Many gearheads have a strange affinity to Hot Wheels. Here is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the company, but never asked.
Toy cars can be divided into two categories: Hot Wheels and everybody else. For over 50 years, Mattel has dominated with what is now recognized as the best-selling toy in the world. It’s impossible to count how many car buffs, from mechanics to real race stars to TV personalities, grew up playing with these cars. Whether it was just a few models or massive collections, Hot Wheels has been part of car culture for decades and is never going to stop. Whether it’s a simple model or some fancy licensed vehicle, Hot Wheels simply enthralls.
Yet it’s incredible how some people are unaware of the facts of the company and its history. From its unique origins to how these cars are put together, the story behind Hot Wheels is fascinating. There are also touches from how some of these cars are more expensive than real ones to some unique touches on the culture. Here are 20 amazing facts about Hot Wheels to prove they’re more than just “kids toys.”‘
20/20 Real-Life Hot Wheels Jump Was A World Record
Growing up a massive Hot Wheels fan, racer Tanner Foust decided to honor them in a fun way. At the 2011 Indy 500, Foust talked the management into seeing up a massive orange ramp and raced down it in a rally car.
After 90 feet of track, Foust sailed 332 feet, the longest record for such a move. He topped it by driving through a 66-foot loop in 2012 to live out the dreams of every kid.
19 Technology In Car Building Is Amazing…
Making toys has become a very high-tech business today. Just like real car companies, Hot Wheels has adapted to the 21st century nicely. Computers and 3-D technology are utilized to make sure the designs are perfected before the building begins.
It also helps them keep on top of the latest car trends to ensure that today’s Hot Wheels are sleeker and more natural than the ones of the past.
18 But They’re Still Diecast
There are many toy car lines out there, but Hot Wheels is still the king of the bunch. The key reason is that, for all the advances in technology, every car is still diecast and built mostly by hand.
Even when cheaper materials are available, Mattel knows the diecast is what the fans want. It’s also helped in making customized cars at home for popular models. After 50 years, Mattel doesn’t want to mess with success and do away with diecast.
17 They’ve Worked With NASA
Hot Wheels have done a few astronaut-themed toys over the years. But that’s not the only connection they have with NASA. In 1998, they were able to work with the agency to create an exact replica of the Mars Rover, which landed on the Red Planet that very year.
They also worked with them in 2012 for scale models of the Curiosity rover. It’s amazing how the company got access to top-secret plans to make these toys.
16 Collectors Take It Seriously
Some may dismiss Hot Wheels as “just for kids.” But collectors take it more seriously than real automobiles. The 1969 Volkswagen Beach Bomb (only 16 prototypes were made) is known to go for at least $15,000.
Some rare models can go for a hundred grand, and collectors are always on the lookout for unique mint models. Entire museums are devoted to various cars as some Hot Wheels collections put legit car collectors to shame.
15 Scaling Down The Cars Was Tricky
A key to the company’s success is that they work with scores of real car companies to get looks at plans for their toy models. Yet it’s not so simple as just “make a smaller version.” The biggest challenge is to achieve the proper scale for the toys in a diecast model yet retain the details of the actual car.
That can be complex with some fancy vehicles. That every model has to be sized to fit the same tracks just adds to why it takes as long developing a toy car as a real one.
14 NASCAR Star Has The Record For The Longest Track
Ever since the Hot Wheels tracks were created, fans have been trying to top themselves making the most extended and most complex. A few have achieved great ones, but it’s fitting a NASCAR star holds the record for the longest.
In 2019, Joey Logano unveiled a 1,941-foot long track stretched across his garage. It weaves through his car collection with 1222 boosters before ending in Logano’s own 2018 HW Ford Mustang. Add yet another title to Logano’s list of accolades.
13 They Made A Car Coated In Diamonds
In 2008, Mattel made a big deal of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Hot Wheels line. As a special reward, Mattel had Jasons of Beverly Hills craft the most expensive Hot Wheels car on the planet.
Cast in 18-karat gold, it’s covered with 2700 diamonds and gems totaling nearly $150,000 today. It’s become a rotating exhibit at toy museums for the glitziest Hot Wheels you could see.
12 The Darth Car Is A Speed Machine
While they do stick to toys, the company has been busy creating some real-sized cars for collectors. One of the most notable is based on Darth Vader, with the hood looking like his fearsome helmet and in jet black.
This isn’t just for show as it’s based on a C5 Corvette with a GM LS3 V-8 engine capable of 526 hp and 150 mph. The Dark Lord of the Sith would be proud of this powerful craft.
11 Every Car Is Tested To Make Sure It Can Run A Track
Almost from the beginning, Hot Wheels car fans had to have a track with the cars. They’ve gone from straight lines to elaborate roller-coaster-like loop systems to leave kids entertained for hours.
