Bark's Bites: When I Say Kappa, You Say…
In 2006, GM had a winner on its hands. In fact, they’d had the idea of a winner since at least 2002, when the Solstice concept car was shown at the NAIAS in both convertible and coupe form. The concept, however, was based on the Delta platform, later seen in the infamous Ion, Cobalt, and G5. In order for the car to actually come to production as a rear-wheel driver roadster, a new platform would be required.
Enter the Kappa.
The Kappa platform was designed with a Corvette’s soul—including hydroformed rails and the Y platform’s backbone central tunnel design. The result was a car so terrifyingly capable, especially the Pontiac Solstice with the Z0K performance option, that it inspired Mazda to offer a trunk kit for the Miata to keep it from getting stomped by the Solstice in Showroom Stock B racing and C Stock autocross. The only complaint about the car from most enthusiasts was its lack of power—it came with a 177 HP, 2.4 liter Ecotec four cylinder engine.
So, not long after the debut of the Solstice and it’s sister, the Saturn Sky, GM introduced a GXP/Red Line version of each car with a turbocharged 2.0 liter engine that made 260 HP and 260 lb-ft of torque. Oh, hello. Of course, GM wouldn’t be GM unless they did something stupid like not make the Z0K kit available right away (which they didn’t) and pair it with a truck transmission that topped out around 52 MPH in second gear (which they did). Still, the additional power of the turbocharged motor made the Kappas competitve not just with the Miata, but with S2000s. The 2.0 also had massive potential in the hands of tuners, who unlocked enough power to make the Solstice GXP competitve with modded Evos and M3s at the autocross and track.
Unfortunately, the Kappas were not particularly well made. I personally remember seeing a fellow autocross competitor pull the door handle right off of his Solstice GXP at the 2009 SCCA National Championships—he was forced to enter and exit the car Dukes of Hazzard style for the rest of the week. Interior trim pieces rattled like a baby toy. The top was legendarily tough to get up and down, and storage space was nil.
And, of course, all this happened at pre-bailout GM. When Obama decided to shut down Pontiac and Saturn, the Kappa died along with them…or did it?
Not many people know that the Kappa car lives on today. GM sold the Kappa platform to a Spanish car company called Tauro. Tauro took the Kappa platform, made it undeniably gorgeous, shoved an 6.2 liter LS3 V-8 in it, and they’ll supercharge it up to 650 HP for you if you’d like, all for a mere 100,000 Euros. Of course, you’d have a hard time finding anybody who’s ever bought one. Or seen one. Rumor has it that they do exist, though.
But what if? I mean, the new GM is supposed to be light years better than the old GM, right? The C7 Corvette is certainly a winner (granted, so was the C6). The new Impala is fantastic. What if they could take some of that New GM magic and apply it to the Kappa platform? What if they didn’t just take parts from whatever bin they could find (the original Solstice shared a steering wheel with the G5, for example), but actually put together a serious Miata fighter? The space is wide open. Nobody other than Mazda is making an affordable roadster. And despite being built with the same quality control that I used when I put together my son’s train table, the original Kappa was pretty much a sell out.
Come on, GM. Bring it back. You can rebuild it. You have the technology. Make it better. Stronger. Faster. You were so close the first time.
And I even know what to call it: The 2016 Chevy Monza Spider. Or Maybe not.
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- VoGhost Jeff, My comment was meant to note Tesla's dominant position in the market. Kwik_Shift, I own a Model 3.
- NormSV650 You forgot to mention this is not a ground EV but based on Volvo CMA ICE platform. Which is also shared with XC40 and Polestar 2. So it may be a few years old now and not cutting edge as other EV's.
- Peter E. Puffington IV EBFlex puffs peters
- NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys for that money, it had better be built by people listening to ABBA
- Abrar Very easy and understanding explanation about brake paint
Was anyone over 5'10" and 210lbs ever able to fit inside one of these beautiful but flawed creations?
It seems to me the bigger hole in the marketplace is for a relatively affordable 4-seater convertible. Now that the Sebring, Eos, and C70 convertible are no more, there is really nothing out there that two couples can take to dinner on a hot summer night anywhere south of the 4-series / S5 price point. The Mustang / Camaro don't have the back-seat room in their convertible forms and are not really of appeal to the people who want something more elegant and restrained. Aand let's face it, the people who buy convertibles are either empty-nester Baby Boomers or well-off Gen X and Y folks who still need to worry about what their co-workers think. There's plenty of room between $30k and $50k for a well-made copy of the BMW 6-series 'vert. The current Chevy SS would make a great starting point - it would be the spiritual successor to the iconic '64 Impala droptop. I bet that has a better business case than another canyon-carving 2-seat toy.