World's Most Extreme Vauxhall Chevette Is an All-Black Tribute to a Forgotten Race Car

Vauxhall Chevette "Vader" 10 photos
Photo: The Late Brake Show/YouTube
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When it comes to classic Chevrolets, the Chevette isn't among the first nameplates that come to mind. In fact, it's pretty much at the bottom of the list in terms of popularity. Because it's a subcompact that was born out of the company's need to provide an alternative to imports during the Malaise Era.
But just like many other automobiles from the era, the Chevette may not be a desirable classic but it was a successful nameplate at the time. Built from 1975 to 1986, it sold 2.8 million units. It was also the best-selling small car in the United States for model years 1979 and 1980.

Come 2023 and Chevettes are a dime a dozen. Many of them are rotting in junkyards and those that are still in one piece are spending their retirement years in neglect, simply because nobody wants them. Of course, there are also quite a few examples that have been restored by passionate owners. They're cute whenever they pop up for sale or at local cars & coffee events.

Now it may sound hard to believe, but the Chevette also spawned a couple of performance-oriented iterations. Yes, I know it sounds laughable given that the Chevette never went past the 70-horsepower mark, but it happened in the U.K., where many small and mundane cars were prepped for rally racing.

Yup, the initiative belonged to Vauxhall, which also got to make its own Chevette as a GM subsidiary. Developed in cooperation with Blydenstein Racing, it was called the Chevette HS and arrived in showrooms as a homologation special (for Group 4 racing). Powered by a beefed-up 2.3-liter four-cylinder with two Stromberg carbs, it delivered a solid 135 horsepower.

Launched in 1976, the HS was followed by an updated "evolution" version called the HSR in the 1980s. Fitted with a long list of fiberglass components and a revised suspension, the HSR was supposed to hit dealerships in 50 units. However, the project was canceled before all cars were built (mostly because Opel pushed for a rally version of the Manta 400).

But as ridiculous as it may sound, there's an even more powerful (and quite menacing) Chevette out there. No, it's not an ultra-rare factory model either. It's a one-off custom ordered by someone who owns a few cool supercars, but had a Chevette itch to scratch after riding a rally-prepped car as a teenager. Meet Vader, the rarest, most expensive, and most insane Chevette out there.

Built by Britain's RetroPower, the hatchback is a massive departure from the Chevette. It's actually heavily inspired by the WRC-spec Vauxhall Chevette, but with even wider fender flares and modern components under the shell. It's also entirely black from bumper to bumper, which explains the Darth Vader reference.

But this Chevette is more than just a tiny hatchback with a menacing stance. It also has the oomph to back the shadowy, rally-inspired look. All thanks to a heavily modified C20XE "Red Top" engine.

If you're not familiar with this mill, it's part of the Family II line of engines that GM introduced in 1979. However, the "Red Top" was a special rendition that Cosworth designed for motorsport and powered various Chevrolet and Opel vehicles in the WTCC championship.

This specific four-cylinder displaces 2.3 liters and was built by Paul Exon. It cranks out 290 horsepower, which may not seem like a lot today, but it's more than enough for a lightweight subcompact. And needless to say, it makes this Chevette sound just like a rally car. And based on how wild it behaves when the pedal hits the metal, it's almost as unpredictable as a Group B car. And that's insanely cool.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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