What few realize is that the track determines if a car makes it as Mattel prides itself on “every car can fit every track.” More than once, a prototype has to be altered when it won’t fit as the track decides a car’s final form.
10 There Are More Hot Wheels Cars Than Real Cars
While it’s tricky to figure out for sure, most sources agree there are at least one billion cars on the planet (give or take a few hundred thousand in auto graveyards). In contrast, since 1968, six billion Hot Wheels cars have been created.
True, many have been trashed and/or recycled, and it’s impossible to count how many have been lost in backyards. But given how 16 cars are produced every second, it’s no shock the toys outnumber the real deals.
9 Several Creators Are Legit Car Designers
The one constant of Hot Wheels is that the cars look just as good as the real deal. There’s an excellent reason for that as scores of the manufacturers are legitimate car designers. Larry Wood was a veteran of Ford before becoming one of the first Hot Wheels designers.
He’s not alone as Jack Ryan was a rocket designer who crafted the bearings that made the cars so great. Scores of the car designers were in real automobiles first, so it’s no wonder the vehicles look so good.
8 The Original Camaro Is Worth A Fortune
Mint conditions of the Original 16 Hot Wheels releases are all pretty collectible items. But one dominates from the pack. While versions of a Camaro were produced, a few had white enamel paint.
They had been meant to discover flaws in a prototype but accidentally released. A mint version of one went for a hundred thousand dollars and made this one of the most expensive toys on the planet
7 They Released A Custom Corvette Before GM Did
An early standout for the company at a custom Corvette in 1968. What made it notable was that the toy was released before GM had their actual Corvette in car dealerships.
The fact designer Harry Bradley had worked at GM indicates he may have “borrowed” the designs before he left to allow Mattel to beat GM to releasing a Corvette to the masses.
6 The Red Stripes Are Expensive
If you find what looks like an old Hot Wheels car, take a good look at the wheels. If they have red stripes, then you’ve just found a fantastic collector’s item. From 1968 to 1977, designers hand-painted red lines onto the wheels to make the cars look distinctive.
As a cost-cutting measure, they switched to all-black wheels in 1978. Some mint condition red-striped vehicles have been known to go for thousands online.
5 One Of The Original Cars Was Based On A Car With No Doors
The first wave of Hot Wheels was just 16 cars, and any of them can be valuable today. One is notable, the 1965 Dodge Deora. This car boasted no doors but rather a hatch for folks to crawl into.
It was based on a fun design used by Mike and Larry Alexander but in an irony, no real Dodge Deoras were built, to make this a truly unique model
4 A Tie-In Cartoon Got Pulled By The FCC
Today, cartoons based on toy lines are commonplace. But in 1969, Hot Wheels got in trouble when they put out a cartoon series about some teenage car drivers. Despite good messages, the show was hit by complaints about being a “half-hour commercial.”
The FCC agreed, and it was yanked off the air. The company was just ahead of their time with a cartoon tie-in for a hit toy line.
3 There’s A Fight On Where The Name Came From
Much of Hot Wheels is shrouded in myth, and that includes just where the name comes from. The familiar story is that when Eliot Handler saw the first models from designer Fred Adickes, he remarked: “those are some hot wheels you’ve got there.”
Another version is that Handler just blurted the name out in a meeting with a designer. Regardless, it just stuck to become one of the most popular toys on the planet.
2 They’re Number One…Because They Remain So Cheap
In the ranks of the most popular toys on the planet, Hot Wheels dominates. They’re not just the biggest toy vehicle sellers but also the number one selling toy in the entire world. The reason is that in many markets, the cars can still go for only a dollar each.
True, they can be put out in packs, and some nations charging a few bucks more. But many stores do sell the cars for less than a bottle of water, which is the reason they are so dominant.
1 Its Creator Was Married To Barbie’s Creator
Elliott and Ruth Handler were the First Couple of the toy world. The two had founded Mattel as a picture frame company in 1945. While making a dollhouse, Ruth decided to craft a series of dolls she named Barbie.
It was an instant hit to make Mattel a success. Elliott then realized how a toy car line could be great for boys to craft what would become Hot Wheels. The two remained together until Ruth’s death in 2002 (Elliott passed on nine years later) to be icons of their industry.
Sources: Mentalfloss.com, hotwheels.com, hotwheelsmedia.com, thrillist.com
Both cars retail for about $81,000, but one is a lot more accessible.
SPEED PHENOM ON YOUTUBE
If you’ve got $80,000 to spend and want an American high-performance car, now’s a pretty good time to be in the market. In addition to tire-shredding stalwarts like the Camaro ZL1 and Challenger Hellcat, Ford and Chevy have recently launched high-profile, track-ready sports cars. And thanks to a new video by Speed Phenom, we now know how they directly compare on track.
