What Were They Thinking: 1978 Corvette ‘America’ Concept

March 21, 2012

There are moments within the extended life-run of an iconic, homebred sportscar where ambitious minds and questionable visions intersect to create something that begs to ask a question that was never even asked in the first place… In this case – ‘Why wouldn’t a Corvette owner/enthusiast desire a 4-door version to haul his family and friends around in…?’

I know. There are so many responses to counter that question, but it didn’t stop Chevrolet from embarking on a… erm…. ‘design study’ in 1978 to flesh out the possibilities of a 4-door family ‘Vette.

The Corvette ‘America’ (snappy name) was designed and built by California Custom Coach in Pasadena, California in very small numbers – one prototype and five ‘production’ models – achieved by basically taking two Corvettes, cutting them in half and then stitching/welding them up, hence the increaed 30-inch wheelbase and subsequent visual awkwardness…

At the time, a base-model Corvette would stretch you back about $13,000-$14,000. So when the $35,000 price-tag was announced for the 4-door America, orders didn’t exactly flock-in as they had anticipated…

In the end, only the 6 were made and the silver ‘vette pictured here is the only known remaining survivor – the others having succumbed to uncaring owners and/or crashes of various sorts… I couldn’t even imagine what an oversteering moment in one of these would feel like. Probably frightening.

I think one left is enough.

Though, in its defense, I can’t help picturing this above red version as the sort of vehicle that the characters from The Banana Splits would have driven, if they could have…  And that makes it instantly cool in my books.

-Blake J.

Sebring 2012: The Sights And Sounds

March 20, 2012

Audi scored a 1-2 victory this past weekend at Sebring International Raceway for the annual ’12 Hours of Sebring’ race. It was not only the 60th anniversary of the event itself, but the final (and fitting) swan song for the Audi R18 TDI.  Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capelloand and Allan McNish completed 301 laps in their Audi R18 to win by four laps in the opening round of the American Le Mans Series.

Presented here are the sights and sounds from this year’s Sebring 12 Hours, starting off with a video that contains no dramatic voice-overs or commentary – just the pure, raw sounds and sights as seen from various trackside points…

The Field - part 1

The Field - part 2

Turn one

-Blake J. 

The Astronaut’s Choice: 1969 Chevrolet ‘Astrovette’ Stingray Corvettes

March 9, 2012

By the time the Apollo 12 crew landed and enjoyed a leisurely stroll on the moon in November 1969 (the sixth manned space flight under the Apollo program but only the second Apollo crew to land on the moon), Astronauts had garnered (and enjoyed) an almost Rock ‘n Roll-like fervor about them, undoubtedly helped along by their psychedelic space-travelling ways. So, what better way to augment this public appreciation (and have fun) in the vehicular sense than with matching, bespoke 1969 ‘AstroVette’ Stingray Corvettes.

Through a special GM lease program, Astronauts were given the privilege of driving any GM car, for a year, for only $1. The Apollo 12 crew of Alan Bean, Richard Gordon and Charles Conrad decided to take GM up on this rather kind offer by obtaining matching ‘vettes distinguished by their Gold and Black paint-scheme and distinctive red, white and blue logos on the front wings reading ‘LMP’ for Lunar Module Pilot.

To this day, sadly, only Alan Bean’s ‘Astrovette’ is accounted for and has undergone a full, extensive restoration… In a recent BBC Documentary from Top Gear’s James May titled ‘James May On The Moon’, Alan was reunited with his old Corvette Astrovette after some 40 years…

More pics…

-Blake J.

Video: How To Destroy Your Corvette at 20mph

November 24, 2011

This one hurt to watch. Generally, Autocross Events such as this one are always held in giant, open parking lots or runways where the nearest ‘obstacle’ to inflict any real damage to your car would be, well… another car. In the case of this particular drive-thru-the-pylons *yawn* excursion though, things got a bit sideways really rather quick… and at a (albeit, accelerating) speed that causes one to scratch the noodle.

It appears to be a classic case of power-on/power-off leading to instant tail-out oversteer mixed with a lack of experience and a sprinkling of dusty/slippery tarmac… Then the curb. Then the destruction of not only your wheels, but most-likely your suspension and various underneath bits…. and the rear marker tail-lamp. Ouch.

-Blake J.

POTD/Spotlight: The Mini vs. The Giants

November 22, 2011

It was a classic scenario of David meeting Goliath in the world of motorsport. An era of hugely exciting racing; the likes of which we’ll never see again. Thunderingly powerful, massive American V8’s in the form of Ford Galaxies and Chevrolet Camaros instigating door-handle (or rather, door-handle-to-roofline) battle against the tiny, lightweight and agile 4-cyl. Minis and various mid-sized saloons. This was Saloon Car Racing of the 60’s and early-70’s. This was ‘everyman’ racing at its finest…

The Giant Killer

Yours truly captured this (above) photo of the Mini Cooper sandwiched between the two American Muscle cars earlier this year during a ‘Spring Thaw’ Rally that gave witness to an eclectic heard of classic pre-1980’s cars of all shapes and sizes attacking some of the finest roads of this region for 3 days straight. Myself, I was acting co-driver for my friend’s 1973 BMW 2002. It was an incredibly fun experience and I thoroughly look forward to next year’s event.

During those 3 memorable days it wasn’t uncommon to be passed by a properly-driven half-million-$ 1950’s Aston Martin DB2 followed by a scampering 1970’s Porsche 914 during one stage followed by a mountain-esque blast with a gorgeous 60’s Lancia Fulvia in behind while chasing a 70’s Firebird Trans Am the next… It was sort of like a 3-day Field Trip for grown-up Petrolheads. Truly truly unforgettable.

For those that have the time, I highly recommend viewing this slightly, er… ‘flattened’ video (the transfer from video-to-digi always seems to be problematic) of the 1971 Saloon Car Championship from the long-gone Crystal Palace circuit in the UK. Excellent footage (and sound!) of Minis, Escorts, Cortinas, Vauxhalls and big V8 Camaros going head-to-head. You’ll want to watch Part 2 all the way to the end for the classic race finish.

Part 1

Part 2

And for those possibly looking for something more ‘common-man’ motorsport entertainment, here we have a ‘Production Car’ race from 1975 whereby anyone – and I do mean, anyone – could sign themselves up to race with their own wheels and do battle around the track with other like-minded (ie: a bit nutty?) individulals with their daily-driven vehicles…. without any insurance. Somewhat comedy, classic David vs. Goliath material…

-Blake J.

Corvette Show-Off Crashes Into Car.

August 15, 2011

Some Corvette driver fails as he tries to cut a car off and instead he ends up having a collision with another driver. Angry words broke out… Recommended for strong listeners.


LFA vs. GT-R vs. ZR1 vs. 911 GT2 RS vs. F430 GT3. GO!

May 18, 2011

Japan’s Best Motoring pits the Lexus LFA against the Nissan GT-R, Corvette ZR1, Porsche 911 GT2 RS and Ferrari F430 GT3 in a 3 lap angry full-out battle!

The Vid:

This is unfortunately the last episode of Japan’s Best Motoring.

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