2003 Dick Guldstrand’s 50th anniversary

Although the factory-built 50th Anniversary Corvette was a beautiful car, many Vette fans were hoping for more, much more. For those insatiable (and deep-pocketed) few, the Guldstrand version offered a legitimate fix. Let’s take a look at how the two cars compare. The factory option was available on the ‘03 coupe and convertible—but not the Z06—for $5,000 over the base price of the car ($43,895 for the coupe and $50,370 for the convertible). The package included model-specific Red “Xirallic crystal” paint, special interior and exterior decoration, Magnetic Selective Ride Control, and the 1SB option, which bundled electrochromic mirrors with various other minor upgrades. There was no extra power and, aside from the active suspension option, no additional performance.

It’s no surprise that a Dick Guldstrand–designed 50th Anniversary Vette would turn out much different. Guldstrand is part of the old guard of veteran Corvette racers, having started his road-racing career thundering around tracks in solid-axle, fuel-injected C1s. He’s also one of the privileged few to have actually raced a ‘63 Grand Sport. “Guldie” has competed and won at Sebring, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. If you look back at those old C1, C2, and the early-C3 racing Corvettes, you’ll see that they’re astonishingly stock compared with today’s racers. It stands to reason, then, that Dick Guldstrand knows how to coax a little—and sometimes a lot—of extra oomph from a relatively unmodified production Corvette.

Obtaining a Guldstrand Signature Edition 50th Anniversary Corvette was an uncomplicated—if not inexpensive—process. First, you purchased a new ‘03 Z06 Corvette for $51,155. Contracts were then drawn up, with payment due in full upon signing. Next, your Z06 was sent to the Guldstrand Motor Products assembly facility in Troy, Michigan, where its transformation into a Signature Edition model would take between 8 and 16 weeks.

Guldstrand’s approach to tuning the car was pretty straightforward. He started off with the toughest factory ‘03 Corvette available, the Z06. He then overbuilt the engine for extra power and durability, lowered the car and slightly enhanced the suspension, added racing-inspired wheels and tires, and installed a handsome body package conceived by Corvette designer John Schinella. If anyone knows how to build Gen III Corvette engines for power and longevity, it’s the team at Katech—the same folks responsible for the C5-R and C6.R racing mills. The Z06’s LS6 engine was re-machined, bored, and stroked to 427 cubic inches. The bottom end received a 4340 forged crankshaft connected to Katech pistons and Carrillo rods, yielding a 10.8:1 compression ratio. Billet steel was used for the main caps as well as the head and main-bearing studs. The heads were ported and refitted with the stock rocker arms. A special performance camshaft with higher lift and longer duration orchestrated valve action. A ported throttle body and a pair of Flowmaster mufflers with new tailpipes rounded out the horsepower modifications. The suspension remained Z06-stock except for an overall height reduction of one inch and the addition of larger, Guldstrand-designed front and rear stabilizer bars. The wheel/tire combination was also upgraded and enlarged, with gummy Michelin Pilot Sport rubber (275/35ZR18 front and 295/35ZR19 rear) mounted on stunning Fikse forged rims.

The first thing you’ll notice about the car is its brilliant Anniversary Gold paint and contrasting Cobalt Blue side decoration. A closer look reveals some very interesting bodywork. The front chin spoiler and side skirts are toned-down versions of the C5-R pieces, while the rear features a mild spoiler and small flares behind the wheels. The hood accentuates the stock twin “humps” and adds a set of vents towards the front. The Z06’s signature rear fender scoops remain. Magazine reviewers who appreciated Corvettes loved the car, praising its race-inspired edginess and distinctive good looks. They really liked the 500 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque, which were sufficient to push the Vette through the quarter mile in just 12.4 seconds.

Guldstrand’s goal was to commemorate the Corvette’s golden anniversary with a limited run of 50 cars that harkened back to the marque’s early high-performance days. To do so, he took a classic formula and applied it to a modern sports car, with astonishing results. Was the Signature Edition the fastest, baddest specialty Corvette ever made? Probably not, but it’s still an exceptional car. Oh, and the price? In addition to the cost of an ‘03 Z06, the Guldstrand package commanded an extra $49,330.

Text: K. Scott Teeters of www.illustratedcorvetteseries.com