Naturally, we wanted to do this comparison ourselves. But the GT500 wasn’t ready during our Performance Car of the Year competition when we had an early C8 to test. And now that both cars are on sale, stay-at-home orders and track closures mean we’ll have to wait for an opportunity to do a full R&T comparison.
In the meantime, Speed Phenom does a good job of breaking down how they perform. With the caveat that he’s got a base model GT500 without the optional Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, he notes that the car struggles for grip more often than the similarly-tired Corvette. It’s also less composed through mid-corner bumps, with slower cornering all around. Thanks to its massive horsepower advantage, though, it jets through straightaways.
The C8, meanwhile, benefits from serious mechanical grip. The better-balanced midship car fires through corners and has no problem putting its power down. That makes it more approachable, not surprising given that it’s the tamest version of the C8 while the GT500 is stretching the limits of the S550 platform. We’re sure to see more track-ready Corvettes soon, but for now the Stingray is a surprisingly capable start.
Mack Hogan- Road&Track
Even off the pavement, the new ‘Vette is a rocket ship.
The 2020 C8 Chevy Corvette is a fast car. In base form, it can hit a staggering 194 mph flat-out. Even with the drag-inducing Z51 performance package, the car can still do 184. Hennessey Performance took theirs to 182 mph with ease before they turbocharged it to oblivion. Now, there’s another C8 top-speed run on the internet, and this time, it takes place on a dry lake bed.
Popular YouTube TheStradman took his new Z51-equipped Corvette to a dry lake bed in Utah to test out the top speed of the car. He managed to hit an impressive 173 mph before slowing down—not bad considering the uneven and bumpy surface. It helps that there’s absolutely nothing for miles in either direction. In fact, from inside the cabin, it looks a bit uneventful. Here’s a perspective from outside the car to give you a sense of how fast 173 mph is:
If the base Corvette is this quick right out of the box, we’re curious to see how the upcoming Z06 stacks up. Considering the last-gen car could hit 200 mph, we’re expecting big things.
Source: Brian Silvestro; for RoadandTrack
The Goldilocks zone of Corvette C8 interiors?
By now, you should know that Chevrolet has started deliveries of the mid-engine 2020 Corvette. Lucky owners of the ‘Vette C8 are starting to receive their newest toy and most likely you’ve already seen one on the streets – that’s if the state you’re in is not affected by the coronavirus lockdown.
If you’re among those who are planning to purchase the new Corvette but are undecided with the trim level to choose, this video might be able to help you – especially if you’re particular with a car’s interior.
The Corvette C8 comes with three trim levels: 1LT, 2LT, and 3LT. The differences lie mainly in the features offered on each trim level, which defines that the cabin will look and feel like. That’s pretty important, considering that we spend so much time inside the car rather than staring at our investment from a distance. So, here’s a little guide.
The base 1LT trim isn’t really basic. With the entry-level trim, you already get the GT1 seats wrapped in mulan leather, a customizable 12-inch gauge cluster, push-button ignition and keyless entry, and an 8-inch Chevy MyLink infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and 10-speaker Bose sound system. The Corvette 1LT trim is available in three color options: black, gray, or red.
Going up the 2LT trim gives you more interior color options plus features like a rearview camera mirror, a colored head-up display, heated/cooled seats, heated steering wheel, advanced blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic warning. The infotainment gets upgraded as well with a wireless charger and a 14-speaker Boss audio system.
Finally, the 3LT trim dials up the ante by adding a premium Nappa leather with suede microfiber accents – all in combination with the GT2 seats that have more bolsters. These seem not a lot but the range-topping trim adds luxury to the sports coupe.
If you’re still undecided, watch the 2LT interior review on top of this page to check whether you need to take it down a notch to 1LT or go all out on the top-level 3LT.
Source: HorsePower Obsessed
It took 30 hours for Hennessey Performance Engineering to tear apart a new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, install twin-turbo setup, and put it back together.
It’s no surprise, then, that the twin-turbo C8 Corvette isn’t ready to be sold to customers. The engine lacks intercoolers and Hennessey hasn’t cracked the code of GM’s new electrical architecture to reprogram the ECU.
“This is just the beginning, our own car, doing R&D,” company founder and CEO John Hennessey told Motor Authority.
On Monday, the engine made 643 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque at the wheels on a Dynojet dyno while running just 5 psi of boost. That compares to baseline testing HPE performed on the stock car which revealed 466 hp and 451 lb-ft of torque. HPE plans to offer a 1,200-hp version of the C8, which Hennessey said could make 18-20 psi of boost.
Hennessey took delivery of an orange C8 Corvette in Detroit on March 13. He and his daughter, Emma, drove back to the performance outfitter’s Texas headquarters and performed baseline testing before the Hennessey team tore apart the car.
