"Been there, done that," would be an apt describer for Dick Guldstrand. He is a legendary racing driver, a renown builder of one-off and limited-production ultra-performance cars and race cars, and an inductee to the National Corvette Museum's Hall of Fame during its sophomore season. He started racing on dirt ovals in the late 1950s and shortly thereafter got into road racing Corvettes.
"Guldie's" accomplishments include being Roger Penske's first paid driver (in Penske's '63 Corvette Grand Sport!); racing at LeMans, Daytona (with a class win in 1966), and Sebring; winning multiple SCCA championships; and winning races and titles well into the late 1980s. And while he was driving the doors off competitors half his age, his shop, Guldstrand Engineering Inc., was building many of the fastest and most competitive Chevrolet road racers in the world.
In late 1986, Guldstrand unveiled his first Corvette-based super car, the GS-80, a relatively stock-looking, but most definitely NOT stock-performing C4 that garnered raves worldwide. This was followed a few years later by the radical ZR-1 based GS-90 (see "Just What The Doctor Ordered," February 2003, for a look at one of these hyper-rare beasts). Meanwhile, he and his crew were churning out one-off C4s and, later, C5s, enhanced to the individual customer's specifications, as well as building and restoring GM-based vintage road racers.
And now, at an age (he's a very youthful 70-something) where most men are puttering around on a golf course a couple times a week, Dick Guldstrand is at it again. This time "it" is his iteration of what the 50th Anniversary Corvette should be. Don't be fooled by the glistening custom paint, or highly unique and flashy interior treatment, or the trick body panels. Guldstrand's 50th Anniversary Signature Edition Corvette is not just another nice polite cruiser, a paint job and badge special. After all, this package starts off as a Z06, and builds from there!
The most significant upgrade to Guldstrand's 50th Anniversary Z06 is something that can't be seen, but certainly can be felt--a 7.0L (427 ci for the purists) LS6, massaged to Guldstrand's specifications by Katech, the same firm that builds the factory C5-Rs' potent Gen. III racing engines.
Why a big-bore stroker motor rather than bolting a supercharger or turbos onto a stock engine to realize a significant power gain? Guldie explained, "For a major milestone like the Corvette's 50th anniversary you need to make a statement. We believe that by resurrecting one of the great performance icons from the Corvette's past, in this case the 427ci V-8, our anniversary car makes that statement. In conceiving the Signature Edition Corvette, our goal was to connect the Vette's heritage with a thoroughly modern sports car. Using the 427 engine configuration allows us to do exactly that."
Those Katech 427s start off with stock LS6 blocks. Katech bores out the factory 3.898-inch steel cylinder sleeves, which are replaced with Katech's own 4.100-inchers. Carillo forged connecting rods and a Katech 4.000-inch 4340 forged crankshaft are used in lieu of the factory 3.622-inch stroke crank powdered metal rods, to bump the displacement up to 427 from the stock 346. Typifying the entire engine build are forged aluminum pistons with hand file-fitted rings, and details like billet steel main caps, and billet steel head and main bearing studs.
The top end utilizes Katech Stage III cc'd and ported LS6 heads that are fitted with stainless steel valves and springs, and titanium retainers. The exact cam specs are being kept secret, but it does feature both higher lift and longer duration than a stock '02-03 LS6, and the cam is managed by an adjustable timing set and the same specification timing chain as used in the C5-R engines. The cam is totally streetable and the Guldstrand 50th Anniversary car meets or exceeds emissions standards in all 50 states. Compression stays at 10.5:1, and the intake manifold is standard LS6, fitted with a Katech ported throttle body. The exhaust system, with the sole exception of Flowmaster mufflers and tailpipes, remains factory issue.
It all adds up to an engine that is truly street driveable, with A/C going and in everyday stop and go traffic, that produces 500 hp (at 5,700 rpm) and a thundering 520 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. Or as Guldstrand told us, "Like the original big-block 427 engines, we want the Signature Edition 50th Anniversary Corvette to be a true high-performance sports car, but it also has to have the civilized road manners and creature comforts expected by today's drivers." Unlike the original big-blocks, which were powerful 650-700 pound cast-iron lumps, Guldstrand's Katech 427s are featherweights (under 400 pounds), with aluminum block and heads.
The balance of the powertrain remains factory-spec Z06, which is more than stout enough to handle everything the modern 427 dishes out. The factory Z06 chassis is, for the most part, also up to Dick Guldstrand's lofty standards. Guldstrand, an acknowledged high-performance and racing suspension guru, opted to change only the front and rear stabilizer bars and links, going to custom units of his own design. The tires and wheels have also been upsized and upgraded, with 275/35ZR18 front and 295/35ZR19 rear Michelin Pilot Sports replacing the OEM Goodyear Eagle SCs.
