Jim Pickering Addtional images courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
  • No. 868 of 1,000 1996 Corvette Grand Sports produced
  • One of 810 Grand Sport coupes
  • 29,959 actual miles
  • Sold new in Michigan
  • Resided on East Coast for seven years before moving west
  • Admiral Blue paint with an Arctic White stripe and red hash marks
  • Two-tone interior with Torch Red leather seats
  • LT4 5.7-liter V8 engine
  • 6-speed manual transmission
  • Gloss black five-spoke wheels
  • Gloss black front brake calipers

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1996 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport coupe
Years Produced:1996
Number Produced:810
Original List Price:$40,475
SCM Valuation:$30,500
Tune Up Cost:$200
Chassis Number Location:Plate at base of windshield
Engine Number Location:Right-front cylinder-head deck
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society
Alternatives:1995 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, 1996 Dodge Viper RT/10 convertible, 2006 Chevrolet Corvette coupe
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 166, sold for $24,200, including buyer’s premium, at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, AZ, on January 20, 2018. It was offered with no reserve

Designed as Cobra killers, in 1963 Chevrolet’s skunkworks built five Grand Sport racers to take back the track from the Shelby American juggernaut. While General Motors’ ban on racing soon torpedoed the effort, the name Grand Sport lived on in infamy, resurfacing in 1996 for a one-year swansong for the aging fourth-generation Corvette platform. The ’96 Grand Sport was a Regular Production Option (RPO) called Z16, which cost $3,250 on the coupe and $2,880 on the convertible.

Included in the Grand Sport coupe were the outstanding 330-hp LT4 engine, Admiral Blue paint with a white stripe and twin red hash marks on the left front fender, wide 17-inch wheels and tires from the ’95 ZR-1 (now painted black), rear fender flares, a choice of black or two-tone Torch Red and black interior, sport seats, and a few other cosmetic touches. The Grand Sport convertible lacked the coupe’s rear fender flares and had narrower tires fitted. Exactly 810 coupes and 190 convertibles were made.

A surprisingly good buy

A popular refrain of auction-goers is, “I paid too much.” That was not the case here, as this wonderful-looking Grand Sport, showing less than 30,000 miles on the odometer, sold at no reserve for less than the cost of a 2018 Toyota Prius or Honda Accord. Furthermore, it went for 20.6% below the current American Car Collector Pocket Price Guide median value of $30,500. Adding insult to injury, the price guide already lists the car as a “C” investment (downgraded from a “B” in earlier years) due to a 14% value decline from 2017.

Let’s dissect the situation, starting with elements in favor of the 1996 Grand Sport. First, the pushrod LT4-powered Grand Sport is considered a pinnacle of fourth-generation Corvettes — an honor shared with the final-year DOHC, 32-valve 1995 ZR-1.

Second, few Grand Sports were made (the 1,000 build volume of GS coupes and convertibles represents just 4.6% of total ’96 Corvette production), and they can’t easily be faked because the specialized paint and interior would be expensive to reproduce — and even if such cloning were successful, the VIN would still be wrong.

And third, in recent years, certain cars from the 1980s through 2000s have started hopping, possibly in part because successful Millennials can now afford influential vehicles from their youth.

Some Grand Sport perspective

All of the above pluses are genuine strong points for the Grand Sport. However, one detriment is that the 1996 GS coupe is more than four times as plentiful as the ’96 GS convertible. Across all segments of the collector world, the exclusivity borne by limited production is a positive. Put more simply, compared to the Grand Sport convertible, the coupe is fairly common.

As an interesting side note, here are some other collector-grade American coupes in the ACC Pocket Price Guide — one from each decade during the 1950s through 1990s — with roughly similar production numbers as the 1996 Grand Sport coupe:

  • 1957 Corvette 283-hp Fuelie (756 built) — ACC median value of $92,500 with an “A” rating
  • 1967 Camaro Z28 (602 built) — ACC median value of $92,500 with an “A” rating
  • 1974 Pontiac Trans Am SD-455 (943 built) — ACC median value of $82,500 with a “B” rating
  • 1987 Buick GNX (547 built) — ACC median value of $114,000 with an “A” rating
  • 1998 Dodge Viper GTS (837 built) — ACC median value of $41,500 with a “B” rating

Like wine, cars appreciate with age

Researching this brief list of vehicles was most educational, because it allowed comparing, for the first time, values of post-war American sporty cars with a build quantity between 500 and 1,000. Choosing one car more or less empirically from each decade, my main requirement was that it be a high-performance model built in sufficient quantities so as to be attainable by a large number of people. As such, I bypassed low-production units like Camaro ZL1s and Corvette L88s. I likewise bypassed well-known cars like the 1965 to 1968 Shelby GT350s, even though in some years they fit the profile, in favor of the less well-known Camaro Z28. Just because.

My findings? In an admittedly disputable, arguable and grossly general way, this casual experiment suggests that epic cars from the 1950s through 1970s are still the icons of our collecting universe, but also that cars of the 1980s are playing a strong game of catch-up — at least in certain circumstances. Cars from the 1990s? Not so much — yet. And that may be exactly the reason our subject ’96 Grand Sport sold for such easy money in Scottsdale.

Since there was nothing to dislike about or disqualify this car, there is practically no other viable explanation for its low sale amount except its age — aside from the possibility that the right buyers just weren’t in the room when it sold.

If cars’ traditional early depreciation and later appreciation are graphed, the resulting curve would be a lazy inverted parabola: A years-long initial value decline, followed by a low, flat middle, and eventually climbing up and out. The height and steepness of the parabola’s edges would naturally vary by car and environmental conditions, but in general, that’s the way of the car world.

The 1996 Corvette Grand Sport coupe cost $40,475 new. Not counting inflation, the 2018 ACC median value of $30,500 represents a 24.6% value drop after 22 years, and the selling price of our subject car represents an even greater 40.2% value drop.

If the Grand Sport’s previous owners had tucked it away all these years, expecting a big payoff, they absolutely lost this round. Instead, the winner may well be the person who bought it in Scottsdale — because I’d gamble that the 1996 Grand Sport’s real action will happen in the next 10 years.

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

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