Sports car production from the Italian luxury brand had been stagnant since the discontinuation of the 8C Competizione in 2010. But nonetheless they tried their hand at a smaller sports concept at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. After its Geneva debut, the 2011 4C Concept made its appearance at the Mille Miglia, Goodwood Festival of Speed, and the Frankfurt Motor Show. It made one more appearance at the 2012 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, Italy. Although only a concept, the 4C won several awards, such as “Most Beautiful Concept Car of the Year” by Auto Bild in 2011, and “Design Award for Concept Cars & Prototypes” at the 2012 Villa d’Este.
The winning credentials of the 2011 concept ensured a future for the production variant. The Launch Edition was unveiled at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. This vehicle majorly retained the dimensions and characteristics of its prototype counterpart. It was very lightweight, with its unibody being made entirely in a singular carbon-fiber tub. Sheet moulding compound (SMC) is used for the outer body panels, keeping the vehicle weight under 900 kg. The wheelbase sits at 2380 mm (93.7 in), and length by width by height measures 4000 mm (157 in) by 1864 mm (73.4 in) by 1183 mm (46.6 in). The vehicle was ready to enter production out of Maserati’s plant in Modena, Italy. The orders were pouring in, with a speculated 1000 units shipped within Europe.
More orders would come pouring in, however, when the Alfa Romeo brand relaunched in North America in 2014. At first, a speculated 100 units were planned, and by 2015, approximately 850 had been shipped over to North America, with 663 units actually being sold. Meanwhile in Europe, sales topped 1,047 units, with 1,179 more sales the year after that.
The variant launched in North America was much the same all throughout, save that some structural modifications be made to meet crash test safety standards. These modifications made the US version heavier than the European counterpart – weighing in at over 1100 kg. The engine is kept the same: Alfa Romeo has supplied their “1750” engine, a turbocharged 1742cc (1.7L) inline-4, which produces 237 horsepower @ 6000 rpm, and 258 ft/lbs of torque at 2100 rpm. This powerplant is paired to a 6-speed TCT dual-clutch transmission, and comes with the Alfa “DNA” dynamic control selector. This control selector allows the driver to switch between the car’s default powertrain and suspension settings to an even more assertive “Race” mode.
Another variant of the 4C to debut was the Spider. Aside from the removable hardtop, the Spider features slightly different exterior panels. This puts it at a weight difference when compared to the coupe. In Europe, the 4C Spider weighs in at 940 kg, while the weight difference between American market 4C coupes and spiders is not very significant. In 2018, Alfa Romeo discontinued production of the 4C Coupe, leaving only the spider. Yet, despite the coupe’s departure from the lineup, the 4C is known as “excellence made in Italy”.
The Toyota MR2 was a mid-engine sports car in production from 1984 to 2007. The name “MR2” can stand for “mid-ship, run-about, 2-seater” or “mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-seater”.
The origin of the MR2 dates back to the release of the economy-conscious 1981 SA-X prototype. Later, this idea was expanded further to result in the SV-3 concept, which made critical acclaim at the 1983 Tokyo Motor Show. It was this vehicle on which the first generation production MR2 would be heavily based. The first generation W10 Toyota MR2 rolled off the production line in Sagamihara, Japan in June of 1984. The MR2 found its way into the North American market for model year 1985 – one year after the debut of another compact, mid-engine sports car, the Pontiac Fiero.
Keeping to Japanese dimension regulations for compact vehicles, the MR2 measured 3950 mm in length and kept its width below the 1700 mm limit. It had a wheelbase of 2320 mm (91.4 in). The engine lineup was also kept compact: the choices for Japan were either a 1.5-liter 3A or 1.6-liter 4A-GE. As for North America, the only engine option was the 4A-GE. The AW11 MR2 was fitted with the first-generation “Blue Top” engine producing 128 horsepower and 109 ft/lbs of torque. American power sat at a lower 112 horses and 97 ft/lbs.
1986 saw the release of the supercharged model in Japan. This new supercharged model was not yet available for North America, so the MR2 lineup had remained unchanged since its 1985 model year debut. The 4A-GZE engine was a supercharged variant of the 4A-GE, and could produce 143 horsepower and 140 ft/lbs of torque.
Model year 1987 saw the upgrade of the 4A-GE engine in American-market MR2s. The unit pumped 115 horsepower, versus the prior 112 horses. Also new were the revised front and rear suspensions and larger brake rotors. North American 1988 models finally gained the supercharged variant. For 1989, all models got color-coded door handles and side mirrors. The supercharged model gained a rear anti-roll bar. Up to this point since its 1985 debut, the North American MR2’s production run amassed 89,246 units.
October 1989 saw the launch of the second generation W20 model in Japan. Despite remaining within compact specifications regarding its increased wheelbase (2400 mm) and exterior length (4170 mm), it appeared large and Ferrari-like. This generation of MR2 has been nicknamed the “baby Ferrari” or “poor man’s Ferrari”. The W20 generation can be split up into production cycles called Revisions. Revision 1 was the 1989 debut model. American production of the second-gen W20 commenced for model year 1991. The USDM base models got power from the 2.2L 5S-FE, an engine shared with the Celica GT and Camry.
The Revision 2 model of 1993 gained a viscous limited-slip differential (LSD) for the Turbo models. The Turbo was essentially the American version of Japan’s GT-S model, which got power from the 2.0L 3S-GTE. Japanese units turned out 218 horsepower while American Turbos got 200 horsepower. These turbocharged models have the VIN code SW20.
Model year 1994 saw the release of Revision 3. Updates included a one-piece rear spoiler, color-coded trim, and an acceleration sensor fitted to the revised anti-lock brake (ABS) system. The Japanese-market GT-S amped up its power to 242 horsepower, while the USDM Turbo retained the prior turbo’d engine still producing 200 horsepower. With sales declining year after year, the USDM ceased importing the MR2 after the 1995 model year – that year, only 382 were sold. Production in Japan soldiered on…
1996 saw the release of “Revision 4” in Japan and Europe. Modifications to the MR2 included improvements to the anti-lock braking, traction control, addition of passenger-side airbags, and turn signals on the fenders. November 1997 saw a slight revision to the final series of this generation, such as clear turn signals, adjustable rear spoiler, and red interior stitching. The base model got an improvement in its new “BEAMS” 3S-GE engine, which utilized aluminum alloy pistons and compression rings made of steel and cast iron. With exhaust-gas efficiency increased, this engine now made 200 horsepower. This generation of MR2 would remain in production until 1999.
October 1999 saw the debut of the third generation W30 in Japan, and spring of 2000 in North America. Although the car stayed true to its mid-engine configuration, it was altogether very different from previous generations. For one thing, the exterior dimensions were altered drastically to provide a different stance and driving dynamics. The wheelbase was extended by 50 mm (to 2450 mm versus the W20’s 2400) and the length and width were reduced to 3886 and 1695 mm, respectively. For another, this generation was marketed differently worldwide; in Japan, it was the MR-S, and in North America, it was named MR2 Spyder. It ditched the coupe body style of MR2s past and produced as a convertible.
Power for the Spyder came from the 1.8L 1ZZ-FED shared with the Celica, pushing 138 horsepower and 125 ft/lbs of torque. For shifting gears, only a 5-speed manual was available until the addition of a sequential manual transmission in 2002. Japanese motorsports firm Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA) entered an MR-S in the GT300 category of the All Japanese Grand Touring Championship (JGTC), which they won 1st place that year. This racing victory briefly proved the ZZW30’s worth amid declining sales figures in the US. The MR2 discontinued American production after the 2005 model year, still being produced as the MR-S and MR2 Roadster in Japan and Europe, respectively. Production halted worldwide altogether in 2007. For what it was, the MR2 was an intriguing car to ever derive from the economy-conscious 80’s into the Japanese sports-car enthusiast community.
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, or “Evo“, was a turbocharged sport-compact produced from 1992 to 2016. This model was hailed as a success in Mitsubishi’s sports lineup for as long as they had been producing sports cars. The popularity of the sport compact has been rivalled and expanded in other automakers’ lineups, such as rival Subaru’s Impreza WRX/STi models.
The first generation Lancer Evolution, which sat on the CD9A/CE9A platform, debuted Japan-only in September of 1992. Production of the Evo took place at Mitsubishi’s Nagoya Plant in Okazaki, Japan. This generation (Evos 1 through 3) was relatively subcompact in stature: the car had a wheelbase of 2500 – 2510 mm (98.5 – 98.8 in) and an exterior length of 4310 mm (170 inches). The “gentlemen’s agreement” limited the number and extent of the Lancer Evo’s features. Thus, Mitsubishi stuck to installing a turbocharged 2.0L 4G63 inline-4 from the “turbo-era” Galant VR-4. This engine turned out 244 horsepower and 228 ft/lbs, and was paired up to a 5-speed manual that translated that power output into four-wheel-drive. The Lancer Evolution came in two trims: RS and GSR. The GSR was available with climate control, but the RS was stripped further of interior comforts. With considerably fewer options, the RS was 70 kg lighter than the GSR. Mitsubishi produced 5000 Evos through 1993.
