Kelly Rotert’s replica of a 1963 Corvette Grand Sport is an astonishing piece of work, especially when you consider that he started with nothing more than the car’s VIN plate, title and firewall.
Rotert, of Stilwell, said he learned to do mechanical and body work when he was a student at the technical high school in Des Moines. Since then he has probably built 50 cars, including various hotrods, and this is his 15th Corvette. “If I think it’s cool, that’s what I build.”
Building cars is his after-work therapy, and he has the support of his wife, Pam, who he met in high school. “When I found out her favorite car was a 1967 Pontiac Firebird 400 with a hood tachometer, I was pretty sure I was in love,” he said.
Starting with nothing more than a firewall was quite a challenge, but that was necessary for Rotert’s car to retain its 1963 title. The original five 1963 Grand Sports (three coupes and two roadsters) were built by Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov and his staff to challenge European sports racers. They had lightweight aluminum frames, thin fiberglass body panels and magnesium wheels. The engines were 377-cubic-inch V-8s that delivered 485 horsepower. General Motors canceled all factory racing efforts in early 1963 and the cars were raced a few times by privateers. Today those cars, worth perhaps $6 million to $8 million, are some of the most valuable and historic of all Corvette models.
Rotert’s car has an aftermarket tube frame similar to the one on the real Grand Sport. The 1992 Corvette suspension parts are nearly identical to that of the original race car. His car’s engine is a Chevy LS6, 350-cubic-inch V-8 that delivers 485 horsepower, same as the original. The hood, rear section and roll bar are reproduction Grand Sport pieces.
Assembling everything and doing all of the bodywork took Rotert about 2,500 hours. “There’s nothing you can’t make if you have the patience,” he said.
He made the custom racing windscreen by sandwiching a piece of Plexiglas between two stock windshields and heating them until the Plexiglas was formed correctly.
Rotert’s mechanical work is excellent and his body and paint work are outstanding. A good example of his attention to detail is the accuracy of the pearl white racing paint stripe that runs the length of the car. He spent 12 hours in his garage laying out the stripes with two lasers.
The result is a show-quality car that has won its class several times in the World of Wheels auto show despite have been driven about 2,500 miles since it was finished in 2009.