The orange C8 fired back to life on Friday with twin 62-mm Precision Turbos and twin blow-off valves connected to the throttle body mounted behind the catalytic converters. Both turbos are oil-cooled with twin scavenge pumps that feed back into the motor.
The system is not intercooled. Instead, there’s a methanol injection setup to keep things from getting too hot. HPE is considering where to put intercoolers. The current packaging has limited space for intercoolers without cutting into trunk space, which Hennessey does not want to do. 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray undergoes twin-turbo conversion at Hennessey
Hennessey told Motor Authority his team currently can’t tune the factory ECU, but it is looking at aftermarket solutions for the engine management system. He noted it took a year for solutions to come to market for the C7 and added, “hopefully, it won’t take a year.”
Hennessey said when the turbocharged C8 was first started it didn’t throw any codes, errors, or a check engine light. “The computer seems happy with the turbos,” Hennessey noted. A check engine light did appear when the front wheel speed sensors were disconnected to put the car on the dyno, Hennessey said.
The orange C8 will used for R&D of upcoming modifications. Hennessey said he doesn’t expect to deliver modified customer C8s for at least six months, and all will have intercoolers and full plumbing.
Joel Feder for Motor Authority
Did you see the two race on YouTube? We’ve tested them, too; here’s why the results were no surprise.
- We have tested both the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette (11.2 seconds at 122 mph) and the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (11.4 seconds at 132 mph) in the quarter-mile.
- A video on YouTube, however, shows flipped results: 11.5 seconds at 120 mph for the Corvette and 10.8 seconds at 132 mph for the GT500.
- As always, the driver and track conditions are critical, and our two-run average is far more repeatable than any one-off run at a drag strip.
When we tested Ford’s new 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500 against the top-dog 2020 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, the Mustang came out on top on the drag strip. But how does the front-engine Shelby stack up against the other, now mid-engine, threat from Chevy?
Greg PajoCar and Driver
During our testing, the GT500 hurtled through the quarter-mile in 11.4 seconds at 132 mph. But that was on a regular street-like surface, not a sticky, prepped drag strip. We struggled mightily with traction at launch, and our best run was with the launch control set to the lowest rpm allowed (1200 rpm) to prevent igniting a rear-tire fire. However, no surprise: with more traction far, better numbers are possible, and we’ve seen numbers below 11 seconds at drag strips, including this kid, who ran a 10.665 shortly after he acquired the car.’Murica Which Ultimate Pony Car Is the 1/4-Mile King?This Kid Ran a 10.66 Quarter Mile In His GT500
On the other hand, the 2020 Corvette has far fewer launch struggles, as it benefits from its newly acquired mid-engine layout and rear weight bias. Moving the weight distribution rearward improves launch traction, helping it jump off the line much quicker. During our testing, and despite far less horsepower, the mid-engine Vette outaccelerated the GT500 through the quarter-mile by two tenths of a second, reaching it in 11.2 seconds at 122 mph.Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
We’re starting to see other people’s numbers from both of these cars, though, as customers are starting to take deliveries of their C8 Corvettes and GT500s. Contrary to our test results, there’s a video circulating on YouTube that shows the new GT500 beating the C8 Corvette through the quarter-mile by seven-tenths of a second. It raced to the quarter-mile in 10.8 seconds while the Corvette reached it in 11.5 seconds.
Keep in mind that the driver and conditions are huge factors in quarter-mile and acceleration results. We suspect that here, the Corvette likely got bogged down on the high-grip surface, as the launch control isn’t optimized for those conditions, and the 760-hp Mustang benefited from the extra traction on the track.
Connor Hoffman for CarandDriver
William Walker: Photographer Manufacturer Photographer Mar 11, 2020
It’s weird to say, but immediately after my first test drive in the new mid-engine, eighth-generation 2020 Chevrolet C8 Corvette, I was angry. Angry not because the car didn’t do what it should, but precisely because it did everything I asked of it, and did it beautifully—and I’d been led to believe it was a hot, understeering mess by the reviews I’d read elsewhere. How could they all have been so wildly off base?
There are many possible explanations, of course—differing driver skill levels, evaluation methods, and conditions. But two variables stand out among the rest: the C8 Corvette’s option for track or street alignments, and the length of exposure to the car. Addressing the latter issue first, we were lucky enough to spend the better part of week with the new C8, a rare chance given the limited availability of test cars so early in the Corvette’s production (All-Stars testing took place in early December 2019). That greater exposure to the car allowed us more time to get a feel for its behavior in a wide array of situations, both on the road and on the Streets of Willow Springs racetrack.