January 1994 saw the release of the Evolution II. It was relatively unchanged from the first Evo, save for handling improvements from refined swaybars, struts, rear spoiler, and tires. The Evo II gained more power (256 hp), and both the RS and GSR models got the same rear mechanical plate limited-slip differential. A much improved model, the third-generation “Evolution III” debuted in February of 1995. Although structurally and mechanically, it remained the same, this model gained an aggressive body kit with larger intakes. This assisted in directing air more efficiently to the radiator, intercooler, and brakes. The 4G63 engine was updated again to provide 270 horsepower. The increase in power meant a higher compression ratio. Another issue Mitsubishi tackled was turbo lag. To counter this, a secondary air supply was installed. This type of secondary air supply system is common on rally cars participating in the WRC. The Evo 3 proved popular, with this generation selling in higher numbers than the two prior Evos. The GSR outsold the RS nearly 9000 to 1100 units, respectively.
August 1996 saw the debut of the CN9A generation, or “Evo 4“. Enhancements included an engine mounting position turned 180 degrees to counter torque steer and a moderately aggressive exterior redesign to complete the performance package. Like the previous generation, the Lancer Evo was available in two trims: RS and GSR. The GSR gained Mitsubishi’s Active Yaw Control (AYC) system, which electronically directed the necessary amounts of torque to all four wheels based on various acceleration, steering, and g-force conditions. This torque vectoring system has been installed in many later Mitsubishi models. Thanks to a new twin-scroll turbocharger setup, power output was raised to 280 horsepower @ 6500 rpm, and 243 ft/lbs @ 4000 rpm. All these options made this generation GSR heavier than previous models, weighing in at 1350 kg. The considerably stripped-down RS model weighed 1260 kg.
January 1998 saw the release of the facelifted Evo 5. Although the 5 shared many aspects with the 4, such as similar wheelbase, exterior length and large rally fog-lights, it was 80 mm wider. This made the car 1770 mm (69.7 in) wide, exceeding Japan’s dimension regulations for compact vehicles’ maximum acceptable width of 1700 mm (67 in). As a result, the Evo 5 was slapped with a larger annual tax. Official power ratings for the Evo 5 remained the same at the maximum acceptable 280 horsepower, but the torque was raised to 275 ft/lbs. Both the RS and GSR were similarly optioned as before, with the GSR available with Active Yaw Control, Recaro seats, Brembo brakes, and air conditioning.
January 1999 saw the release of the Evo 6. Mitsubishi didn’t have any intention of bringing the vehicle down to “compact” scale, as this was the final generation of Lancer/Evolution to be based on the Mirage. Thus, dimensionally, it remained the same. Besides being just a slight cosmetic redesign, the Evo 6 gained improvements in engine durability, performance, and cooling. The offset license plate mounting location allowed for a larger air intake in front, improving the performance of mechanical bits inside the car. In 2000, Mitsubishi built the Tommi Makinen Edition, or “Evo 6.5”. The Tommi Makinen Edition (TME), named after Finnish rally driver Tommi Makinen, featured a different front-end design, unique red/black Recaro seats, 17-inch Enkei wheels, and leather Momo steering wheel. Other enhancements included a quicker titanium turbine, lower ride height, and quicker steering ratio. Although some limited-edition UK-market RS models built by Ralliart got 330 horsepower, the JDM models were stuck at the legal maximum of 280 horsepower.
February 2001 brought about the debut of the larger CT9A generation, or “Evo 7“, which was subject to FIA-mandated World Rally (WRC) regulations. With the significant increase of exterior dimensions came increased weight: an active center differential was installed in addition to the improved limited-slip differential. At the time of the Evo 7’s debut, the lineup had two trims as before: the RS and GSR. In 2002, Mitsubishi debuted a third model called the GT-A. The GT-A was different from the other two Evos in that it featured a slightly different cosmetic design (for example, a smaller rear spoiler), and a 5-speed automatic transmission. This electronically controlled automatic transmission, INVECS, utilized “fuzzy logic” to adjust gear-shift timing according to the driver’s input. Although the GT-A got power from the same turbocharged 4G63, horsepower was slightly lower than for the RS and GSR models: it got 272 horsepower at 6500 rpm.
January 2003 saw the release of the Evo 8 not only in Japan, but first-time premieres in export markets, especially North America. The Evo 8 sat on the same platform as the prior Evo 7, but featured a more flared-out exterior body kit. Power for the JDM model was at 280 horsepower and handling was provided by Brembo brakes and Bilstein shocks. 2004 saw the debut of the MR, or “Evo 8.5”. The MR, much like the Evo 6 Tommi Makinen Edition, was a more track-oriented model and recalled its “Mitsubishi Racing” heritage of the 1970’s Galant GTO. Besides Bilstein shocks for handling capability, Mitsubishi built the roof from aluminum, reducing weight and lowering the center of gravity. Both the standard and MR lineups each got two RS models, 5-speed and 6-speed, and one GSR model. Not featured in US-market Evos, Mitsubishi integrated Super Active Yaw Control (SAYC) in it Japanese-market variants.
The last generation based on the CT9A/CT9W platform, the Evo 9, made its debut in March 2005. Although for the most part it maintained a similar appearance to the Evo 8, it gained slight differences on its grille, front bumper intake, and more notable rear diffuser. Also new for this generation was Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control System, or MIVEC for short. This was a variable valve timing technology designed to increase engine performance, and in Mitsubishi’s other economy vehicles, improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. Other performance enhancements included a redesign of the turbocharger, which amped power up to 287 horsepower and 289 ft/lbs of torque. The different trim levels sold worldwide were RS (Rally Sport), GT, GT-A, GSR (Japan), MR (North America), MR GSR, MR RS, and MR Tuned by Ralliart. The GT, slotted between the RS and GSR, featured a 5-speed manual transmission, limited-slip differential (LSD), and Recaro seats. The GT-A had the 6-speed automatic transmission. Similar to the Evo 7 GT-A, power was reduced to 272 horsepower. The North American MR model gained Bilstein shocks, forged BBS wheels, aluminum roof, HID headlights and fog lights, and front brake cooling ducts.
The tenth and final generation, the Evo X, released in October 2007. This version differed from all past Evos in its design, build style, and ride characteristics. This CZ4A generation was based on Mitsubishi’s global “GS” platform shared with Chrysler, Fiat, Citroen, and Peugeot. Also “global” was its engine: Mitsubishi’s 4B11T (based on the 4B1) was a project under the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA), also initiated by Chrysler. Upon the Evo X’s release in Japan, this engine threw 276 horsepower and 311 ft/lbs of torque. North American Evos got 287 horsepower and 300 ft/lbs. In Japan, the Evo X was available in two trims: RS and GSR. The RS was the base model with the 5-speed manual transmission, and the GSR came standard with the aluminum-intensive rear spoiler, a new 6-speed twin-clutch SST transmission, alloy wheels from Enkei and BBS, ventilated disc brakes, Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC), and Mitsubishi Motors Communication System (MMCS). The GSR could also be heavily optioned in other options packages with other features such as Bilstein shocks, stiffer tires with better grip, chrome mouldings, fog lights, carbon fiber, and improved air intakes.
North American Evo Xs got these trim levels: GSR, MR, MR Premium, MR Touring, and SE. The GSR was more or less identical to its Japanese GSR counterpart; the MR had the 6-speed SST, suspension setup by Eibach and Bilstein, xenon HID headlights, suede interior, and keyless entry. The MR Premium got the Rockford Fosgate infotainment system. October 2008 saw the release of the GSR Premium, also with MMCS and Rockford Fosgate audio. Power was raised from 280 to 300 horsepower.
As a bid to farewell, Mitsubishi released the Final Edition for North America in 2015 and Japan in 2016. Based on the GSR, this final model featured a black aluminum roof, red interior stitching, 18-inch wheels (Enkeis for North America and BBS wheels for Japan), and “Final Edition” commemorative badging. North America got a power boost to 303 horsepower and 305 ft/lbs. 1600 examples were produced for its final year in the US, 350 for Canada, and in 2016, only 1000 Final Editions for Japan. In its final year, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution made quite an eloquent performance impression.
The Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI (more recently called Subaru WRX and Subaru WRX STI without the Impreza name) are high-performance sport compacts based on the Subaru Impreza lineup. The WRX name can either stand for “World Rally Cross” (WRC) or “World Rally Experimental”. In any case, this name is an indicator to Subaru’s position in the world rally-racing stage.