Former GM and Corvette designer John Schinella penned the interior and exterior modifications. Most immediately noticeable is the eye-popping DuPont Anniversary Gold with Cobalt Blue paint scheme. Once you've gotten past the stunning color work, you'll notice the C5-R influenced rocker panel "aero extensions," "power dome" hood, and one of Specter Werkes' great-looking rear fascias with a subtle lip spoiler. Other exterior details include a quartet of export (i.e. European market) taillights.
Schinella's plan for the interior is color-coordinated with the outside. Re-contoured C5 Sport Seats (RPO AQ9) are covered with a light gold leather and trimmed in blue suede, with Guldstrand's signature and "Signature Edition 50th Anniversary" embroidered on each backrest. The steering wheel, shift knob and boot, parking brake handle and boot, door handle pulls, and the console storage compartment lid are all bedecked in matching blue suede, while the console itself receives a carbon fiber overlay.
Guldstrand Motor Productions, LLC plans to build just 50 copies of the Signature Edition package Z06s. Each one of the 50 will be numbered in sequence and signed by Dick Guldstrand.
A few weeks ago, we got to spend a day with Dick and Signature Edition number 1. This was not a specially-prepped press, but, thanks to the generosity of its anonymous owner, was making the rounds of selected West Coast publications for one-day visits and driving impressions before the lucky buyer took possession. (Thanks, whoever you are, for sharing your toy with us!)
Dick Guldstrand is always a delight to be around--a superb raconteur, a veritable encyclopedia of motorsports history over the past half century, a humble and humorous gentleman who has accomplished more than most mortals could dream of. And when we (myself, Assistant Editor John Nelson, and Contributing Editor Rob Wallace III) got to take turns blasting around in a 7.0L Z06 or hang out and chat with The Master, it made for a very special, very enjoyable day.
Guldstrand's Signature Edition Z06 has a commanding presence. The fit and finish, inside and out, is superb, commensurate with a limited production automobile of this ilk. But when you've got 427 ci and a claimed 500 horses lurking beneath the hood, driving is what it's all about.
Flogging a wide variety of Corvettes, stock and sometimes extensively modified, is a part of the job, something all of us thoroughly enjoy. It also gives us a different and hopefully more balanced, less "ohmigosh!" approach to our driving impressions. For me, personally, having owned somewhere around four dozen (could be more) cars ranging from old fashioned musclecars to Euro sports coupes and sedans, a couple econoboxes with sporty pretensions to hot rods, and several highly modified street and track monsters, well, I'm both a little jaded and very critical of a modified car's possible shortcomings.
The Guldstrand Signature Edition fires right off, just like a stock C5. In spite of the hotter cam, there's no real lumpiness to the idle, just an extremely healthy burble out of the Flowmasters. I hope you understand what I mean when I say that a car's exhaust sounds "big;" it's something that old high-compression small-blocks had. Big-blocks, back in their heyday, had it in spades! The note is razor sharp, it's deep, and it just reeks of testosterone. The Signature Edition's exhaust sounds "big" and it's not just the mufflers--I know what the same pipes sound like on an LS1 and it just ain't the same.
Clutch actuation is absolutely normal. But, at any point, from light throttle tip-in onward to slappin' the loud pedal into the carpet, the throttle response is very, very immediate and very, very strong. There's this sort of torque that pushes firmly into your chest, that pushes your spine deeply into the seat, and before the prodigious torque band can begin to ebb, all that glorious horsepower comes rushing in. This is an entirely different sort of power than what you get from a centrifugal supercharger or a turbocharger (or two)--the Lingenfelter twin turbo Z06 that we featured last July made a bunch more horsepower, but it's still a 5.7L until you've gone wide open throttle and the turbos have spooled up. Ditto (to a slightly lesser degree) for the ATI ProCharger we just highlighted last month. They're all incredibly fun, but having that big-inch torque monster ready to rip at any time and at any throttle input is a sensation like no other.
This thing is so well mannered it's amazing. It rides, handles (at least on the street and freeway ramps), brakes, and acts just like a normal Z06. It's sort of like a Z06 on an overdose of steroids. Or an artful blend of L88 and C5. Whatever...
The fortunate 50 who acquire a Guldstrand Signature Edition 50th Anniversary Corvette will have what has to be, to date, one of the finest, fastest, and best balanced Corvettes ever built. It's just too bad that GM didn't have the guts, determination, or vision to build something of the sort for the factory's commemoration of the Corvette's Golden Anniversary.