Perhaps even more importantly, however, was the choice of track and street suspension alignments. You see, the 2020 C8 Corvette has two official specifications for its alignment settings; the street alignment sets the camber at 0 degrees, while the track alignment sets the camber to 3 degrees negative. The result is the difference between a (somewhat) understeer-biased street setup and a balanced, ready-to-rotate super sports car. The former is intended to help Corvette owners new to the world of low polar-moment mid-engine cars make the transition without ending up backward in a guardrail their first time out. We spent our week with the Corvette in track-alignment mode, whether hammering out laps or zooming around the mountains near Lake Hughes.
But wait, isn’t that cheating, you ask? It might seem like it at first—track settings are meant for the track, not the street, right?–but Chevrolet itself recommends owners who use the track setting for track go ahead and leave the car setup that way all the time. No, it won’t cause excessive or premature tire wear, at least according to Chevy’s engineers. For the record, we did visually notice more wear to the front tires’ inside shoulders than we’d expect with the more conventional setup, so we’d be curious to see the state of the rubber after 5,000 or so miles with this alignment. It’s certainly something for owners to be aware of and to keep an eye on, at the very least.
Regardless, and not for nothing, the two alignment settings might better be named “beginner” and “advanced”. If you’re a moderately accomplished driver who’s comfortable with a car that’s willing to rotate, don’t leave the lot with your new Corvette until you’ve had the car set to its more aggressive alignment.
With that out of the way, holy cow, is this thing good! The nearly instant-on torque from the 6.2-liter V-8 means you’re never left wanting for thrust, the quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch transmission bangs out upshifts with authority, and the steering feel, while not telepathic, is still abundantly communicative. Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa did note, however, that several of our evaluators found “the steering in its own separate Track mode is too heavy without doing anything for feel,” and resident professional race driver Andy Pilgrim pointed out, “The gearbox is very good on the street, but did not always give me the lower gear I wanted on the track.” If those are the worst things we could think to say after back-to-back runs in hardware as exotic as the $474,000-plus Ferrari F8 Tributo and the nearly as pricey McLaren GT, it’s pretty apparent the mid-engine Corvette is something special.
Braking is remarkably stable for a mid-engine car, as is power application, the latter thanks at least in part to the car’s Performance Traction Management system. Chevy’s PTM is one of the key technology transfers from the factory Corvette Racing program, and it shows its racing roots when put to the test. But of course even the best traction-control programs can’t work when the tires aren’t in contact with the road; that’s where the Corvette’s excellent suspension tune comes in.
“Glides over broken mountain roads like a hovercraft—but still sticks like crazy,” wrote contributor Arthur St. Antoine in his evaluation notes. Pilgrim agreed, noting the C8 Corvette “has more suspension travel than the Porsche 992, and feels more compliant, allowing more roll in transition; none of which is a bad thing for everyday driving comfort.”
In fact, far from a rabid, on-the-edge supercar, it’s clear the Chevy engineers behind the new C8 Corvette put a great deal of time and effort into the car’s daily driving demeanor, or, as features editor Rory Jurnecka noted, “It should make a nice road car with good interior space. Feels pretty easy to live with.” Not only is there a rear trunk that’ll fit two golf bags (or several carry-on bags or backpacks), there’s a front trunk (or frunk) that’ll hold some more. But the new C8 Corvette’s interior is what truly stands out in terms of daily comfort, especially in comparison to previous Corvettes.
“When I took the C8 on the road trip between the hotel and the winners’ shoot location, I was blown away at how good of a GT car it is,” social media editor Billy Rehbock said. “I put on the cooled seats, played music over the crystal-clear sound system, and rolled in complete comfort. My only complaint was that it was actually a bit quiet, even when being driven hard, but subsequent performance versions will fix that, no doubt.”
Beyond even the excellent interior feature set (though the verdict is still out on the extra-long button strip in the center console), the most notable and immediately noticeable upgrade to the C8 Corvette’s interior is the massive improvement of materials and build quality over previous generations. Our test car’s 3LT interior trim specification included Chevy’s upgraded infotainment system, a 14-speaker Bose audio system, and a head-up display. And in addition to the upgraded materials, it featured extended leather surface treatments, and GT2 bucket seats—though ours swapped the GT2 seats for “competition sport bucket” seats for an extra $500); the 3LT spec added $11,950 to the car’s $59,995 base price. Tack that cash onto the additional list of optional extras like the Z51 performance package ($5,000), magnetic ride control suspension system ($1,895), front lift system ($1,495), upgraded 19-inch front/20-inch rear wheels and tires ($1,495), and engine appearance package ($995), among others. Total price, as configured: a surprisingly reasonable $83,825.
Admittedly, this was a pre-production car, but it was also one of just a handful of streetable C8 Corvettes available at the time, meaning it had already lived a rather hard life before our testing even began. Sitting in the C8 back-to-back with the Ferrari F8, the Italian doesn’t come off as insanely luxurious or refined—and the F8’s interior is already perfectly lovely.