The WRX debuted in Japan in November 1992, hot off the heels of the then-all-new Impreza (the successor to the Leone in the compact segment). While the Impreza was designed for a front-drive setup, all-wheel-drive (AWD) was utilized in some other models, such as the Outback wagon and WRX. Engine options for the Impreza varied in size, ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 liters. Since the WRX was exclusive to Japan, North American Imprezas didn’t get a WRX variant. Thus, these models were stuck with the 1.8L EJ18 (officially EJ181) developing 110 horsepower. The Japanese-market GC8 WRX was initially installed with the 2.0-liter “EJ20T“. In actuality, this engine was designated EJ20G, and was a turbocharged 240 horsepower boxer-4 (H4) unit. This engine was equipped with hydraulic lifters as opposed to the Legacy’s same engine which had rocker arms. Power was delivered via a viscous center differential and viscous rear limited-slip differential. After the debut of a slightly-stripped variant called WRX RA, Subaru Tecnica International (STi) developed an even more potent WRX. February 1994 saw the debut of the WRX STI, which now threw 250 horsepower. The STi was a complete Impreza/WRX that came fresh off the assembly line, and then stripped down and modified with STi components. This was the GC8C, or “Version I“. November 1994 saw a power increase to 260 horsepower for the WRX. A limited hatchback Impreza with the WRX engine, called “Gravel Express“, was produced. The STI got a power boost to 275 horsepower and gained gold wheels akin to its rally-racing counterpart. October 1995 saw the debut of “Version II” in the STI lineup. New that year were the WRX V-Limited and WRX Type RA STi. These models commemorated Subaru’s success in world rally racing, and deleted some curb weight. Some V-Limited models got radio and AC as standard equipment. Subaru produced 555 examples of the WRX Type RA STI Version 2.
September 1996 saw a redesign to the Impreza WRX STI. New to the lineup was a 2-door coupe called WRX Type R STi. The 2.0-liter boxer four was an updated version called EJ20K, which could produce a maximum of 280 horsepower. Compared to the sedan, the Type R coupe was lighter, stiffer, and had a close-ratio transmission with a harder shell. The Type R was a limited-time offer rather than a mainstay, and only 10,000 are estimated to have been produced exclusively for Japan. March 1998 saw the release of the even-rarer 22B coupe, which was made to commemorate Subaru’s continuous victories in the World Rally Championship. The 22B STi was a lower-slung widebody coupe, which utilized a unique 2.2L EJ22G, which featured forged pistons and a cylinder head similar to that on the EJ20K. Other modifications included 17-inch wheels, Bilstein shocks, red brake calipers, and a twin clutch system. These models sold like hotcakes until the end of the 22B’s production in August that year.
The GC8F series was introduced in September 1998. The WRX/STi were facelifted in conjunction with the rest of the Impreza lineup. There was also a slight mechanical change: the EJ20K (eventually to be the EJ207) was an upgraded “Phase 2” engine. This generation saw the release of the limited-run WRX Type RA STi Version 5. September 1999 saw the release of the final GC8G series; which, mechanically, was not too different from the GC8F. However, the car was flared out for a slightly more aggressive appearance. In 2000, Subaru exported 1000 WRX’s to the UK to be customized by their British motorsports division, Prodrive. These models were the WRX P1, which were based on the JDM Type R coupe. Performance enhancements included four-piston front brake calipers, electric Recaro seats, 18-inch wheels, and a suspension system optimized for British roads. Meanwhile in Japan, another limited lineup, the S201, was released. This model utilized every part of the STi parts catalog, ranging from its large front splitter to its massive rear wing. This contributed to a truly racecar-esque appearance. One mechanical tweak to the S201 was the 300 horsepower output from its engine – 20 more horsepower than was necessary for most typical JDM sports cars. Only 300 such models were produced.
August 2000 saw the debut of the second generation GD. The first performance variant of this generation was the WRX sedan, followed by the WRX STi, Type RA STi, and WRX STi wagon. The standard WRX was powered by an IHI-turbo’d EJ205, good for 250 horsepower and 246 ft/lbs. Late 2001 saw the release of the lightweight WRX STi Spec C, which had lighter body panels, lighter glass, increased wheel caster and wheelbase. This drastically helped aid in handling and performance. Another benefit to the Spec C was its transmission, which had its own oil cooler. This first pre-facelift Impreza would retain its “bugeye” appearance until late 2002. In 2004, Subaru introduced the WRX WR-Limited, which sported STi bodywork. It featured an STi-inspired front bumper, rear spoiler, and gold Rays wheels. This was similar to the US-market STi which debuted that year, right after the North American debut of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
The entire Impreza lineup received a “hawkeye” cosmetic refresh in 2005. The WRX got the same rear-spoiler treatment as its big-brother STI, as well as viscous rear LSD; the STI and Spec C both got the same increased wheelbase and wider 8 inch (203 mm) wheel rims. For increased stability, the Spec C was outfitted with Arai dampers, 21 mm anti-roll bars, and reinforced strut towers. To reduce engine noise in the passenger compartment, Subaru decided to swap the metal engine mounts with those made from liquid-filled plastic. November 2006 saw the release of the final special edition Impreza for this generation. The Spec C Type RA-R put an emphasis on track use, and had specially designed 235/40 R18 tires as its footwear.
April 2007 saw the world premiere of the third generation WRX alongside its base counterparts at the New York International Auto Show. The STI variant debut in October of that year. This generation rode on an increased wheelbase (2620 mm) and the sedan was longer in exterior dimensions (4580 mm versus the hatchback’s 4415 mm). Power for the WRX and STI came from different sources: The WRX was equipped with the turbocharged 2.5L EJ255 throwing 225 horsepower, and the Japanese-market STI was powered by a turbo 2.0L EJ207 developing 308 horsepower. The rest of the world got a 300 horsepower 2.5L EJ257 in their STI’s. In 2008, Subaru produced a limited-edition 20th Anniversary Edition WRX STI based on the hatchback. Exclusive to the Japanese market, this model featured specially-tuned shocks and springs, anti-roll bars, 18-inch aluminum wheels, Recaro seats with red stitching, and commemorative plating on the center console. Only 300 such models were produced. In 2009, the Impreza gained a cosmetic update for the 2010 model year. Also new were the STI Spec C and A-Line. Initially available only in Japan and Singapore, the A-Line was an automatic-transmission version of the WRX STI, which featured a steering-wheel mounted semi-automatic paddle shifter. Model year 2010 saw the North American release of the WRX STI Special Edition, which resembled the JDM Spec C. For better handling, the Special Edition was fitted with thicker stabilizer bars and 18-inch alloy wheels. Creature comforts were limited: The interior featured only manual A/C and a four-speaker audio system.
2011 saw the release of the limited-edition WRX STI S206 and S206 NBR CHALLENGE PACKAGE. Both received many STI-derived parts, but also gained Recaro bucket seats, a unique carbon-fiber roof, and carbon rear spoiler. Just like the 2008 20th Anniversary Edition hatchback, only 300 examples of this model were produced. In 2012, Subaru made a few more improvements on the WRX STI, Spec C, and A-Line Type S. The STI gained some A-Line equipment, such as a premium tan interior and forged alloy BBS wheels. The Spec C was now available as a 4-door sedan, but got a rear spoiler delete. These models had 17-inch wheels and optional A/C. In 2013, Subaru released their final special editions for this generation, the WRX STI tS Type RA and WRX STI tS Type RA NBR CHALLENGE PACKAGE. Sales ended in August 2014.
For the fourth generation, Subaru took a different turn in producing the high-end WRX and WRX STI lines. These models, with the chassis code VA, gained their own slot in the Subaru lineup. Although much of the bodywork was shared with the base Impreza, the WRX boasted other features and a more aggressive fascia unique to itself. Thus, the WRX remains separate from the Impreza lineup. The base 4th-gen Impreza (GJ/GP) began production in 2011, whereas the WRX and WRX STI debuted for 2015.
Powering the WRX is the 2.0L twin-turbo FA20F, which produces 268 horsepower and 258 ft/lbs of torque. This is the same engine used in the Forester XT (250 hp USDM) and is a variant of the naturally-aspirated FA20D used in the Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86. Performance aids include the twin-turbo units mounted lower in the engine bay to help reduce the car’s center of gravity, as well as a higher compression ratio of 10.6:1. Although both the previous EJ-series engine and the FA20 have a redline of 6700 rpm, the latter has the advantage over the former in that the higher compression ratio provides a wider torque peak. Although a 6-speed manual could be paired up, Subaru introduced a new CVT with paddle shifters.
As to be expected, the WRX STI is a much more potent version of the WRX. Besides the cosmetic upgrades such as a large rear spoiler, the STI is powered by either a 2.0L EJ207 or a 2.5L EJ257. While Japan got the smaller EJ20 unit, the North American STI has the 2.5-liter, which throws 305 horsepower; up 5 horses from the previous generation. Model year 2018 saw the release of the limited-run WRX STI Type RA. Improvements in performance include increased power (310 horsepower), recalibrated transmission, 6-piston Brembo brakes, carbon rear spoiler, and weight reduction. The driver could be seated in a Recaro seat with STI stitching embedded into it. Only 500 examples of the Type RA were sold.
