Sports Car Sinergy

Jonny Lieberman
by Jonny Lieberman
Whatever else you can say about the Chevrolet Corvette, it isn’t a halo vehicle. Yes, it beats the Hell out of anything in its class and out bang-for-the-buck’s the big boys. But there’s not a single enthusiast driving around in an Impala SS thinking, "Oh yeah — I got the same AC vents as a 'Vette." In terms of appearance, the Avalanche resembles the Corvette about as much as Paul Giamati looks like Keira Knightley. Contrast this with the Porsche Carrera GT. Despite the astronomical price gap between the GT and an entry level Boxster, the family face is intact and the underlying product philosophy is identical: speed, handling, fun. That’s why it’s time for GM to use “America’s Sports Car” as the basis of an entirely new division– with Nissan.

Here's my pitch: merge The Jackal’s finest whips with Rabid Rick’s meanest metal. Pull every Nissan and GM two door with a powerful front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels into a new Nissan/GM performance division. Sitting atop the heap: the 7.0-liter Z06. Even without considering the stroked, supercharged 650+ HP "Blue Devil," the Corvette has finally surmounted its “also ran” status to achieve respect and admiration (unlike, say, the Aveo). If ever a car deserved its own brand, if ever a model possessed the gravitas needed to carry a new company on its broad shoulders, it’s the Corvette.

Half a rung below the mighty Vette: Nissan’s GT-R (nee Skyline). The upcoming Japanese supercar may lack the Vette’s historical importance, but its gonzo performance rep would give the new division added glory. And it would provide an answer to Porsche's exhaust-fed, AWD Turbo. A low-weight two-seater with 450hp driving all the wheels and a Nürburgring-fettled chassis equals major craziness. In fact, the GT-R might deliver enough performance to rival the Z06. Hang on; two cut-price uber-cars on the same team competing in the same niche? Damn straight.

This is where the new division would have to be smart. They mustn’t neuter their model lineup to fit some rigid stepped marketing strategy, Zuffenhausen-style (i.e. the most powerful Cayman has less power than a stripped 911). Let all the division’s cars be their own mighty selves. With both the Z06 and the GT-R in the same showroom, GM/Nissan would offer performance-minded consumers a one-two punch that few contemporary carmakers could counter. The rest of the sports car ratpack would have to take the threat seriously.

Of course, the tricky part is deciding what to sell further down the food chain. The Chevrolet Camaro and the Nissan Z are natural enemies– unless the Z is re-fashioned to resemble a baby GT-R. Nissan’s versatile FM platform is already set up to handle four wheels a 'turning (think G35x and FX). Re-engineering the Z to put power at all four corners wouldn’t require a major investment. A $30k AWD Z could do some damage to entry-level Boxster and Z4 sales. But wait! There’s more! The new division could bring out a twin-turbo Z, cranking out 350 to 380hp, stoking fond memories of Nissan’s early 90’s whip. It could be the ultimate budget supercar– or at least throw down the G-force gauntlet to the nutso Mitsubishi EVO and Subaru WRX STi.

The Camaro is less complicated proposition. GM/Nissan’s boffins could wedge an unadulterated, unmolested and unrestricted LS2 engine into a stretched FM chassis (M45 showing the way) and stick with the prototype's show car good looks. A 505hp LS7 powered line-topping Camaro would follow quite nicely, thanks. A $40 -$45k bitchin' Camaro ain't gonna cannibalize Corvette or GT-R sales any more than Boxsters and Caymans eat 911 orders. Furthermore, while no Shelby GT500 customers would seriously consider a Z06, they’d be all over a Camaro with a Z06 engine.

To round out the new Corvette Division, GM/Nissan would of course need a variant of the "Hey, that looks like fun" Solstice GXP, both in hardtop and convertible form. If they added the normally aspired Solstice into the mix, the performance brand’s lineup would run the gamut from $20k entry level cars to world-beating supercars. Two of them. Hell, the new division could go for broke (hopefully not literally) and bring back the mid-engined Fiero to take on the Lotus Elise.

For the next 90 days, Rabid Rick and The Jackal are obliged to explore possible “synergies” between the two car making, continent-straddling giants. Instead of nudge-nudge wink-winking about “unused plant capacity” and pretending that the UAW doesn’t exist, these two [non-Nissan] titans should stop playing kiss – chase, combine forces and create something world class. Separately, GM and Nissan both make great sports cars. Working together, they could make the best. Forget all that talk about corporate synergy. What these companies need is sinergy. A brand new Corvette Division would provide the sex-on-wheels halo both companies need.

Jonny Lieberman
Jonny Lieberman

Cleanup driver for Team Black Metal V8olvo.

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  • Areitu Areitu on Jul 29, 2006

    I saw a soulstice in person not too long ago. Despite glowing reviews I'd read about it, it still looked like a pile of jelly beans that were stuck in a microwave. The quality of the interior plastics was terrible in my opinion, with unfinished edges on plastic lids and mismatching textures. The Z in comparison, while it does have a minimalist interior and maybe cheap in some places, it doesn't *look* or feel nearly as bad. There's probably a decent market out there for a sporty fixed roof car in the same price range as the Miata/Soulstice/Civic Si/VW GTI range. People my age (~21) don't like miatas and soulstices because they look like molten bars of soap or a giant jelly bean. A RWD 4-seater 2-door coupe with a trunk would be a great way to bring a lot of young drivers into the fold and they could graduate to one of the larger cars as they have kids, etc. I think car companies generally avoid coupes because they tend to "age" rapidly in relation to other vehicles such as sedans and trucks. Remember how long the 1999 Mercury Cougar was cool? Not very long. The styling got really old, really fast. A few years ago, Mazda briefly considered selling a naturally-aspirated 200 horsepower version of the 3rd generation RX7 in the US for around $20-25,000. I wish they had...

  • Anonymous Anonymous on Aug 03, 2006

    [...] Filed under: Car Buying, Concept Cars, Etc., Supercars, Chevrolet, GM, Nissan [...]

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