It’s no revelation that the 2020 Chevrolet C8 Corvette is a great performance value; the Corvette has been that way for decades. But for Chevy to have done such an impressive job on its first go with the engine behind the driver, and to have included so many improvements to the luxury and quality of the C8, all for a price that’s a fraction of the cars with which it competes, it’s easy to see why I was so angry after experiencing the car for myself—and it’s hard not to agree with Jurnecka when he says, “So glad this car is what I’d hoped for. Worth the wait.”
Nelson Ireson for Automobile
There’s A New Engine In The C8.R Corvette, And It Sounds Nothing Like Its Predecessor.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and although that’s true, it can also be in the ear of the listener.
Since the Corvette first hit the streets back in the 1950s, it was imbued with the beautiful and nearly magical sound of V-8 performance. It was a deep, bass-filled rumble that just oozed a feeling of power. Over the years, the sound emanating from Corvettes, both on the street and at the track, had a distinctive note that became synonymous with the car. When the Corvette moved to the LS1 in 1997, the firing order was tweaked a bit, and although the sound did change, it still had that deep rumble that we all love.
But the only thing constant in the world is change. For the C8.R, Chevrolet Racing really changed things up with its new mid-engine marvel, but it wasn’t the engine placement that ended the car’s iconic sound signature. It was the engine itself. Gone is the deep baritone exhaust note, replaced instead with a high-pitched Ferrari-like sound. Think puberty in reverse. And although we love the sound of a wound-out Ferrari or other Italian supercars, having that pitch emanate from the back of a Corvette is something that will be hard to get used to. We’re not saying the sound is bad—it’s actually pretty badass—but it’s not even close to the sound signature we’ve come to associate with Corvettes.
The real culprit here isn’t the new 5.5L DOHC V-8 that Chevrolet moved to. Instead, it was the choice to go with a high-revving flat-plane crank. This drastically changed the firing order of the engine and eliminated the classic American V-8 sound that’s typical with the firing sequence of a traditional cross-plane crank. But we know what you’re thinking: “Well, this is just the race car, so I’m going to be able to get my V-8 rumble fix from the production car!” Well, yeah, for now. You see, for Chevrolet Racing to run this new DOHC flat-plane crank mill in the C8.R, it has to, according to the rules, run a similar engine in at least 300 production cars. So does this mean that an eventual C8 Z06 variant will lose its iconic exhaust note?
Forget Mustang vs. Camaro. Ford’s Shelby GT500 is ready to challenge Chevrolet’s flagship C8
Mustang vs. Corvette? Go ahead, pinch your thumb and index finger to the bridge of your nose, squint your eyes, and blink hard. When you look again, the words on the page won’t have changed.
Rarely has MotorTrend conducted (or concocted) such a bold comparison. But it’s a mad, mad new world we’re in now. Forget the Blue Oval’s sacrosanct rivalry with Camaro, which had always left the Corvette to chase the elusive, pricier Porsche 911.
Oh sure, the base pony car models will still compete, same as always. But the top-end Mustang GT500 is so excellent it deserves higher-octane competition. The final piece of evidence: The Mustang Shelby GT500 costs more than Chevrolet’s new mid-engine Corvette supercar when similarly equipped. Game on.
The C8 Corvette and Shelby GT500 have stirred up more buzz than anything else that’s come from the Motor City in recent memory. After decades of teases and concepts, the ‘Vette finally slides the engine back in the chassis to join the transaxle aft of the driver’s derriere. And after the extremely successful Shelby GT350, which finished a sharply creased second place in our 2019’s Best Driver’s Car, Ford brought in even heavier artillery with a load more horsepower and torque.
These two contenders offer different kinds of appeal, both inspiring great desire in the high-performance enthusiast world. Both offer capabilities that measure well against far pricier foreigners, without the kind of sacrifices that used to come with the label “Made in America.” Gone (mostly) are the long-muttered utterances about cheap features and fixtures, crude handling, and lack of refinement.
Of course, when you look inside these two cars, there’s an immediate difference. The Corvette is an American interpretation of a mid-six-figure European supercar; the Shelby has nearly the same interior as that rental Mustang convertible at the Hertz counter at LAX—albeit with better seats and some minor brightwork tacked on to disguise its cheesy rotary shift knob and plasticky switchgear. Ford’s interior guys still have some work to do before they can declare their Shelby variants to be world-class premium.
But this is not a comparison test for value shoppers who peruse our Buyer’s Guide, niggling over inches of legroom and warranty coverage.
This is a track test—the literal interpretation of where the rubber meets the road.
The C8 Corvette has come of age—finally, I might add—with a style and behavior that bring to mind a word like “sophistication.” The Corvette’s new shape will sit well with the German and Italian exotica in the valet lot at the country club.