In this third part of the Corvette story, we will be looking at the C6 and C7 generations. The C6 was produced from 2005 to 2013, and the C7 from 2014.
After the C5 Corvette discontinued after 2004, the C6 debuted for the 2005 model year. The new C6 Corvette deviated from the aging hidden-headlight design, although the quad-taillight layout was reserved. Compared to the C5, the C6 boasted a longer wheelbase (105.7 in) and increased height (49 in). Since the Corvette now shared the second-generation “Y-body” chassis with the Cadillac XLR, GM decided to throw in a few luxury amenities for the interior. Reworking of the interior included soft-touch materials for the seats and steering wheel, metallic accents, and cupholders. Power for this luxury sportster came from a revised LS2 engine, which replaced the outgoing LS1. This new engine was bored out to 6.0 liters and could throw 400 horsepower. In its first year of production, the C6 sold 37,372 examples.
Late 2005 saw the introduction of the 6L80 6-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission. Also new was the Z06 coupe, which utilized an all-aluminum architecture, stiffer suspension setup, stiffer anti-sway bars, and wider and grippier tires. Power came from a larger version of the Generation IV small-block, the LS7. This engine displaced 7.0 liters (1.0 liter larger than the LS2) and threw out 505 horsepower. This “427” engine recalled the 427 CID (7.0L) big-blocks utilized in 60’s Corvettes. Model year 2006 sales slid to 34,021 units. In 2008, the LS3 replaced the LS2 as the base engine. This new engine was bored out to 6.2 liters and developed 430 horsepower. In addition, the new manual transmission was the Tremec TR6060, which was claimed to give faster shifting times. 2009 saw the debut of the ZR1, the monstrous supercar Corvette of this generation. It featured a supercharged 6.2L LS9 with 638 horses and a wealth of carbon fiber all around its body. In 2010, the Grand Sport debuted in both coupe and convertible body styles. This model replaced the Z51 performance package, and housed the LS3 as its power source. However, the LS3 in automatic models had a wet sump, and manual models had a dry sump. The 2010 GS also boasted larger sway bars, revised shocks and springs, functional brake ducts, cross-drilled Z06 brakes, and wider tires. In 2011, Chevy debuted a limited-edition Z06 with loads of carbon. The Carbon Edition borrowed the active suspension system and many carbon fiber components from the ZR1. Only 500 Carbon Edition Corvettes were produced. Also that year, some Z06 models gained the Z07 performance package. 2012 production fell to 11,647; the lowest in the C6 generation. The end of the C6 generation’s run coincided with the Corvette’s 60th birthday year in 2013. As part of its 60th Anniversary package, the 427 Convertible Collector Edition was released. Power came from the 7.0L LS7 which threw out 505 horsepower. In total, 13,466 Corvettes were produced for 2013, and 215,123 in the C6 generation overall.
Although the C7 was in development since 2007, the release date was delayed from its originally planned 2011 model year debut by 3 years. Nevertheless, it released for the public in September 2013 as a 2014 model. With the Cadillac XLR long out of production, the Corvette was now the sole inhabitant of the Y-body platform. Also notable was the “Stingray” moniker for base Corvettes. This was the first Stingray since its discontinuation in 1976. The Stingray was back – as both a coupe and convertible, although the convertible debuted a little later in late 2013. Power came from a new 6.2-liter LT1 throwing 450 horsepower. With an optional Performance Exhaust, the Stingray could develop 460 horses. Eventually, the sixth-generation Camaro would also have this same engine. The C7’s manual transmission option was an all-new 7-speed TR6070 unit. The C7 Corvette features a carbon fiber hood, removable roof panel, fiberglass composite fenders and doors, carbon-nano composite underbody, and hydro-formed aluminum chassis. The Corvette won Automobile Magazine’s “Automobile of the Year” award in 2014. It was also a Finalist for Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award.
In 2015, Chevy debuted the Corvette Z06. Also new that year was the revised 8-speed automatic transmission, which replaced the outgoing 6-speed unit. The C7-era Z06 featured a unique double-wishbone suspension and MagneRide dampers, electronic limited-slip differential, extended fenders and larger splitters. This aggressive body kit was backed by an equally aggressive LT4 engine. The LT4 came equipped with a supercharger and could throw 650 horsepower and 650 ft/lbs of torque. These engine specifications are the same in the 2017-up Camaro ZL1.
For 2016, Daytona Sunrise Orange Metallic, Night Race Blue, Shark Gray, and Laguna Blue exterior colors were discontinued. The base Stingray coupes accounted for more than half of the Corvette’s total production and sales, with the exception of some other special editions. Mainly as an appearance package, the Z06 C7.R Edition featured a suede interior, competition racing seats, and yellow contrast stitching. Only 650 such examples were produced. Total Corvette production for 2016 was 40,689 units.
The 2017 Grand Sport debuted at the 2016 Geneva Auto Show. The Grand Sport featured a dry-sump 460 horsepower LT1 engine. It also came equipped with carbon ceramic brakes, Michelin Pilot Sport 2 / Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, 14-inch Brembo brakes, magnetic ride control, stabilizer bars, and electronic LSD. For 2017, a total of 11,958 Grand Sport models (coupes and convertibles both accounted for) were produced, with a total of 32,782 Corvettes overall. The 2018 model year was notably short; Corvette production began in November 2017 and ended in January 2018. Quite possibly a C7-generation low, only 9,686 Corvettes were produced.
The 2019 Corvette ZR1 debuted at the 2017 Dubai Motor Show. The early-risen ZR1 features a new supercharged LT5 engine, capable of outputting 755 horsepower. Inside, the ZR1 features Nappa leather, heated seats, and carbon fiber steering wheel.
From 1989 to 2002, Nissan Motor Co produced a series of legends that would captivate the auto enthusiast community with amazement and excitement. These were the RB-series Skyline GT-Rs; and they packed such panache so much as to have the last special edition named after a famed racing circuit. Although at the turn of the early 2000’s the new Z-car (the 350Z) was introduced, the era of high-performance twin-turbo sportsters made by Nissan had come to an end. Or, at least it would have, if not for the debut of the Skyline-based 2001 GT-R concept. This concept is what lead to years of research and development for the return of the automotive Godzilla.
The production version made its initial debut at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, and released for the public in December that year. North American production was confirmed in July 2008 (for the 2009 model year). The GT-R was both a continuation of and a break from the Skyline. For one thing, the name “GT-R” is obviously a recollection of the Skyline GT-Rs of the past. The GT-R’s mission is to be a jet-fast high-power car. The fastest a 2009 GT-R went around the Nürburgring was 7 minutes and 26.7 seconds, beating the Porsche 911 GT2 by 5 seconds. This secured the GT-R in its place in the world racing stage, as well as carry on the legacy of the R34 Skyline GT-R. On the other hand, the GT-R was a whole new lineup. This “R35” sat on a vehicle platform unique to itself, the Premium Midship (PM). Power for the base GT-R comes from an all-aluminum 3.8L VR38DETT V6. Initial power has been rated at 478 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 434 ft/lbs at 3200 rpm. Transferring all this power is done with a 6-speed semi-automatic transmission, which sends power out to the electronically controlled ATTESA ET-S all-wheel-drive system. Inside, the GT-R’s multifunction display was designed by Gran Turismo developer Polyphony Digital. This customizable system displayed statistics such as boost, engine oil temperature and pressure, and real-time cornering g-forces.
The GT-R received positive recognition. It won Top Gear’s Sports car of the Year (2007), Autocar’s Driver’s Car of the Year, Evo Magazine’s Car of the Year, and Popular Mechanics’ Automotive Excellence Awards in 2008. That year, the GT-R sold 6,739 units worldwide; the majority of which (4871 to be exact) were sold in its home market, Japan. The second largest quantity, 1730 examples, were shipped to the United States. US model year 2009 sales saw a turnout of 1534 units.
In 2010, the GT-R gained a power upgrade (485 horsepower and 434 ft/lbs of torque) and a cosmetic update for 2011. In addition, the GT-R gained higher turbocharger boost, more rigid carbon composite front strut bar, larger brakes, lighter and stronger wheels, and grippier tires. In 2012, the power was amped to 530 horsepower and 448 ft/lbs of torque. A March 2011 test by AutoGuide.com found the 2012 GT-R two seconds faster than the Dodge Viper ACR and six seconds faster than the Porsche 911 GT2 RS around the Nürburgring, elapsing a new lap record of 7 minutes and 24.2 seconds. In 2013, the GT-R got 545 horsepower and 463 ft/lbs of torque. In 2015, Nissan Motorsports (Nismo) debuted the GT-R NISMO. The Nismo had a staggering racetrack-style bodykit and large rear spoilers. Models with the N-Attack Package were equipped with a more powerful engine throwing out 600 horsepower. Claimed Nürburgring lap time was 7 minutes and 8.6 seconds.
