986, he created his first street Corvette, the GS80, a stock-looking ultra-high performance car for an exclusive few, including drummer Alex Van Halen.
“The great thing about the car is—it’s kind of a weird way of explaining it—it’s like a motorcycle, except with four wheels,” Van Halen told Road & Track magazine. “When you finally get into the groove and feel the car, it’s kind of like becoming one.”
In 1990, Guldstrand Specialty Automobiles was formed, and in 1994 the first GS90 debuted on the Chevrolet stand at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Named after the legendary Grand Sport, the GS90 was built around a ZR-1, featuring stylish Grand Sport-inspired carbon fiber body panels designed by California designer Steve Winter. Producing 475 hp, with suspension and brake upgrades to match, Goldie hoped to build 100 to 150 of the $135,000 GS90 coupes before the ZR-1 model ended.
The Roadster emphasized style over performance
With the introduction of the GS90, Guldstrand also announced the availability of a convertible version, the Nassau Roadster. The $85,000 Nassau Roadster emphasized style over performance, yet had more power than a stock ZR-1. The number of GS90 coupes is unknown—the figure of 100 $135,000 ZR-1-based cars is implausible—but just six Nassau Roadsters were built before the C4 era ended in 1996.
Modified Corvettes rarely retain much value. Rarity has nothing to do with it, since most are one-offs anyway. When a street Corvette is modified, the cost of the modifications is forever lost, and the overall value of the Corvette is greatly reduced.
Only the Callaway Corvettes have shown any appreciation over time, and mostly it’s just the rarest of the breed (like the Callaway Twin-Turbo Speedsters) that do. While Al Wiseman’s Guldstrand Nassau Roadster sold for less than its original cost, it has retained its value much better than most comparable C4 Corvettes, even ZR-1s.
Perhaps the uniqueness of the Nassau Roadster, the stirring performance, and the original design may have something to do with it. On the other hand, maybe it just reflects Dick Guldstrand’s Midas touch on Corvettes. Well bought and well sold