Earlier this week I took the day off to roll over to Orlando to check out the 1969 ZL1 Corvette and two L88s at Roger’s Corvette Center. Well, the fun didn’t end there as we made one more stop at Bill Tower’s place in Plant City to check out the #005 1963 Corvette Grand Sport and the other rare Corvettes in his collection.
We first met Bill during the media rollout of the 2017 Corvette Collector Edition in Atlanta in 2016. Chevrolet arranged to have a Grand Sport from each of the era’s (1963, 1996 and 2010) on display and Bill was there to answer any and all questions about the historic lightweight racer.
Bill is a retired engineer who trained at the General Motors Institute and then went to work for Chevrolet Engineering on some of the most significant Corvettes in the sixties including the Grand Sport “lightweights” as well as the L88 program. In his personal collection is the 1956 Betty Skelton NASCAR Corvette, the 1956 SR-2 racer, the ’63 Grand Sport #005 and the first of twenty 1967 L88 Corvette. Bill also owns several former NASCAR racecars with their own provenance.
During our visit which included about 30 peeps from the Simply Corvettes facebook group who also attended the “Run to the ZL1” at Rogers, Bill gave a fantastic rundown of each of his cars and we were able to capture his walk-around the both the 1967 L88 and the Grand Sport. I thought I would start with the Grand Sport first as chronologically it came before the L88 program.
Some facts that came out was that the #005 Grand Sport was built at 7/8s the size of the other Grand Sports. The car is also fitted with a 54 gallon fuel tank. Bill says that Jim Hall came up with a fuel nozzle and receptacle that could fill the larger tank faster than one of the standard big tank Corvettes that hold 36 gallons. He also had to go hunting for the original hydraulic jacks which he found mounted on a couple of Roger Penske’s Indy Cars.
There are many stories about the Grand Sport, but it’s very rare to actually hear the stories from someone who was there when the program was coming together. And in this fact-filled half-hour walk-around, Bill just scratches the surface.
A special thanks again to Bill Tower for allowing us to view his special collector of Corvettes and thank again to Jeff with Simply Corvettes for setting this dream day up. To be able to view three different L88s (two from 1967!), a 1969 Corvette ZL1 and one of the original five 1963 Corvette Grand Sports in one day is a special treat indeed for any Corvette enthusiast!
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