For model year 2017, the GT-R gained a mild facelift and more power. The long-staying VR38DETT engine was tuned yet again; this time 565 horsepower and 467 ft/lbs of torque for base GT-Rs.
In the mid-1970s, the era of engineering input from Zora Duntov had come to an end. His replacement, Dave McLellan, looked over the remainder of the C3 Corvette’s production run. He would also commence the engineering input for the C4 Corvette for the 80’s. For the up-and-coming C4 Corvette, McLellan implemented styling input from Jerry Palmer, chief designer of Chevrolet Studio 3. The automotive landscape in the early 80’s was somewhat more hostile towards sports cars, especially the Corvette. But the second gas crunch of the late 70’s did not deter Palmer, McLellan, and company from developing the C4 Corvette, which, by the way, was already under development in the late 70’s.
Although the C4 was originally planned for a 1983 launch, only 43 prototypes were produced for that year. This was due to the 1984 model year emissions standards the car had to meet, as well as delays in parts production. All but one of the prototypes were serialized to 1984 models. Eventually, most of these prototypes were destroyed. The one and only 1983 Corvette, a white coupe, was preserved and kept by General Motors in its facility in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The prototypes provided the framework for subsequent production Corvettes: a digital instrument cluster, high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) uniframe chassis with polyester resin (plastic) based sheet moulding compound (SMC) exterior body panels for light weight and rigidity, and fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) mono-leaf spring front suspension.
The C4 Corvette released for the public in March 1983 for the 1984 model year. Compared to the outgoing C3 Corvette, the new model sat on a slightly shorter wheelbase (96.2 inches or 2440 mm), and reduced exterior length (176.5 inches or 4480 mm). Like the 1982 Collector Edition, the 1984 C4 Corvette featured a hatchback body with rear glass liftgate. The sole power for the ’84 Corvette was the carried-over L83 V8 with Cross-Fire throttle-body injection. For 1984, this engine was tuned for slightly more power than featured in the ’82 Corvette. GM provided the economy-conscious public with 205 horsepower for all 51,547 Corvettes produced for 1984. The Corvette improved for 1985, ditching the outgoing Cross-Fire L83 for a more powerful L98. This engine was capable of 230 horsepower and featured tuned port injection.
1986 saw the first convertible variant in a decade. Notable updates to the ’86 Corvette included the addition of a center-mounted brake light, climate control, and anti-lock brakes. To keep the burglars out, a key-code anti-theft system was installed. The Corvette convertible was chosen to be the pace car for the 70th Indianapolis 500. In 1987, the L98 engine was tweaked for more power: thanks to improved roller valve lifters, the Corvette could throw 240 horsepower and 345 ft/lbs of torque. The Corvette was also available with an updated Z52 handling package. 1988 marked the 35th anniversary of the Corvette. The “Triple White Corvette” was clad with white exterior paint, black pillars, dark-tinted roof, white wheels, and white interior. In addition to a slight power upgrade, the 35th anniversary coupe came equipped with a superior sport-handling package and 17-inch wheels and tires. For 1989 onward, the ZF 6-speed was the only available manual transmission. The Corvette could also be had with a Selective Ride Control (SRC) handling package, which featured three modes: Touring, Sport, and Competition.
The long-rumoured “King of the Hill” Corvette, under development with help from Lotus Cars and Mercury Marine, made its debut in 1990. This model, dubbed ZR-1, was built with intent to be the world’s fastest production car. Initially available only as a fastback coupe, the ZR-1 got loads of power from a Lotus-built 32-valve 5.7L LT5 V8. This engine featured tuned port injection and developed 375 horsepower and 370 ft/lbs of torque. A world record in 1990, the Corvette ZR-1 could launch from 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 4.4 seconds and reach a maximum speed of 175 mph (283 km/h). To help aid the ZR-1’s performance, it was fitted with an “ABS-II” anti-lock brake system. This extremely pricey supercar Corvette sold 3049 examples in 1990. Over the next few years, Chevrolet would refine and re-engineer the ZR-1.
In 1991, the entire Corvette range received a mid-cycle cosmetic refresh. What was meant to distinguish the ZR-1 from other Corvettes had been incorporated into the design of all Corvettes. What was initially a highly anticipated release of the 5th gen (C5) Corvette ended up as a continuation of the C4. Contributing to this issue was GM’s high production overhead and decreased demand for the Corvette – this was the second time the Corvette was nearly axed. Despite this uncertain financial situation, Corvette production soldiered on. In 1992, the 300 horsepower LT1 replaced the L98 in the base Corvette. Almost matching up to the “King of the Hill” ZR-1, the base Corvette could launch from 0 to 60 mph in over 5 seconds. Top speed: 170 miles per hour (273 km/h). On July 2, 1992, Chevy built its millionth Corvette. To commemorate, this millionth model was a white convertible with red interior, just like the first 1953 Corvette. Attending the unveiling ceremony were both chief engineers Zora Duntov (father of the Corvette) and David McLellan.
In September of 1994, the National Corvette Museum opened in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This museum, located within close proximity to the Corvette’s Bowling Green Assembly Plant, is a showcase of all things Corvette, including many concepts, prototypes and race cars. In 1995, the Indy 500 pace car was released, which featured unique graphics. Except for some minute tweaks, the Indy pace car was relatively stock. Only 527 pace car replicas were produced. It was also by this time the ZR-1 discontinued production. 1996 was the final year for the C4 Corvette. To commemorate, two special editions were released: Collector Edition and Grand Sport. The latter featured the LT4 engine. The LT4 was capable of 330 horsepower and 340 ft/lbs of torque. In total, 358,180 C4 Corvettes were produced from 1984 to 1996.
The C5 Corvette made its production debut in 1997. Compared to the outgoing generation, the C5 had a much more muscular stance. It sat on a 104-inch (2654 mm) wheelbase and boasted slight increases in exterior dimensions (179 inches in length and 73 inches in width). The Corvette’s body was made in a process called hydroforming, which uses high-pressure water to form metal body panels. Not only was this method of manufacturing cost-effective, it also contributed greatly to the body rigidity of the C5 Corvette. Power was sourced from a new 5.7L LS1 V8. The LS1, in stock form, could develop 345 horsepower and 350 ft/lbs of torque. In manual Corvettes, that power was transferred to a rear-mounted “transaxle”. Combine all these stats, and the Corvette had a drag coefficient of 0.29 and near 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. Despite all these winning remarks, the Corvette sold only 9752 examples in its first year. Oh, well. No matter.
Whereas the 1997 Corvette was available only as a fastback coupe, 1998 saw the return of the convertible. Also making a return to the Corvette lineup was a rear trunk-lid – the first time since 1962. Since the C5 Corvette debuted just last year, the engine and transmission remained unmodified. Chevy produced 1163 replicas of the Indy 500 pace car convertible. To improve handling, an “Active Handling” system was introduced. 1998 production soared to 31,084 units. In 1999, a less-expensive fixed-roof hardtop released. The Z51 suspension package was now standard. That year, the traditional coupe outsold the new hardtop: 180,078 coupes versus 4031 hardtops. Model year 2000 sales of the Corvette saw a slight equilibrium between coupes and hardtops. 18,113 coupes and 13,479 hardtops were sold. Convertible sales plunged to 2090 units. In 2001, Chevy began production of the high-performance Z06 model. The first high-performance Corvette since the ZR-1 of the 1990’s, it employed a modified version of the small-block LS1, titled LS6. The LS6 could throw out 385 horsepower and 385 ft/lbs of torque. Other modifications included a strengthened six-speed transmission, firmer FE4 suspension setup, and wider and grippier tires. Being the priciest Corvette for 2001, it sold only 5773 examples. Total Corvette production that year was 35,627 units. In 2002, the Z06 got a power upgrade. The LS6 now threw out 405 horses and 400 ft/lbs. Chevy managed 8297 Z06s, selling a total of 35,767 Corvettes in 2002. The Corvette turned 50 in 2003, and to commemorate, the F55Magnetic Selective Ride Control Suspension was made standard. This system superseded the F45 Selective Ride Control system. This suspension setup utilizes a special fluid called magnetorheological (MR) fluid that changes viscosity when a magnetic field is applied. 2003 production fell to 35,469 units. In its final year, the C5 Corvette was available with the 24 Hours of Le Mans Commemorative Edition. This special edition was available on all models, including the Z06. The Commemorative Edition Corvette featured a unique blue and silver/red stripe livery. Total Corvette production fell again, to 34,064 units. After an 8-year, 248,715 unit production run, the C5 Corvette ended production, with the C6 on the horizon.
