American muscle with an accent you can hear a mile off
The muscle car phenomenon has gone through waves and troughs since the 1960s, but the song remained the same: mid-size, affordable, two seats, rear-wheel drive, a big V8 up front – and made in America. Europeans might rival them in agility, but those thundering V8s shouted ‘born in the USA’.
These potent crowd-pleasers have appeared and vanished from manufacturers’ catalogues according to economic and market shifts, but there’s one that arrived long before the others and never went away – the Corvette.
Chevrolet Corvettes have always looked sensational, but despite seven generations of evolution they remain a rare sight in the UK. It’s partly the left-hand drive question, but perhaps partly the hangover from their early image. With a glassfibre body on simple chassis and suspension, early cars looked great but did not compare well with the home product on European roads despite the power. “Fine for the Mid-West but…” was the view.
Fast forward to Gen 7 and you’ll find a highly sophisticated machine constructed with aluminium and carbon fibre, a rear transaxle, composite springs, electronic limited-slip differential and a dry-sumped 450bhp engine that can shut down four cylinders when cruising. It’s a spec to shout about, yet here Corvettes remain about as common as earthquakes. Apart from the ’quakes caused when the supercharged 640bhp option lets loose.
Sole dealer is Ian Allan Motors in Virginia Water, Surrey, who are also the authorised dealer for Cadillac (but only the gargantuan Escalade) and the Corvette’s team-mate, the Camaro. Smaller, cheaper and most definitely retro in style, the Camaro sells in double the quantity of the Corvette – which is to say, 40-50 cars a year. You won’t see two of them in any car park. Yet it too boasts 6.2 litres of burbling V8, though with a bit less power, plus a multi-link rear end borrowed from the small Cadillac saloon that means it corners in a way its 1966 forefather couldn’t imagine.
Perhaps it lacks the continuous heritage of its bigger brother, but Ian Allan dealer principal Kevin Hurl sees them as a complementary pair, and says some buyers find LHD refreshing. “It’s no problem. After all, we all drive abroad.”
The forthcoming C8, though will put the motor midships and also offer RHD, not just for us but also the Indian and Australian markets where LHD is banned. You may be about to see more ’Vettes than ever.