The Shelby GT500 comes from another, more purely American place, the pony car. But since the arrival of the S550 chassis in 2015, the muscular Mustang and its more powerful derivatives have risen above the hot rods of yore, to compare well with European icons.
The ‘Vette excels with exotic appearance, precise and agile handling, and balanced power with a nice rush of strong, smooth, jetlike urge. The Muscle-tang crushes like a bodybuilder with brains. Its huge forward forces do not overwhelm its chassis, as in many of the beloved classics we’ve known before.
The C8 Stingray carries a lithe, striking new shape that will grab attention from a block away. Its lines do a terrific job of conveying more of a sense of value and beauty, yet it’s still imbued with a half-century-plus of genetic identifiers. I predict this car will generate more than a few “Oh, wow!” reactions from the public long after it has gone on sale.
The Mustang is a beefed-up beast with bulging biceps, based on our well-known sporty coupe. It will light up the pony car crowd, certainly. But among the elites, the Shelby’s familiar muscle-bound shape may still result in upturned noses, window-rattling V-8 rumble or not. Where the Mustang scores more points in this contest is in its competence in motion.
At speed, the ‘Vette’s strongest dynamic assets are described in a list of two: first, low polar moment, and second, forward traction. Chevy engineers have created a machine that benefits in exactly the ways it should: more centralized mass and the resulting rearward weight bias.
The Corvette has long been the bad boy of the racetrack, the Bart Simpson of supercars: rude, loud, cheap, unpredictable, and hard to handle, but fast and fun in its own brash way. Now, the Corvette has finally grown up. The C8 Corvette is more sophisticated, capable, and mature.
When the majority of the weight in a chassis is nearer the center of gravity, the car will change direction more eagerly. Formerly carried way up front under those arching fenders, the big engine actually resisted the steering tires as they tried to pull that hunk of metal around to face the apex of a turn. The amidships engine makes the steering feel responsive, more direct, and more precise. It’s less work. The new ‘Vette slices its way into a bend in a most delightful way.
Too much, sometimes—and this is the tricky part of the setup. Quick response can overwork the rear tires and create oversteer. In several high-speed tests, and again here at Virginia International Raceway, we have found some of that in the C8’s track personality. It really will point to the apex entering a corner and sometimes overdo it and end up sideways, with the widely adjustable stability control switch fully off (thank you for providing us with that choice, Chevy).
But when you apply your American V-8 torque, then you find the greatest improvement in driving the American Sports Car: It puts ponies to pavement. The C8 hooks up. Chevy has taken advantage of placing the engine over the rear wheels, and that loading successfully creates forward thrust far better than any Corvette before. The new ‘Vette launches hard from a slow corner or a stoplight/dragstrip. Check out that 0-60 time, beating cars with far higher power ratings and even some with all-wheel drive. That, my friends, is traction.
In fact, the ‘Vette transfers weight rearward so well that it sometimes goes into another kind of slide: understeer. The front loses grip a bit prematurely as a result of the light front loads. What to do? Is it bad? No, but this is a brand-new baby, and there’s still something to be learned. We believe we will see the C8 Corvette improve further as the Chevy team learns more about this all-new mid-engine phenomenon.
In street-tuned mode dashing around VIR, the ‘Vette revealed deliciously instant steering response. It was quick and stable as I carved into a corner, and it revealed snappy trailing-throttle oversteer when I released the brake. Both are clearly influences of the mid-engine low polar moment.
As I accelerated off slow corners, like VIR’s Oak Tree, the C8’s ground-gripping traction rockets the car forward, and it remains well balanced even though it feels like it might wheelie. I found a consistent gradual side slip in third and fourth gears exiting faster sweepers. The C8 has more power oversteer at 80 mph than it does at 40, which is unusual.
The new Corvette’s braking was strong and stable with moderate nose dive. There was some isolation, if not the degree of e-pedal numbness I feared, and the brakes were cooled with some really nice Z51 brake ducts. Last, there was no more float, better suspension damping, but not harsh.
Crawling under the hood, we then adjusted the C8’s suspension to its track settings—which simply comes down to much more negative camber, front and rear. When added to the 8 degrees of caster (the same in Street or Track mode), the Corvette creates camber gain when the wheels are turned, which is especially good for tight turns, and a strong self-centering force for stability and good on-center feel.
High caster will also cross-weight a chassis because the outside wheel swings in an arc upward as the inside wheel swings down. These will both typically work to reduce the understeer that we squawked about in earlier tests.
The effect of the added camber was much improved grip everywhere, reducing but not eliminating traits of midcorner understeer and drop-throttle oversteer and raising speeds with better manners. The basic traits of midcorner understeer and trailing-throttle oversteer were still there, just not as much.