Very few Japanese cars evoke passion and popularity like the GT-R. Of course, even lower-tier Skylines garner much attention thanks in no small part to media exposure, such as in movies, TV shows, and video games. The GT-R dates back to an era in Nissan Motor Co’s existence under the name of “Prince Motor Company“.
When Prince Motor Company merged with Nissan in 1966, they left a lot of carried-over hardware to be re-engineered into the Nissan lineup. When the C10 generation Skyline, the first to feature the GT-R variant, debuted Japan-only in 1968, it utilized 1.5 and 1.8 liter engines designed under license by Prince. However, Nissan Motor Co engineered their own series of inline-6 engines: the L20 for the 2000GT, and the S20 for the 2000GT-R. When the PGC10 Skyline GT-R released for the public in February 1969, it featured the 2.0L S20 as its powerhouse. The S20 developed 160 horsepower and 130 ft/lbs of torque. Typical of the era, the GT-R had an FR drivetrain layout like the rest of the Skyline range. A popular Japanese nickname for the PGC10/KPGC10 Skyline was “Hakosuka”, which roughly translates to “boxy Skyline”. The second generation GT-R, the KPGC110, made its debut at the 1972 Tokyo Motor Show and released for the public for 1973 only. The “Kenmeri” GT-R was short-lived due to the Energy Crisis, and as there was very little demand for high performance sports cars, the GT-R was ultimately discontinued (or at least on hiatus) from the Skyline range for many years.
In 1984, former chief engineer Shinichiro Sakurai left development of the 7th-generation R31 Skyline to his “student”, Naganori Ito. Ito then became chief of engineering for the 7th Skyline, which was set to debut in 1985. However, due to negative reception from Skyline aficionados, Ito gained a bad reputation. Ashamed of the R31 Skyline, he ventured to develop the 8th-generation R32 Skyline. Ito was determined to bring back the GT-R which had been on hiatus for 16 years. Ito gained a good reputation when the R32 Skyline and its GT-R variant debuted in 1989.
The BNR32 GT-R started production in August 1989. Whereas lower-tier Skylines were rear-wheel-drive, the GT-R transitioned to an all-wheel-drive layout. Of all the Skyline GT-Rs produced, the R32 was the lowest-slung: its height was at 1340 mm (52.8 in). Power came from a 2.6L twin turbo RB26DETT inline-6 throwing out 276 horsepower. A limited-run Group A racing homologation special, the GT-R NISMO, released in February 1990. Performance modifications included were improved airflow to the intercooler, front and rear bumper lip spoilers, larger ceramic turbines in place of the standard turbochargers, and ABS delete. In addition to the limited 500 NISMO models, 60 more were produced for Group A competition; however the ABS delete was not legal under Group A regulations. February 1993 saw the introduction of the V-Spec. The V-Spec added larger Brembo brakes, retuned suspension and ATTESA ET-S all-wheel-drive, and lightweight aluminum hood. It also featured 225/45R17 tires. February 1994 saw the addition of the V-Spec II, which, although the same as the V-Spec introduced in 1993, featured wider 245/45R17 tires. Production of the R32 Skyline GT-R ceased in November 1994, and public sales ended in December that year.
When the R33 Skyline debuted, Kozo Watanabe was appointed as chief engineer of the Nissan Skyline. Watanabe worked on both the R33 and R34 Skylines. When it released for the public in January 1995, the R33 GT-R was notably longer, wider, taller, and had a longer wheelbase than its predecessor. It kept relatively the same drivetrain as the R32 GT-R, with exception to improved air intake and oil circulation. Nissan Motorsports (NISMO) built a racing version of the GT-R, called NISMO GT-R LM, for competition in 24 Hours of Le Mans. This vehicle featured a body kit unique all to itself, such as a bulkier rocker panel side skirt. Only one roadgoing homologation special was ever produced, making it extraordinarily rare. In May 1996, the V-Spec LM Limited debuted in the GT-R lineup. This model should not be confused with the one-off NISMO GT-R LM which was entered for Le Mans competition. The 1996 LM Limited was a commemorative car which featured Champion Blue as its only available exterior paint color, unique carbon front splitter with air intakes, and a carbon fiber rear wing blade. This model was available for sale for two months only. Also that year, Nismo built a special model called 400R. The 400R was undoubtedly very unique in its own right, as it featured a heavily modified version of the Nissan RB engine, named RB-X GT2. Because it was bored out to 2.8 liters, a similar engine called RB28DET was produced. This modified engine with reinforced block and heads, along with forged crankshaft and connecting rods, had the potential to throw out 400 horsepower. Loosing even more weight, a lightweight driveshaft and exhaust muffler were installed. Nismo planned to produce 100 examples of the 400R, although a rumoured 44 units were built.
Autech, another in-house tuning firm, also modified the coupe-only GT-R and made a rare 4-door sedan variant in 1998. The Autech version 40th Anniversary merged the designs of the 4-door GTS sedan and GT-R models, keeping the power train of the GT-R intact. Some Autech GT-R sedans were converted to highway patrol use and ordered by and/or delivered to the Saitama Prefectural Police and Kanagawa Prefectural Police departments. The R33 GT-R ceased production in November 1998, with sales ending in December that year.
The R34 Skyline GT-R released for the public in January 1999. The new model had a shorter overhang when compared to the outgoing generation. Inside, the R34 Skyline featured a 5.8-inch infotainment screen with such features as engine and turbocharger pressure and temperature, as well as GPS navigation. Midnight Purple II was a limited color option available only at the time of the R34 GT-R’s launch in January of 1999. In 2000, Midnight Purple III was made available as a sequel to the discontinued Midnight Purple II exterior color option. Also, the V-Spec trim was discontinued and replaced with V-Spec II. In addition, 18 variants of the V-Spec II were given an upgraded N1 package. In May 2001, the M-Spec was introduced to the lineup. The M-Spec was a performance package quite similar to the V-Spec II; however, it was the only model to feature aluminum construction for the hood. By 2002, the R34 Skyline had reached the end of its production cycle. To commemorate, a final special edition called GT-R V-Spec II Nür was introduced. The “Nür” was a reference to the infamous Nürburgring racetrack in Germany. This package made the N1 performance upgrade standard, which brought power up from the advertised 276 horsepower to an admirable 330. Auto tuning enthusiasts may upgrade this engine to above 400 horsepower if they want. The Nür featured different interior stitching, gold valve covers, and gold VIN plates. Production of the Skyline GT-R ended in August 2002.
When the GT-R discontinued in 2002, the rest of the Skyline range continued production without an ultra-high performance model. In the works were two prototypes based on the Skyline, but officially distinguished as a model lineup separate from the Skyline. These were the aptly named GT-R concepts which debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2001 and 2005. When Nissan Motor Co announced GT-R production would begin in 2007, the production variant would be based more on the refined 2005 prototype. Also, unlike past Skylines, this model wouldn’t be exclusive to Japan. This was an international rollout. In essence, the GT-R, although a model separate from the Skyline lineup, proved a worthy successor to carry on the legacy of past Skylines.
Although John Z DeLorean had a hard time getting the 1964 Pontiac Banshee concept (codenamed XP-833) greenlit for production, a joint effort on the “F-body” platform for both the Chevrolet and Pontiac divisions made it abundantly clear to GM that they would need a pony car lineup to compete in production and sales against the Ford Mustang and Mercury Cougar. Thus, 1967 marked the beginning of GM’s endeavour into producing four generations of both the Camaro and Firebird over the next 35 years.
The first generation Firebird entered production in February of 1967. The wheelbase sat at 108.1 inches (2746 mm) and exterior length at 189 inches. This made the Firebird dimensionally similar to the Camaro, down to the same 108-inch wheelbase. Power for the standard model came from a 230 CI (3.8L) inline-6. This engine was similar to Chevrolet’s inline-6, but featured a unique cast iron block and aluminum valve cover. With a single barrel carburetor, this engine developed 165 horsepower. A four-barrel “Sprint” model developed 215 horsepower. Detroit’s performance specials for the Firebird were four V8 engine options: the 326 (5.3L) Pontiac V8, a 326 “high output” (HO), a 400 (6.6L) Pontiac V8, and the 400 Ram Air V8. The 326 was capable of 250 horsepower and its “high output” counterpart developed 285 horses. Although both versions of the 400 V8 developed 325 horsepower, the Ram Air gave the Firebird functional hood scoops, low-end torque and high redline. In 1968, the 230 engine was replaced by a 250 CI (4.1L) engine for both the standard and Sprint models. A new 350 CI (5.7L) V8 replaced the 326 and power ratings for the 400 went up. The base 400 jumped up to 330 horsepower, and the Ram Air and High Output developed 335 horsepower. Soon though, Pontiac decided to axe the Ram Air engine option, only to return it to the lineup and give it more power. The revised “Ram Air II” now made 340 horsepower. In 1969, an appearance and handling package called Trans Am was introduced. The Trans Am’s power was delivered via a 400 CI Ram Air V8; good for 335 to 345 horsepower. That year, a total of 689 Trans Am coupes and 8 Trans Am convertibles were produced.
