Driving the Fast Five 1963 Corvette Grand Sport and Video
Behind the Wheel of a Fabulous Fake
Fast Five is by no means a low-budget movie. The crew travelled around the world filming it, all the actors cashed sizable paychecks and it's in color. But even epic extravaganzas have their limits. Enter the 1963 Corvette Grand Sport roadster in Fast Five.
The movie opens with exotic cars being hijacked straight off a moving train. Forgetting for a moment how ludicrous the premise is, the scene required the filmmakers to come up with some exotic cars that could be hijacked. Now, despite the film's robust budget, it's not like the producers could afford to go buy up the inventory at Ferrari of Beverly Hills. After all, new 458 Italias start at more than $230K a crack. Throw in Lambos and Zondas and suddenly the filmmakers were staring down multiple millions just for cars that were going to be swiped.
So the idea of destroying true exotics was quickly torpedoed by the producers. Instead, there would be kit cars. And in addition to some fake GT40s, Dennis McCarthy's crew put together a passel of phony Grand Sport Corvette roadsters.
But even a fakity-fake Grand Sport can be entertaining.
Enter the Mongoose
Hit the way-back machine to the early '60s when Zora Arkus-Duntov was jealously watching the Shelby Cobra rip through SCCA and international road racing competitions like a supernova through butter. The Corvette was the American sports car and, suddenly, Shelby's perverse crossbreeding of the British AC Ace with the Ford Fairlane V8 was threatening to take over. The Corvette Grand Sport was Duntov's revenge.
Although it had a fiberglass body like a Sting Ray, under that skin the Grand Sport was its very own thing. It used a lightweight chassis that dropped hundreds of pounds off a regular Corvette and was powered by an aluminum 377-cubic-inch small-block V8 making somewhere near 550 horsepower. It was so awesome that GM, which was then officially out of the racing business, cancelled the program in 1962 after only five Grand Sports had been built. And only two of those were open roadsters.
So Mongoose Motors decided to build more of them. The Ravenna, Ohio, company's Grand Sport replica is built around a custom fabricated tube-frame steel chassis to which are attached C4-generation (1984-'96) Corvette suspension elements, brakes and a 502-cubic-inch GM big-block V8 rated at 502 hp.
So it's not a real Grand Sport, but that's still an impressive collection of parts.
Fear the Mongoose
Dennis McCarthy's shop bought enough components from Mongoose to build a total of 10 Grand Sport replicas for various uses in the film. That includes several versions with small-block V8s for generally destructive duty, one that was built on a Volkswagen-powered off-road chassis for jumping, another for green-screen work on a stage and even a couple shells just to be thrown off a cliff. But the one Edmunds.com drove came straight from Mongoose with the big-block under its hood and a Super T-10 four-speed to put that power to the ground.
Mongoose advertises its basic Grand Sport Roadster package — the body on a frame with the hood, doors and deck lid not installed — at $16,995. A complete car, less the drivetrain, is $69,995. They make great Christmas gifts.
With its sewer-size side exhausts located parallel to the driver's ear, starting the big V8 produces a sonic well that feels like it's volleying your skull from left to right. Blip the throttle and you can distinctly feel your eardrums rub the malleus bones against the incus bones. It's auditory dynamite.
And that's before it's even in gear.
Ride the Mongoose
Sledgehammer the four-speed into 1st gear and the driveline thumps even with the clutch depressed. Release the soft clutch (this car has only been abused — never once driven easily) and the car lurches forward. Some of the original 502 hp may have been beaten out of this beast, but there's still plenty left.
On the straightway at the Streets of Willow, the Grand Sport accelerated with grunting brutality. There was no seatbelt and the seats themselves were even worse than real Corvette seats, so some self-preservation kept us from pushing the fake 'Vette too hard.
Diving into the corners, the big 275/40R17 Sumitomo tires take a moment to find their set, then bite confidently into the pavement. The C4 rack-and-pinion steering system probably needs new bushings, but there is some feel to the system. The brakes are spongy but seem to work well.
It's a wild ride when you're on a track without belts. But the potential here is so obvious that it makes you wonder what the true limits are of this monster if it were given some TLC, some race gas and the courage that comes with safety equipment.
The Accurate Mongoose
Even after up-close inspection of this beat-up example, the Mongoose Motorsports Grand Sport is a beautiful car. It's something easy to imagine driving every weekend in complete satisfaction. Particularly if your weekends include regular track visits.
So accurate is the Mongoose Grand Sport that GM paid it the ultimate compliment back in 2010. That's when the bigger company sued the small one for copyright infringement. And what's more American than that?
NBC Universal loaned Edmunds.com this vehicle for evaluation.