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Chev Corvette arrives Down Under

Ready to rumble: Chevrolet’s latest Corvette – shown here in its flagship supercharged 485kW Z06 form – can now be ordered in right-hand drive for Australia.

Right-hook Chevrolet Corvette ready to roar from Aussie conversion specialist

Chevrolet logo22 Oct 2014

By RON HAMMERTON

AMERICA’S home-grown supercar, the 2014 C7 Chevrolet Corvette, is on the brink of its Australian debut, courtesy of independent right-hand-drive conversion specialist Corvette Clinic.

The Melbourne-based company, which has been converting Corvettes for 35 years, expects its first customer car to roll out of its factory early next month, about 10 months after starting work on what it says has been its most challenging right-hand drive development project to date.

Based on a sophisticated aluminium space frame and clad in carbon-fibre and composite body panels, the latest seventh-generation Corvette was designed by General Motors as a left-hand-drive-only proposition, ruling out sale by Holden and forcing RHD vehicle converters to completely rework the dashboard and other components.

At least three Australian independent conversion companies are working on the latest seventh-generation model launched a year ago in the United States in its base Stingray Coupe form.

Locally, the converted Corvettes will not only include the Stingray and Stingray Convertible – both powered by GM’s LT1 6.2-litre 339kW V8 – but also the new 485kW supercharged Z06 Coupe that is regarded as one of the most powerful American production cars to date.

Corvette Clinic owner Kane Whiston told GoAuto the new Corvette’s firewall, steering rack, dashboard, door trims, wiring harness, pedal box and pedals were among the components that had to be re-engineered for a right-hand drive model for its Australian and export customers.

“This is by far the most complex car we have ever converted to RHD, so there is not much that has not changed,” he said.

Mr Whiston said two full-time pattern makers had been working on the project for Corvette Clinic for the past nine months.

“We scanned the original LHD dashboard and door trims and machined them from tooling foam in RHD form,” he said.

“This has given us the ultimate fit and finish – better than the factory. There also has been hours and hours of hand-crafting pieces.”

Mr Whiston said he expected to build up to 20 cars a year for Australia, as well as others for export customers in other RHD markets.

137 center image From top: Chevrolet Corvette Z06 convertible and Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.He said the price of a converted Corvette depended of a number of factors, including the variant, whether car was new or second-hand, and how it was imported.

The final price is inflated by Australia’s 33 per cent luxury car tax and GST, which have to be applied to the conversion work as well as the landed cost of the car.

A buyer should expect pay more than double the price of the LHD equivalent in the US, where the range starts at $54,000 for the Corvette Stingray.

Mr Whiston said all work on his company’s Corvette conversions was done in-house, and not overseas, as with some rival operators, which ensures full control over attention to detail, as well as peace of mind for the customer.

At Corvette Clinic, the conversion job takes up to six weeks once the car has landed in Australia from the US.

Buyers can import the cars themselves or enlist the company’s assistance in buying the Corvette in the US and making the transport arrangements.

Mr Whiston said his company – founded by his father – had a staff of seven, but also received help from former Holden employees.

“We have a lot of contacts in the GM world which we have made over the years,” he said. “They are all great people and appreciate what we are trying to achieve.” The latest Corvette is by far the most advanced of its breed, employing an aluminium space frame made in house at Chevrolet’s Bowling Green factory in Kentucky.

Exotic materials such as magnesium, carbon-fibre and composites are used throughout the shell. Double-wishbone suspension and wheels up to 20 inches in diameter put the grunt to the ground via the rear wheels.

The Corvette Z06 recorded a Nurburgring lap time of 7:22.06 – faster than any Ferrari.

Mr Whiston said he expected the Corvette Stingray to be his biggest seller, as the most affordable option delivering “bang for buck”.

“Having said that, the Z06 will be half the price of any European competitors and is well up there with them in regards to looks, build quality and performance,” he said.

Apart from the Corvette, Mr Whiston’s company also converts Chevrolet Camaros, and is planning to develop a RHD version of the next generation, now under development as a 2016 model in North America.

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