The second generation Firebird was met with design and production delays, meaning there would be no 1970 model per se. Thus, the “1970 1/2” debuted in February 1970. Production started off well, with 48,739 units in 1970, and 53,125 for 1971. New was the 455 (7.5L) V8, which packed 325 horsepower. A high-output Ram Air IV packed 335 horses. A labour strike in 1972 resulted in vastly reduced production of the Firebird. 1972 production remained mainly unchanged from 1971, with the exception of a slight restyle. The 455 engine was upgraded in 1973, and was called “Super Duty 455”. This SD-455 featured a strengthened cylinder block, forged crankshaft, forged rods, and forged aluminum pistons. The Firebird was facelifted in 1974 to feature a “shovel-nose” front-end and crash safety components. The addition of mandated safety features also added curb weight. A wrap-around rear windshield was implemented into the 1975 model. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Pontiac brand, the Firebird for 1976 gained some “Limited Edition” anniversary models. This was the first time a Trans Am would feature black with gold accents as a livery option.
1977 saw a restyle to the Firebird; mainly, a restyled front end which now featured rectangular headlights. Although the front fascia was similar for both the 1977 and 1978 models, they featured slightly different grille designs. The 1977 had a honeycomb design and the 1978 had a crosshatch. The most popular Firebird trim for both these years was the Trans Am, which got power from a 400 CI (6.6L) V8. Power output for 1977 was 200 horsepower, but increased to 220 in 1978.
The Firebird was redesigned again in 1979. This was the last year a Trans Am featured a 6.6-liter as its engine. For 1980, the 400 was replaced by a 301 CI (4.9L) unit. Although the T/A did feature either a naturally aspirated 4.9-liter or a turbocharged variant, some models were supplied with a 305 CI (5.0L) Chevy V8. The naturally aspirated T/A drew 155 horsepower and turbocharged models could develop 210 to 220 horsepower. Models with the Chevy engine developed 150 horsepower. The 1979 redesign was kept intact until the end of the second generation’s run in 1981.
The third generation Firebird debuted in model year 1982. Like the Chevrolet Camaro, its wheelbase was shortened to 101 inches. The bodywork resembled that of the then-new third generation Camaro. The trim levels for the Firebird were Base, S/E, and Trans Am. The base model was powered by a 90 horsepower 151 CI (2.5L) “Iron Duke“; the S/E got the 173 CI (2.8L) Chevy V6; and the Trans Am got the 305 CI (5.0L) V8. Depending on setup, the Trans Am could develop either 145 or 165 horsepower. The first option, codenamed LG4, was the 4-barrel carb variant. The LU5 option added 20 horsepower to the 305 V8, replacing the 4-barrel carburetor with Cross-Fire Injection; a system also seen in the Corvette that year. In 1983, the S/E came available with a “high output” 2.8L. This unit now made 125 horsepower. As for the Trans Am, power went up to 150 horsepower. The 25th Anniversary Daytona 500 Limited Edition amped that power up to 175 horsepower. In 1984, the Trans Am was also available with a “high output” version of its 5.0L V8. This engine produced 190 horsepower. In 1986, the base model transitioned to V6 power and the Trans Am got tuned-port fuel injection (TPI).
In 1987, the S/E was dropped from the lineup and replaced with the Formula. The Formula model got power from a 5.0L V8, a feature on past Trans Ams. This 5.0-liter developed 155 horsepower. The Trans Am could throw out 165 horsepower from the same 305 V8. New for 1987 was the Trans Am GTA (Gran Turismo Americano). The GTA utilized a 350 Ci (5.7L) V8 with tuned port injection, which developed 225 horsepower. 1989 saw the addition of a Corvette-sourced 5.7L TPI and a Buick-sourced 3.8L V6 in the Trans Am models. The TPI threw 230 – 240 horsepower, and the Buick V6 developed 250 horsepower. In 1991 the Firebird lineup was given a facelift. The new design made the vehicle look more rounded and aerodynamic. Convertible versions of the V6 and V8 base and Trans Am were available. The third gen Firebird soldiered on until 1992.
The fourth generation Firebird reflected styling cues from the 1988 Banshee IV concept. This meant the new-for-1993 Firebird had a more aerodynamic contour, in leu of the Camaro’s redesign that year. Also, the production facility relocated to Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec (Canada). The base model got power from the 3.4L L32 V6, developing 160 horsepower. This was the base engine for the Firebird across the board, except for California. California models were installed with the Series II 3.8L Buick V6. A new-generation LT1 (also referred to as LT1 350) was the sole power for the Trans Am. Following tradition, the LT1 was a 350 cubic inch (5.7-liter) V8; also installed in the Corvette. Power ratings for the LT1 were detuned from the Corvette variant, making 200 horsepower for the Trans Am. Depending on the model, the transmission options ranged from 4-speed automatic, 5-speed manual, and 6-speed manual. The Turbo-Hydramatic 4L60/4L60E was the automatic transmission available in the Firebird for its entire generational production. The Borg-Warner T-5 was the 5-speed manual that was available in some V6 models, and the T56 6-speed manual was installed in the Trans Am. For 1994 only, a special version of the Trans Am, called Trans Am GT, was produced. The GT retained the look of its base counterpart, and some GT models could be had with an “uplevel spoiler”, coupe, targa, and convertible tops. While these weren’t official Trans Am GT packages, but were installed anyway. The majority of the available equipment on the 1994 GT would become standard on subsequent Trans Ams. In 1996, OBD-II (onboard diagnostics) became standard on all vehicles. This included the Pontiac Firebird. The Series II Buick V6 previously available only in California models were now the base engine for the Firebird. In 1997, all models got air conditioning, daytime running lights, digital odometer, and compact disc (CD) players as standard equipment. In conjunction with SLP Engineering, Pontiac produced 29 examples of the LT4-powered Firehawk. The Firehawk was named after the Firestone Firehawk tires installed on the car, and the LT4 was a 350 cubic inch (5.7-liter) Small-Block V8.
In 1998, the Firebird received a mid-cycle refresh. Notable changes included a more aggressive body kit with wide air intakes and circular fog lights inserted into the front splitter. The Formula and Trans Am switched to the all-aluminum LS1 engine. Although the Corvette-sourced units produced nearly 350 horsepower, the Trans Am produced 325 horsepower. 2002 was the Firebird’s final model year. To celebrate, a “Collector Edition” Trans Am was produced. Features included special exterior paint colors, pin-striping, decals, and a WS6 performance package. Power mirrors and power antenna were standard equipment for the Firebird in 2002.
In the wake of the 2008-2009 economic recession, General Motors began to consider phasing out some brands, including Pontiac. After chapter 11 bankruptcy was filed, Pontiac’s fate was sealed. Pontiac manufactured its last ever vehicle (a G6 sedan) in January of 2010. The Pontiac brand was officially defunct in October of that year. Although the Chevrolet division had announced a comeback of the Camaro after an 8-year hiatus, Pontiac couldn’t afford to bring the Firebird back – not even for 2010. Thus, it can be said that the Firebird/Trans Am lives on in spirit in the form of its former platform cousin the Chevrolet Camaro.
The Chevrolet Corvette is a sports car produced by General Motors (GM) since 1953. In its first generation from 1953 to 1962, the Corvette was a convertible, and since 1963 has been available also as a coupe.
The first generation Corvette, dubbed C1, debuted as the EX-122 at the GM Motorama in New York in January 1953. Chevrolet’s amateur reputation at the time gave them little guarantee that they would ever build an all-American sports car for cheap, as the sports car market in the 50’s was comprised of expensive high-end Alfas, Jaguars, and Healeys. However, the presence of 45,000 attendees at the GM Motorama and their fascination with the EX-122 prototype convinced GM that they should start production of the Corvette right away. The Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan in June of 1953. Cosmetically, the production vehicle differed very little from the prototype; its wheelbase at 102 inches (2600 mm), and exterior length at 167 inches (4250 mm). Power came from a 235 CI (3.9L) Blue Flame inline-6, which produced 150 horsepower. Due to the Corvette’s rushed production and poor decisions on discount parts, only 300 units were built for 1953. In 1954, Corvette production moved to St. Louis, Missouri, with the hope that Corvette production would total at least 10,000 units annually. Unfortunately, only 3640 Corvettes were produced for the 1954 model year. Even more abysmal was the 700-unit turnout in 1955. These poor production figures almost killed the Corvette project.
