A homologation hot hatch hero, yours for the price of a Yaris GR
By Matt Bird / Wednesday, January 5, 2022 / Loading comments
It’s hard not to be intrigued by even the unsuccessful homologation specials. Those cars that maybe didn’t succeed on stage or circuit (or in the showroom) remain interesting purely for the intent they showed. Maybe a Nissan Pulsar GTI-R, Mazda Familiar GT-R or Citroen BX 4TC aren’t the most decorated race cars out there, but they at least suggest there was once an ambition to succeed at the crucible of motorsport. And that’s a cause we can all get behind.
That not every road car designed for racing proved itself a triumphant effort makes the good ones all the more fascinating. It’s a category the Vauxhall Chevette HS2300 most definitely falls into. Back in the mid-70s, it was decided a rally campaign would help Vauxhall shift more Chevettes, which suggests a level of optimism that you have to admire nearly half a century after the fact. To comply with Group 4 regs of the time, 400 roadgoing examples of the new racer would need to be built, and so the HS2300 project was born.
The road car was a ripper; the 2.3-litre, 16-valve slant four was fully a litre larger than the engine offered in a standard Chevette, with 140hp. The suspension was uprated, as was the transmission, and, of course, the HS2300 received one of the most iconic cosmetic makeovers ever seen for a hot hatch. Who knew Silver Starfire and tartan would work so well? In 1980 Car Magazine rated the HS above rivals from Renault, VW, Peugeot, Fiat and Talbot in a hot hatch grudge match.
There was competition success, too, with wins for Tony Pond, Jimmy McRae and Pentti Airikkala in British rallying with Dealer Team Vauxhall, the Chevette finally giving the dominant Ford Escort a run for its money. Until Airikkala’s 1979 drivers’ title, the previous eight British Rally Championships had been won by Escorts. The exact influence on Chevette sales was hard to discern, but the HS did at least break the Ford rallying stranglehold – no small achievement.
To find a Chevette HS2300 of any stripe, more than 40 years after the required production run was finished, is notable enough. Like so many of the homologation heroes made over the years, the Chevette was great to drive – a trait many owners will have been keen to take advantage of, even allowing for the rarity. But the cars that are fun to drive, by their very nature, don’t tend to live the longest lives. We probably all have stories to tell on that front…
This particular HS2300, however, is exceptional. Once owned by a Maserati collector and restored by a Trident specialist, this Chevette was returned to its bare metal before being lovingly brought back to its best. (Knowing Maseratis rather than Vauxhalls has proved no impediment.) The pictures imply a fastidious level of attention to detail for the work, right down to the original dealer stickers still in the rear screen. From the front Cibie spotlights to the Vauxhall script on the bootlid, it really is a stunner. The interior seems equally brilliant.
At which point, you’re probably expecting a ludicrous price tag to be attached to the Chevette, as is often the way with homologations classics. And while £35k is hardly pocket change, for such a beautifully restored, low mileage (still only 42k), rare hot hatch of real significance, it doesn’t seem bad at all. Imagine what a similarly presented Escort would command. Somebody probably thinks their Mk1 Golf GTI is worth this, too, with upholstery that’s nowhere near as cool. For fans of hot hatches, fast Vauxhalls and homologation limited editions, there’s an awful lot to like here – don’t expect it to hang around for long.
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