More power than a Porsche 911 Carrera S, less expensive than a base Porsche Boxster, lighter than a Chevrolet Corvette Z06. That's a tall order, especially when you add a soft top and a stylish exterior. Too tall, in fact, for any manufacturer, but perfect for Chuck and Lance Mallett of Berea, Ohio. With nearly a decade of experience tuning Corvettes and Cadillacs under their belts and a family racing heritage rooted in the 1950s, these boys get what they want the old-fashioned way-by wielding heavy hammers.
The Pontiac Solstice depicted above is one of the first 1000 cars off the line. Chuck Mallett seized it from a South Carolina Pontiac dealer's clutches with evil intent: to rip out the factory's 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder and pound in 400-hp's worth of 6.0-liter LS2-Corvette-V-8, then add a "Mallett V-8 001" serial plate to the dash.
To squeeze eight cylinders into a four-cylinder hole, it was necessary to notch the right frame rail and shift the rack-and-pinion steering gear a tad. Two belly pans were altered to permit use of the stock V-8 exhaust manifolds and catalytic converters. While clearances are tighter than what GM condones, the installation is clean and neat thanks to the use of OE-style wiring and plumbing.
Twist the ignition key, squint your eyes, and the Solstice morphs into a Corvette convertible humming the standard V-8 rumble. The motor music is piped through a Corsa muffler, then out a single exhaust tip in the interest of stealthiness. Except for Mallett forged-aluminum wheels wrapped by 265/35YR-19 Michelin Pilot Sports and a few discreet Mallett badges, there's nothing to give away the ruse.
Indulge the throttle, however, and the jig is up. Winding through the stock 3.91:1 axle ratio, first gear is useless except for those with a wheel-spin fetish. Second is almost as bad. But on a below-freezing, low-grip day, we did clock a 4.9-second 0-to-60-mph run by launching in second gear with engine rpm barely above idle, feathering the throttle until the tires finally hooked in the middle of third gear. Our 13.0-second, 114-mph quarter-mile pass should be a cinch to beat on a warm day.
The Mallett-ized Solstice rattles and rocks like no stock Pontiac. Stiffer springs, thicker antiroll bars, tighter Penske dampers, and larger hardware from Stainless Steel Brakes help keep the monster in line-sort of-but you shouldn't shop here if you expect highly refined behavior.
If you'd be happy with a stealthy beast, act now, because the Malletts intend to build only 100 examples. Prices start at $20,000 (plus the core Solstice or Saturn Sky), not including the larger brakes, nineteen-inch footwear, double-adjustable dampers, and other options you'll probably want. A two-year limited warranty (but no "Get Out of Jail Free" card) is included.