Right In The Gut
By John Nelson
"There's no substitute for cubic inches," the saying goes. To that, let us add that there's also no substitute for the long stroke that often comes with all those cubic inches. That was the primary impression I took away from my test drive in Dick Guldstrand's Signature Edition 50th Anniversary Corvette.
Granted, Mr. Guldstrand is primarily known for his expertise at chassis and suspension tuning, and the Signature Edition certainly upholds that tradition. On the other hand, Dick knows how to pick a good motor, and the mondo mill in this golden boy cannot be ignored. But first things first...
Guldstrand's Z06-based creation has a look all its own. You, of course, notice the hood, the wheels, and the front and rear fascias. But that gold paint is something else. In the shade, the hues take on a subdued, metallic tone. It's restrained, but not unpleasing. Roll the Signature Edition out under the sun, however, and the color begins to glow, taking on a bolder character that can get even a casual observer just a bit pumped up. The interior also has its own distinctive character; I was especially fond nice gripping surface provided by the blue suede trim on the Guldstrand Z06's steering wheel.
Then again, maybe I grew fond of that grip because I didn't want to stop driving Guldstrand's 50th Anniversary Corvette creation. In the handling department, this car is everything a stock Z06 is--eminently streetable at sane speeds, ready for all kinds of twisties when the speed level is ratcheted up, and endowed with stout brakes that can slow things down in a hurry. Guldstrand's sway bars give the Z06 an extra measure of handling prowess, but in no way compromise everyday drivability--which is what Dick had in mind from the start.
It's a good thing that the Signature Edition can brake and turn so well, 'cause with this powerplant, things happen in a hurry. That's to be expected from a vehicle that packs 500 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque. I've even driven a couple of other Corvettes that pack that kind of power. This was my first time driving a Vette--or any other car--with a stroker motor under the hood. It makes a difference. Stomp on the Signature Edition at low rpm in Second or Third, and it seems that you can feel those extra-long connecting rods swinging through their increased travel, creating ever-increasing amounts of torque and causing the SE to surge forward, and muy rapido at that. Lots of modifed and blown Corvettes are fast, but this LS6 stroker...it was as if the power reached right into my gut, hurling me along even as it propelled the car forward.
Unsure of what to expect when Guldstrand rolled up, I left impressed by the Signature Edition, and just a bit jealous of the 50 lucky souls who will own one. This Corvette is nothing if not the mythical velvet hammer. It's refinement and performance was addictive to say the least. Hey Dick, do we have time for one more ride?
A personal impression of Guldstrand's 50th Anniversary Corvette
By Bob Wallace III
It's bold. It's daring. It's unique. It's one incredibly powerful son of a gun!
The Guldstrand 50th Anniversary C5 certainly makes a statement that deserves to be flown high and proud. Its gold and blue paint is not the prettiest combination around, but it does properly commemorate the Corvette's Golden Anniversary. And nothing, but NOTHING, could be more perfect to celebrate the heart and soul of Corvette - Yesterday and Tomorrow, than a 427ci LS6! I only wish something comparable could have come straight from GM.
Guldstrand's Signature Series 50th Anniversary Corvette is everything you would expect for Corvette's milestone birthday. The 427-cid Z06 has mountains of torque right from the start, and the power just keeps on rolling out. If you so much as look at the throttle with the motor running, you'll be pushed back into the seat. Starting out with the baddest of the bad--the Z06--guarantees that the chassis is ready, willing, and able to handle everything this totally modern 427 dishes out, and it takes corners like it were on rails. It has one of the most prominent C5 exhausts I have ever heard, with a rather loud, deep baritone rumble that's probably due to the stroked LS6's massive displacement just overwhelming the mufflers. Best of all, though, Guldstrand manages to wring gut-busting performance out of his construction without sacrificing any of the comforts or usability of a stock Z06.
To be totally honest, I was more excited about the opportunity to have lunch and spend the afternoon with Dick Guldstrand himself than I was to play with his Signature Series Vette. The man has stories galore that we mere mortals can only dream of, and yet he tells them in such a straight, matter-of-fact manner. Perhaps, however, that makes it even more appropriate that this Viper-slaying 50th Anniversary C5 carries his name. Guldstrand is a renowned engineer, has had a long and successful racing career, and he's been involved with Corvettes on and off the track since the '60s. Men like him really are the essence of what the Corvette was, and they helped it become what it is today. This Vette is totally worthy of carrying Guldstrand's name and to be considered a 50th Anniversary model!