Green Machine

Also from Issue 80

  • 1970 LT1 Convertible
  • Buyer’s Guide: C3
  • Grand Sport Roadster Replica
  • Dick Thompson
  • Tech: C6 Targa Top
  • History of Corvette Aerodynamics
  • Split-Window Funny Car
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I climb behind the wheel and push the starter button. The engine roars to life, a throaty cacophony fills the arid landscape. Impending doom, cloaked in green, is about to cross the land. Mixed in with the eight-cylinder rumble is the eerie whine of the Edelbrock E-Force supercharger, which boosts this Grand Sport’s horsepower from 436 to 599. With an approving nod from Purifoy, I slip the car into first gear, bring the revs up to 4,000 rpm and dump the clutch. Thanks to its advanced traction-control system, the car launches with hardly a chirp from the rear tires, despite having 547 lbs-ft of torque to contend with—123 more than stock. Before I know it, we’ve hit 60 mph and I’m grabbing second gear. Even after I shift into third, the car’s superbike-like acceleration continues to push us back into the specially embroidered seats, as the road ahead becomes a gray blur.

Having remained silent up to this point, Purifoy gives me a bit of advice: “Being on a two-lane road north of 100 mph doesn’t give you too much of a margin for error when you’re surprised by some guy pulling out of his yard in a John Deere.” His words fall on deaf ears as I continue to climb up through the six-speed gearbox.

A furtive glance at the head-up display informs me that we are just shy of a buck and a half. The read-out is digital. It is green. It hovers holograph-like in the middle of the windshield. I feel like Luke Skywalker. Princess Leia is beside me and we are going back to Tattoine for a two-week desert vay-cay. Oh wait, that’s Rollie Purifoy, not Princess Leia, next to me and he is waving his hands. I am wrenched from my fantasy when I see a white pick-up truck in the distance backing slowly out of a driveway into our path. The farmer at the wheel is blissfully unaware that he and his poultry are about to be chick-filleted by a screaming-green 3,200-pound projectile. It’s too late for me to slam on the brakes; even if this Grand Sport had been upgraded with ZR1-spec carbon rotors, braking wouldn’t be an option.

Just as I’m planning my avoidance strategy, another pickup truck appears in the other lane. With just moments to react, I choose to veer left into the path of the oncoming vehicle, sweep around the first pickup and accelerate hard back into my lane. Thanks to the Corvette’s lowered suspension and the engine’s instant throttle response, I’m able to pull off the maneuver without ending up on the evening news.

I look over at Purifoy, expecting him to bring my test drive to an abrupt halt. Instead, he reaches over and shuts off the electronic driver-aid system. His newfound faith in my abilities is quickly put to the test as we dive into a tricky off-camber corner. I’ve braked too late, forcing me out of prime position for exiting the corner. Like the machines nearby in the alfalfa fields, I’m plowing. The spirit of Juan Fangio or, more likely, Zora Arkus-Duntov takes over and I hit the gas. The car goes from understeer to oversteer a little more quickly than planned. I manage to correct the slide, but not without dropping a rear tire (and the carbon-fiber-clad 19-inch rim it surrounds) off the road into the dirt.

Again, I look over at Purifoy to see if I’m going to be banished to the passenger seat. The silver-haired patriarch reacts with astonishing equanimity considering I almost spun his $120,000 project car into the weeds. “The blower cars accelerate so hard in second and third gears that you can have your hands full before you know it, but, damn, it’s fun,” he says with a laugh. I keep my seat, but proceed back to town at a more civilized pace.

This special Corvette Grand Sport may have been built to celebrate Purifoy Chevrolet’s 50th anniversary, but it was also built to make a sale. The car’s current owner is Linda McNulty. She says the car not only turns heads, but makes people think its occupants are VIPs. “One night we went to Elway’s restaurant and everyone started taking pictures of the car,” she says. “As the valet helped us into the car, people started asking if we were celebrities or with one of the sports teams.”

McNulty shares the Corvette with her husband, but also lets her 22-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son drive it; now that’s a great mom. Speaking of her son, McNulty says, “He had to get used to the power behind this car.” After driving this supercharged machine, I feel the same way.

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