What happens when you take a lover of all things Ford Mustang and put them behind the wheel of a jet-powered 1978 Corvette? When the feeling of cheating on their beloved pony car begins to fade, they’ll likely walk away from the experience grinning ear-to-ear; and that, folks, is exactly what happened to me at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. this past December.
Truth be told, I have nothing against the Chevy Corvette. In fact, I have much respect for the car. Like the Ford Mustang, it has stood the test of time. Heck, it pre-dates my beloved Mustang, having been a part of American car culture since 1953. Talk about longevity. So when Milton Verrett, owner of the one and only jet-powered 1978 “Granatelli” Corvette, invited me out to Auto Club Speedway for some seat time, I jumped at the opportunity. Verrett acquired the car back in 1982 when he outbid Major League Baseball hall of famer, Reggie Jackson, for $500,000.
One-of-a-Kind Jet Powered Corvette
The 1978 “Granatelli” Jet Vette, which will be auctioned at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction (Lot# 5070), has roots dating back to 1978 when Vince Granatelli – son of Andy “Mister 500” Granatelli, had the vision of bringing his father’s turbine engine to a modern muscle car. Back in the late ’60sGranatelli Sr. had challenged the conventions of the Indianapolis 500 by installing a Pratt & Whitney ST6B turbine engine into STP’s race car. His son, Vince, wanted to convert a ST6B turbine engine to fit into a street legal Chevy Corvette – the only consumer vehicle capable of housing the length of the engine. Enter the “Granatelli” Corvette. The 880 horsepower machine, which is a beast in every way, has been clocked doing 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds by Motor Trend Magazine (although Vince Granatelli recorded 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds), making it the world’s fastest street-legal Corvette.
In creating the car, Vince disassembled a new 1978 Corvette and fabricated a sub-frame which replaced the factory structure. Next he installed a special transmission using a fortified drive shaft and 3.03:1 gearing. One of his numerous challenges was bringing down the engine’s 37,500 rpm with a reduction gearbox, which sets the rpm to 6,230.
As I suited up for my track time, I couldn’t have imagined the ride I was about to take. I eased myself into the driver’s seat and buckled myself in tightly. I immediately noticed the car’s airplane instrument panel and extensive gauge modifications. No doubt, this was sure to be one heck of a ride. At the flip of a switch, the car’s turbine engine came to life. I can best describe it as the howling sound emitted by a Learjet just before takeoff. “Are you ready to go?” my riding companion yelled to me over the car’s turbine engine. “Yes, let’s do this thing!” I dropped the car’s automatic transmission into gear and off we went.
First things first, I quickly discovered the Granatelli Jet Vette idles at 60 mph. That’s right. Take your foot off the brake pedal and the car will accelerate to 60 mph without even the slightest tap of the gas. Wild. As we rounded turn two I punched it. The car took off like a bat out of hell. Before I knew it we were at turn three. I put my foot on the brakes, slowing us down to a reasonable speed. Thankfully the car’s oversized NASCAR disc brakes were able to control the extreme display of power. As we roared past pit row, I gave a thumbs up. Yes, we were on our way! Where? I don’t know, but we were going to get there lickety-split!
On our final lap I finally began to settle into the jet-powered beast. With that, we pulled into pit row, waves of heat radiating off of the car’s silver and black paint job. The car’s exterior paint scheme is similar to the 25th Anniversary Corvette with wide strips that run over the hood.
When I was said and done, I walked away from the “Granatelli” Jet Vette with a huge smile on my face. Had it been a Ford Mustang, I probably would have put a bid down on the car right then and there! For those looking to see more of this machine, be sure to check out the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction on Velocity and Discovery during their 36 hours of live coverage from Tuesday through Sunday, Jan. 13-18.