Classic cars reborn under recent legislation

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

Recently passed federal legislation allows low-volume motor vehicle manufacturers to offer new, turn-key versions of classic cars within certain guidelines.

Buyers of the Superformance Chevrolet Grand Sport can select the engine and transmission that meets their needs.

Think Shelby Cobras, Ford GT40s and even the Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, but built with modern components — from suspension parts to steering gear, from paint to powertrain — and available for much less than what it would cost to buy a rare original at a classic car auction.

Several such cars were on display last month at the automotive lifestyle showcase that is part of the annual Barrett-Jackson collector car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Superformance LLC has been producing such replica and continuation-series cars for some 20 years. Its array at Barrett-Jackson included one of the new and GM-licensed Corvette Grand Sports. Under that car’s hood was a 427-cubic-inch Chevrolet-based V-8 engine tweaked by Lingenfelter Performance Engineering to produce 600 horsepower.

The cars are built in South Africa without engines or transmissions, which are installed after the customer considers the various options.

Ken Lingenfelter, the Brighton resident who owns the company started by his late cousin, John Lingenfelter, said engines with as much as 800 horsepower are available should a customer desire.

Lingenfelter said customers have many options — old-school engines with carburetors or the latest in fuel injection and supercharging. “It’s dependent on what the buyer of the car really wants,” he said.

Some, he suggested, will buy a Grand Sport for racing, and “will get them built and on the track where they can beat on them.” Others may buy one strictly for show and will want all sorts of chromed “bling” to dazzle when the hood is open. Yet others may want a Grand Sport for daily use “as a regular driver.”

One of the great things about the new Grand Sports, Lingenfelter said, is that they are built to be capable of whatever sort of driving their owners want to do.

“That’s one of the really cool things about the project,” he said. “The car is built for all of that.”

This version of the Grand Sport has an engine from Lingenfelter Performance Engineering.

Buyers of such low-volume vehicles can opt for vehicles and engines from various sources. Lingenfelter noted that his company recently had one of its engines installed in a Cobra, a car traditionally powered by Ford.

Designed to compete with the Shelby Cobra during the 1963 sports car racing season, only five Corvette Grand Sports were built by Chevrolet. All five survive. One was offered at auction in 2009 but a high bid of $4.9 million was rejected by the car’s owner.

For more information on the Superformance cars, visit the www.superformance.com website or its Michigan-based dealership, Hillbank Motor Corp. East in Wixom.

For more information on Lingenfelter engines and other products, visit www.lingenfelter.com.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.