In Track setup, the Corvette’s lap times improved by 2 to 3 seconds with less falloff and better grip on a long run. Tying this all together was an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that worked quite well at full chat, completing the performance of a much improved product. Far more than deserving of the title, this fresh offering is a 21st century new chapter, with more room to improve. One step back with the engine is a giant leap forward for the Stingray.
The GT500, on the other hand, has sprung from the loins of another highly regarded thoroughbred, the GT350. As such it comes from a known source that has been developed for years. It shows on track, especially.
Whereas the C8 is precise, the GT500 hoons. Toss it around. Grab it by the scruff of the neck. This pony encourages aggression. Its version of refinement manifests in confidence for the driver. And the GT500 works in both standard and Carbon Fiber Track Pack form. It is beautifully balanced on track. The steering stays alive all the way through a corner. Quick turn-ins show no evil twitches. Pouring on the ponies rockets it down the straights, and slides come slow and controllably. Within reason.
There’s that word again: reason. Use it when you squeeze down the Shelby’s accelerator. The supercharged cross-plane Coyote-based V-8 clearly makes all of its advertised 760 horsepower. This is another step into the Brave New World of high technology, and overeagerness with that gas pedal will be rewarded with jail and/or hospital time.
Every one of those ponies made themselves known as the Mustang devoured the long back straight at VIR, touching nearly 170 mph, lap after lap. No power fade here, unlike some other American blown V-8s making similar numbers.
The Coyote belts out a stirring bellow or calms to quiet as a mouse with just a switch of the electronic valves in the dual exhaust, allowing you to decide whether to wake the neighbors.
All that thrust goes through a new Tremec dual-clutch seven-speed that exhibited fine behavior on the street and flat out. Manual shifting during a hot lap is just a distraction, and the GT500’s auto mode rivals Porsche’s PDK (yes, really) and does everything I would do, anyway. It even had the savvy to hold a higher gear in places rather than constantly throw out raucous downshifts.
On straights, there’s a rewarding “over-torque” feature that gives a little extra shove on each shift, like a manual power shift. Yet in corners, I felt the Tremec smooth those out. Impressive. The track program is really dialed in. The Ford team should be proud.
This thrust twists a trick carbon-fiber driveshaft into a Torsen gear-type limited-slip differential—a good choice for a front-engine chassis because it doesn’t lock up much off power. This helps get the GT500 pointed into the turn, and it’s also a non-wear item, unlike the clutch-type diffs.
If the driver remains very responsible with the right pedal, the Shelby is responsive and stable. The MagneRide shock system soaked up the curbs and bumps, but it floated a bit under the loads of pro speeds. Happily, though, when the PS4S tires did break loose, it was mostly a gradual, even enjoyable experience. The GT500 has that magic combination of steering response at the limit: the ability to tighten its line while loaded laterally in the middle of a corner, without losing grip at the back.
The Shelby handles this great grunt very well—even with its traction/stability control fully disengaged. (I don’t recommend this unless you’ve completed several professional driving schools, one of which Ford offers with the purchase of a GT500, or have won Daytona at least once.) It’s an incredible thrill, breathtaking, to lay the pedal to the metal. But it requires skill to handle that thrill.
Stopping this rig were perhaps the largest rotors (16.5 inches) and Brembo calipers I’ve yet to experience. Although the big Shelby could dive deep, deep into the tight corners VIR presents at the culmination of its long straights, it was here I could find my only real complaint: a bit of a long brake pedal, which was a little disconcerting at 170 mph. No fade but some squish. They even bled the brakes for me, yet both test Shelbys felt spongy. This was surprising because I recall complaining that the GT350’s brakes were too strong, requiring only a big toe. Perfect would be somewhere in between
The incredible performance capability of the new Shelby (especially with the Carbon Fiber Track package) moves the Mustang into the supercar realm, it pleases me to claim. Both Shelby models provide such thrills that they represent good value even at these prices—driving with confidence-inspiring and consistent speed that is rare to find at any price.
So, to the numbers: Lap times for the C8 Z51 and the standard GT500 were quite comparable, though achieved in different ways. The Shelby evaporates the straights; the C8 carves the corners.
The Shelby carries the load of your family, so in spite of its fantastic, predictable balance, the Corvette can leave it in the twisties, driven precisely.
Once we tried the GT500 equipped with the Carbon Fiber Track package, however, it was all over for the street ‘Vette. The CFTP Shelby is magic on the racetrack, wearing R-compound Sport Cup 2s, carbon wheels, lower and firmer springs/bars/shocks, a proper wing and hell-yes-they-work aero fitments, and much more. Fire it up, and the Shelby is long gone in a blaze of glory.
So here’s the greatest difference between these fantastical motorcars. Shelby: raging, proficient power. C8 Corvette: precision, potential, and style. The price, similar. The choice, yours. The pleasure, ecstatic.
Source; Randy Pobst: MotorTrend