Track muscle | Buy Hard

Can't wait for a Mustang Mach 1? Try one of these American circuit specials

By PH Staff / Sunday, October 18, 2020

After so many years being dismissed by European enthusiasts, the US sports car sector has created some fine driver’s cars over the past decade or so. Cars like the Corvette Z06, the Camaro ZL1 and Z/28, the Shelby Mustangs and the Viper ACR have shown that, when it comes to what enthusiasts love, the US really gets it: rear-drive, manual gearboxes, enormous engine and a focus on driver reward. They’re still enormous vehicles, of course, but any claims of inferiority against European opposition have been quashed. See that Viper ‘ring lap if you need proof… 

Now, at last, it seems like we’re going to get a taste of circuit-honed US muscle in the UK, with Ford confirming European availability of the Mustang Mach 1. It’s not a full-fat Shelby, sure, but it borrows key bits from the GT350 and 500, while adding a bit more spice to that Coyote V8 and retaining the manual gearbox. The Mach 1 focus is explicitly on track use – that’s where the original made its name, after all – and it’ll be a real treat to drive a leaner, meaner Mustang with the steering wheel on the right side. Let’s hope it happens. 

Such is the demand, however, that a steady stream of US imports have made their way over to the UK over recent years. And that’s what this week’s Buy Hard will celebrate: the muscle cars that, in the mould of the Mach 1 and similar Mustangs, can cut it on circuit as well. Here’s what we’ve found…

Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, 2016, 5,000 miles, £99,950 

Obviously Le Mans was a very different race in 2020, but there was one very notable absentee: Corvette. Apparently with the US calendar reshuffled, the logistics simply couldn’t work for a September Le Mans. Which is a shame, of course, because it was going to be our first chance to see the new C8.R in action in Europe. However, given what’s been seen and heard of them so far, I’m not too disappointed: that unmistakeable Corvette silhouette has gone, along with the rumble thanks to the switch to a flat plane crank. The V8 thunderstorm has been replaced, and that’s a shame 

The C7.R edition celebrated the old front-engined model’s dominance of sports car racing, and here’s one for sale in the UK. Just 500 were produced, mechanically identical to a Z06 (no issue with 650hp) and available in Corvette Racing Yellow Tintcoat (of course) or black. I should know, because I giddily wrote the story on the C7.R Edition for PH back in 2015. While not a dedicated, stripped-out track special, it did get the Z07 Performance Package (Cup 2s, ceramic brakes, adjustable aero) as standard, so should be more than capable enough to hold its own on a UK circuit.  

This particular one is manual, too, a challenge (and reward) now so often denied to comparable Europeans cars. Bring that together with the V8 power, the exclusivity, the brutish good looks and a price that sneaks in at less than £100k and I’m sold. Those GT3 drivers won’t know what’s hit them.

Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, 2018, 450, £124,950

You’ve got to hand it to Dodge. FCA’s Michigan brand hasn’t half pressed on with the whole displacement thing, shoehorning a 6.2-litre into whatever it damn well pleases. The HEMI block is at its meanest and maddest in supercharged Demon format, where it has 840hp and is about as ferocious as road-legal combustion power can be. Add in the menacing Challenger widebody and you have yourself almost as much mechanical grip as you do muscle.

Clearly, the car has been popular with drag racers because Dodge offers comprehensive upgrades on its Demon to cater to them, stickier tyres, stiffer suspension and bigger brakes, which, handily for this comparison, ought to work rather well on twistier stuff. Ok, it won’t have the delicacy of Cayman GT4, but it’ll certainly cover ground quick enough.

This example perfectly illustrates that, with its 315mm-wide semi-slicks and blistered arches, adaptive dampers and lightweight four-piston brake calipers all sounding very racy indeed. It’s not far off brand new and thanks to import costs, rarity and whatever else gets added to cars from across the pond like this, it’s up for £125k. That’s probably just a bit more than the 992 GT3 will cost. But when it comes to scaring other circuit traffic out of your way, this is pure shock and awe.

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