The words, "but it's only a car," have never ever been uttered in reference to the pilot line '96 Grand Sport serial-numbered 600005-at least not while owner Tim Barnes of Thornton, Colorado, has been anywhere near. Not only is Tim's Grand Sport one of the earliest and most unique '96 Grand Sports in existence, but it has also been a cornerstone in the lives of him and his loved ones, and it's at the center of seemingly too many coincidences to be purely coincidence.

"I Want That One."In November 1995, Tim's wife Willa was glancing at the 1996 Corvette sales brochure and was captivated by the image of a new Grand Sport in the desert at dawn. At that time, Willa was also undergoing her fourth round of chemotherapy in an unending battle against breast cancer.

Throughout the winter and spring of 1996 and into the summer, Willa continued to struggle against her cancer, and she never ceased to gaze longingly at the Grand Sport in the brochure. The cancer wasn't yielding to any of the treatments, but neither was Willa's resolve to survive it. "[The picture of the Grand Sport] gave her something to strive for during those bleak winter days during her chemo treatments," Tim tells us. "I can't tell you how many times I heard, 'Honey, I want that car.' I couldn't imagine any way that we'd ever own one, though."

Willa's fascination with the '96 Grand Sport wasn't just a passing fancy for some flashy new sports car. She and Tim were both serious Corvette fanatics, and their garage had been home to four Corvettes over the years, including a '67 roadster, a '67 coupe, an '86, and a '94 coupe. Willa felt a genuine passion for the new C4 Grand Sport.

Despite her ordeal, Willa managed to keep working at a local credit union through it all. At a business seminar she attended in July 1996, her employers emphasized that credit unions should do all they can to help their members attain those things that really matter to them. "She came home from the seminar with a commitment from the credit union to make her dream of owning a Grand Sport a reality," says Tim. With the CU's support to finance Willa's dream car, all Tim had to do was find one.

Since Chevrolet limited the production of Grand Sports to only 1,000 (810 coupes and 190 convertibles), and the '96 model year was near its end, finding one that was still available was a bit of a challenge. Most of the local dealerships had already long since sold their allotment of GS Corvettes. "One of the dealers had one, but they wanted $10,000 over sticker for it," Tim recalls. "It wouldn't be that one."

Finally, Tim called a friend at Purifoy Chevrolet in Ft. Lupton, Colorado. Although they didn't have a Grand Sport in stock, Tim's friend had a line on one from out of state. After a bit of research, Tim's friend called back very excited about what he'd discovered. "He said it was serial number 5 of 1,000, and it had only 278 miles on it." It was at a dealer in Nebraska, and Tim's friend had already made arrangements to have the Vette shipped to Purifoy Chevrolet. Tim and Willa would be able to see it the very next afternoon-which was music to Willa's ears!

The following day, the Grand Sport was parked in a very prominent spot on the dealership, and the Barnes spotted it immediately as they pulled into the lot. "We hadn't even gotten out of the car before Willa decided that was the car she wanted," Tim remembers. Thus, they drove it home the next evening, making GS Number Five their fifth Corvette!