It was the then chief engineer Ed Cole who revived the Corvette and kept the ideal image of the “sports car” in the public mind. In order to retain the flair it had when it debuted at the 1953 Motorama, it needed more finesse. The Belgian-born engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov had the idea of installing the 265 CI (4.3L) Small-Block V8 into the 1955 Corvette. Low production numbers aside, the Corvette was an improvement from the two years before: not only did it have the original Blue Flame inline-6, but the new V8 was much more powerful. In fact, more Corvettes had the V8 rather than the inline-6. The Corvette was redesigned for 1956, and the six-cylinder was dropped from the engine lineup. The Small-Block V8 was upgraded to deliver 210 to 240 horsepower. Exterior length was increased to 168 inches (4300 mm). The Corvette was little changed for 1957, except for the updated 283 CI (4.6L) V8, which produced 283 horsepower. This made the Corvette to be the first vehicle to feature an engine with “one HP per cubic inch”.
The Corvette was given a dramatic facelift in 1958. It featured a wealth of chrome – all the rage that year – and a four-headlight design. This was a predominant design feature on GM’s 1958 passenger vehicles. Exterior length was increased to 177 inches (4500 mm). The 283 V8 was rated for 290 horsepower. The 1959 Corvette, although largely unchanged, featured less chrome. The chrome was removed from the louvers and the rear trunk. This gave the Corvette a smoother and sleeker look. This design was kept until 1960.
In 1961, the Corvette received a fine-mesh grille and a “boat-tail” rear end with quad-taillights. The 283 Small-Block was fuel injected to deliver up to 315 horsepower. In the C1 Corvette’s final year, the Small-Block V8 was enlarged to 327 cubic inches (5.4L), and rated between 250 and 360 horsepower. More than 69,000 Corvettes were produced in the first generation.
The second generation “C2” Corvette began production for 1963. Seemingly overnight, the Corvette received some radical changes, such as more rigid structural steel and independent rear suspension. The “Sting Ray” was designed as a sleek fastback with a split rear windshield; however, the split rear design proved controversial, and was changed to a singular piece in 1964.
The wheelbase was shorter, at 98 inches (2500 mm); and exterior length measured 179.3 inches (4554 mm). Power came from the carried-over 327 V8, which produced 250, 300, 340, or 360 horsepower, depending on the engine compression ratio. Chevy produced 199 race-oriented models called Z06, an option priced at $1818. These cars were nicknamed “Big Tanks” or “tankers” due to their enormous 36.5 gallon (138 liter) fuel capacity. For 1964, the Corvette was slightly restyled. The hood louvers and split rear windshield were deleted, and the engine produced 365 horsepower (up 5 horses) in stock form. The options price was jacked up to $538 for a fuel-injected version, which produced 375 horsepower. New for 1965 was a “Turbo Jet” 396 CI Big-Block V8. This unit was carbureted, and capable of 425 horsepower.
1966 saw a slight change yet again to the Corvette. The front grille gained an egg-crate design, and coupes gained simplified rear pillars. With 10.25:1 compression, the Big-Block could develop 390 horsepower; and 11:1 compression gave 425 horses. With more Big-Blocks selling, demand for the Small-Block 327 waned. The Small-Block in the 1966 Corvette developed either 300 or 350 horsepower. GM’s Corvette engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov, held next-generation production at bay. The C3 Corvette was originally planned as a 1967 model, but the C2 stayed for a year longer. Although little changed from the year before, the wildest Corvette employed a “Tri-Power” Big-Block, which could throw out 435 horsepower with 11:1 compression. Throughout its entire production run, the C2 Corvette totaled 117,964 units.
The third generation “C3” Corvette was introduced for 1968, and it featured exterior styling much like the 1965 Mako Shark II concept. Other than that, the Corvette kept pretty much all else the same with the chassis, still sitting on a 98-inch wheelbase. The base engine to power the Corvette was a 327 (5.4L) Small-Block V8, distributing 300 to 350 horsepower. However, the big guns to really put down lots of power were the various forms of the 427 (7.0L) Big-Block: a 390 horsepower 4-barrel; a 400 horsepower Tri-Power; a 430 horsepower 4-barrel carb; and a 435 horsepower 3X2 barrel carb. For 1969, the Small-Block was bored out to 350 CI (5.7L). Although the displacement went up, power remained the same at 300 and 350 horsepower. The “Sting Ray” model had “Stingray” written as one word for the front fender emblems. It should be noted that the “Stingray” name would be limited to this generation before it went on hiatus for several generations. Also, 1969 saw the first sales ratio in favour of coupes: 22,129 coupes versus 16,633 convertibles.
“Four-barrel carburetor” was the name of the game in 1970, when the redesigned Corvette gained a 4-barrel-carb version of the 350 Small-Block, and two Big-Blocks (LS5 and LS7). A two-month labour strike in 1969 caused Corvette production to decrease by half: only 17,316 were produced for 1970. Also putting a damper into Corvette production was the recently passed “Clean Air Bill” which required all vehicles produced to meet emissions requirements. The new 4-barrel carb Small-Block was codenamed “LT-1“, and it developed 370 horsepower. The Big-Block was bored out to 454 CI (7.4L), and it produced 390 horsepower. Although a 460 horsepower LS7 Big-Block was rumoured to be in the lineup, it proved environmentally unfriendly; none are known to be produced for sale. Thus, the LS7 was not offered again. All engines were detuned in 1971. The 350 Small-Block dished out 270 horsepower for the base, and 330 for the LT-1. The 454 Big-Block came in two forms: the 365 horsepower LS5 and the LS6. The LS6 was a detuned LS7 which produced 425 horsepower. This helped Corvette sales to recover somewhat.
Power ratings for 1972 transitioned to the SAE net system. The LS6 was discontinued, leaving only the base Small-Block, the LT-1 and the LS5. With a “net” power rating, the LS5 was vastly detuned, now producing only 270 horsepower. The LS5 Corvette was not available in California. Despite all this, Corvette sales for 1972 saw a rise to 27,000 units. The Corvette gained a new “soft” fascia in 1973. Now equipped with body-color urethane bumpers, it adhered to federally mandated crash safety standards. Also a sign of the times, the Corvette’s engines were detuned to meet emissions and fuel economy standards in the wake of the Arab Oil Embargo. For 1973, the 454 Big-Block threw out 275 horsepower, but detuned to 270 for 1974.
The Corvette was transformed into an “economy car” for 1975. Such updates included slightly newer fascia and further detuning of its engines. The 454 was dropped, leaving only two 350s. The base engine developed only 165 horsepower, and the L-82 option threw out 205 horsepower. Having worked at General Motors for over two decades, Zora Arkus-Duntov resigned from his position as chief engineer. Replacing him was Munising, Michigan born Dave McLellan. Despite his retirement from GM, Duntov was not indifferent towards the Corvette. In fact, for the rest of his life he was passionate about his project. The Corvette was altered again in 1976, this time gaining a steel floorpan in place of fiberglass. This achieved weight reduction and reduced interior road noise. Due to decreasing popularity and sales, the convertible was discontinued, leaving only the coupe. The engine lineup for ’76 and ’77 saw more healthy power output figures: The base L-48 developed 180 horsepower, and the L-82 developed 210 horsepower. The “Stingray” moniker was discontinued in 1977.
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Corvette, a Silver Anniversary edition was produced for 1978. The Corvette benefited from an aerodynamic redesign including a fixed-glass fastback and an aircraft-inspired interior center console. The optional L-82 engine was tuned for 220 horsepower. The Corvette was slightly restyled again in 1979. Aesthetic enhancements included blacked-out rocker panels and window trim. Some models gained a front and rear aero kit much like from the 1978 Corvette pace car. Brand new hardware included halogen high-beam headlights, AM/FM radio, and an anti-theft alarm system. The L-82 engine developed 225 horsepower. 1979 was the year of highest sales figures of the Corvette: 53,807 units; a record that’s yet to be beat.
For 1980, the Corvette was radically transformed – in favor of gas mileage. It was aerodynamically redesigned and lightened in several parts, such as doors, hood and glass. A shocker when it comes to straight-line performance is the federally-mandated 85 mph (136 km/h) maximum speed speedometer. 1980 was the last year for the L-82, and this year it produced 230 horsepower. Corvette sales dropped to 40,614 units. In 1981, the lone engine option, the L-48, was renamed L81. This motor threw out 190 horsepower. The L81 had magnesium rocker covers and a stainless-steel exhaust manifold. This drivetrain was paired up to a Computer Command Control engine management system. Corvettes had always been produced in St. Louis, but in mid-1981 the production line moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky. By means of Cross-Fire Injection, the engine in the 1982 Corvette developed 10 more horsepower. GM built many “Collector Edition” models as well. The Collector Edition featured unique two-tone silver/beige exterior paint, bronze-tint glass T-top, and a lift-up rear glass hatchback. It also had turbine wheels like on 60’s Vettes. With a ludicrous base price of $22,357 resulting in a decade-low sales figure, the time was soon coming for a new generation of Corvette.