The Grand Sport special package, RPO Z16, created a truly distinctive C4. The only other Corvette to ever have its own unique VIN code is the ZR-1. Each '96 Grand Sport, whether coupe or convertible, wore Admiral Blue with an Arctic White racing stripe and a pair of red hash marks on the left front fender to honor its historic namesakes (the five original '63 Grand Sport racecars were all identical, other than having colored-coded hash marks to identify them on the track). The Z16 package also included a 330-horse LT4 powerplant, ZF six-speed transmission, embroidered power driver and passenger Sport Seats, and black-painted brake calipers with the silver Corvette script behind blacked-out aluminum five-spoke wheels. Only GS coupes, however, received the larger 17x9.5- and 17x11-inch wheels wearing 275/40ZR-17 and 315/35ZR-17 tires and the molded rear fender flares necessary to cover the massive rubber out back.
Number Five is quite unique in that, apparently, no other Grand Sport was ever built with exactly the same equipment package. Its option package includes a red and black interior; the FE1 Soft Ride Suspension; F45 Selective Real Time Damping; heated remote electronic side mirrors; 3.45:1 gearing; and the Preferred Equipment Group (PEG) One that includes electronic A/C control and a Delco-Bose stereo and cassette. Plus, it was the last GS coupe to have the molded rear fender flares attached only by adhesive backing.
Willa's cancer seemed to be responding to her newest treatment, and she was feeling pretty good through the fall. The story on her Grand Sport just elated her. But Willa's recovery, however, was brief. Her latest treatment, unfortunately, was no longer working either, and there was nothing more the doctors could do for her. "Willa managed to drive her baby twice while her strength permitted," Tim says. "The rest of the time she was content just to ride in her."
Willa hung on through the holidays and their 24th anniversary before passing on in February 1997. "While the car may be a legend, so is Willa. Her strength, courage, and determination touched many lives during her five-year battle with cancer," Tim tells us. "Her legend will continue to live in the hearts of those she touched." Before she went, Willa made Tim swear that no matter what ever happened, he was to keep her baby-even if it meant living in it. Willa's GS would continue to play a huge role in Tim's life.
Needless to say, the ensuing months were a very difficult time for Tim, but the Grand Sport and his many friends in the Corvette Community helped him through. That year, his club's annual April Fool's Rally honored Willa's memory, and Tim met many new faces there. Then in November, when his fellow club members in Down the Road Corvettes encouraged a reluctant Tim to go to Vettes on the Rockies, one of those new friends from April overheard that he didn't have a navigator for the road rally. She volunteered her sister Pat who had just moved to Colorado from Upstate New York to ride along and navigate for him.
The first stop, only 10 minutes into the drive, was a photo shoot the club had arranged for participants. "We got out and had our picture taken with the car, though, at the time, we both thought it was pretty pointless." Nonetheless, Tim and Pat survived the rally, lunched together, and ultimately spent most of the weekend together. "The truth of the matter was," says Tim, "that I was falling in love with her and didn't want to let her out of my sight!" The following year at Vettes on the Rockies, at the same spot and time they metTim proposed to Pat. And a year after that, on the same date they met, they were married and celebrated their honeymoon at where else-the VOTR!