Many of the cars showcased at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky are lent to the museum by private owners from around the world. Others, like the 1996 Corvette Grand Sport showcased in this article, are donated to the museum where they become part of its permanent, long-term collection. When the latter happens, the museum celebrates the donation by recognizing the donors in a special ceremony hosted by the NCM.
“In 2005 we were looking around and wanted to find something somewhat affordable. The 1996 Grand Sport always had some appeal. When we started checking in to it, we were introduced to John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson of the Grand Sport Registry.”
Hutch encouraged the couple to look at Roger’s Corvette Center in Florida for a 1996 Corvette Grand Sport. At the time, Rogers had two or three examples that interested the couple. “It was unusual that they had that many as only 1,000 were made. You just don’t see them on the road.”
The couple had been prepared to fly to Florida to check out the car but discovered a third party company that had knowledgeable representatives that could inspect the car for them for a small fee. “It turned out the guy who did the inspection had been a show judge, and previously raced cars. He asked me if we were going to show the car, and I said ‘yeah – why?’ And he said that as a judge, he’d probably give the car a 97 or 98 out of 100.”
Given the overwhelmingly positive appraisal, the Watkins decided to purchase the Corvette.
As it turns out, this example is one of just six 1996 Corvette Grand Sports produced with the specific set of Regular Production Options (RPOs) featured on the car. It was also one of just 810 Grand Sport coupes produced in 1996. Both of these elements added to the car’s exclusivity. The fact that it also came equipped with the Z51 Performance Package was icing on the cake!
“Those are the primary things that sort of separated them,” Larry explains. “Probably a couple of things related to the sound system and the audio system in the car.”
The exterior of this (and all) 1996 Corvette Grand Sports came finished in Admiral Blue with white racing stripes. The interior came wrapped in black trim with red upholstery, the latter of which includes the car’s seats, its door panels, and lower hatch. This particular example still looks like new – even though its 25 years old.
During the course of their ownership of the car, the Watkins took their ’96 Grand Sport to Corvettes at Carlisle. While they were there, they were approached by a group of young men who thanked them for bringing the car to the show. That moment helped Larry and Carol realize how much people appreciated seeing their ’96 Grand Sport Corvette. It wasn’t long after that moment that the Watkins began thinking about donating their car to the Museum so that more people could see it.
At the key hand-off ceremony, the National Corvette Museum’s Director of Collections/Curator Derek E. Moore stated that it was a happy day because “donations like this help us achieve our goals and our mission here at the Museum.”
The Watkins felt moved to donate their beloved 1996 Grand Sport to the Museum because they knew that it would be seen by a greater number of Corvette enthusiasts than it would sitting in their garage at home.
You can check out the car, the story behind it, and a some of highlights from the hand-off ceremony in the attached video below: