If one were to identify the individuals most closely linked to Corvette motorsports throughout the years, Dick Guldstrand would have to lead the list. Known as "Mr. Corvette," Guldstrand was the first professional racer to test Roger Penske's incredible '66 and '67 Grand Sport race cars. Perhaps more impressively, he set a speed record of 171.5 mph on the famed Mulsanne Straight in 1967 while piloting the Dana Chevrolet racing Vette. His GS80 and GS90 models brought high performance back to the marque in the late '80s and early '90s, and his '03 50th Anniversary Signature Edition C5 embodied a unique combination of power, style, and limited-edition exclusivity.
We met with the personable Mr. Guldstrand recently at the Road America racing circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, to find out more about what he had planned for this year's Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show. Rumor had it that Guldstrand was going to use the yearly Vegas soiree to unveil a very special Corvette to industry insiders. "I've got a top-secret surprise for SEMA this year," Guldstrand chuckled. "Perhaps you'd like to see it?"
Excusing himself from a group of fans that had materialized around him, Guldstrand took us nearby to a private garage where his "secret" Vette lay covered in a nondescript car cover. Lifting the cover from the left front fender of what was once a run-of-the-mill '07 Z06, he said, "Everybody was asking me, 'Now that you're 80 years old, what are you going to do for an encore?' Well, this is it-my newest and most incredible creation, the Guldstrand GSRT."
We stood in awe as he revealed the car, a stunning Machine Silver C6 replete with expertly executed aesthetic upgrades. "I am the proud parent of this state-of-the-art Corvette supercar," Guldstrand continued. "It is a Grand Sport with a removable targa, or 'GSRT' for short. This fully functional GSRT is our SEMA show car. It was created with the cooperation of the car's owner, Steve Platt, who had a lot of great ideas for this Corvette, and I was the technical expert."
As we studied the exterior of GSRT No. 1, Guldstrand summarized the car's history. "As you probably know, I've done a number of very special Corvettes. They've all been quite successful. A customer of mine wanted a new Corvette, but he absolutely had to have a removable targa top. I talked to the Chevrolet people, and they said, 'It's really not feasible to put that much horsepower to the body unless you do something special to the chassis.' So I took a fixed-roof Z06, converted it to a targa top, put a roll hoop in it, beefed it up, and-as you can see-it turned out absolutely beautiful."
He reached inside, unlatched the hood mechanism, and raised the unique-looking bonnet. "This is what gives the GSRT its power," he continued, "a Katech 427 Street Attack engine with [the company's] newly revised Stage I cam. My history with these engines and Katech goes back many, many years. We're very confident with the performance and durability of the car."
How much performance is Guldstrand talking about? According to engine-dyno testing at VanGordon & Brown Performance in Claremont, California, the GSRT makes 560 hp at 6,200 rpm and 560 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. On the track, those numbers translate into predictably impressive results. According to Guldstrand, initial testing yielded an 11.9-second quarter-mile e.t.
"If I had this car 10 years ago, I could have won everything I entered," Guldstrand laughed as he strapped himself into the cockpit and fired up the big Katech engine. "The technology is so overwhelming compared to the Corvettes I raced in the '60s. You can't even compare the GSRT to the older cars. It's another world now-high-tech and high-dollar, but still just as exciting as the old days, if not more so-and a hell of a lot safer."