We're incredibly privileged to run our Tuner GP with such incredible tuning shops. Several teams build cars for the event, but most turn up with either a shop car or one loaned by a customer. So this year we didn't see the quasi-racecars that dominated the field last year. On the whole, the GP entrants were daily drivers, with most eschewing trailers and preferring to drive to the track and then home again afterwards. As a result, many of the cars were either slightly overweight due to full interiors, or still had emissions equipment fitted. Yet this didn't detract from the incredible performance squeezed out of the cars. The dyno numbers, acceleration figures and lap times were amazing to see.
Divided into front-, rear- and all-wheel drive classes, we had a diverse selection, including two magazine project cars for the first time. One was the Ford Focus ST we built with LTMW and FSWerks for the 2012 SEMA show. It was entered into ECGP13 by FSW, which had carried out a great deal of its own development on the car.
The second project was Alex's E46 M3, which embarrassed us by doing rather well on the dyno - we can't win our own trophies!
With 11 cars assembled for the dyno test, drag racing and road course, it was fascinating to see how each conversion performed. Most used off-the-shelf parts that could be replicated in your own road car, so you can assess how each conversion would suit your needs and budget.
As well as this month's feature, you can find a video at europeancarweb.com plus a second one as part of The Downshift series on the Motor Trend YouTube channel. Additionally, many of the individual teams have their own ECGP footage, so check out their home sites listed in the Profiles section.
F-Type vs Stingray
I recently experienced something new and unexpected. For only the second time in my life, I found myself loving an American car.
Now I should explain that I spent most of my life in Britain, so wasn't exposed to Detroit Iron. However, I generally feel the Europeans make better cars for most situations. And in my defense, that's why I do this job. I don't eat, sleep and breathe Euros while secretly desiring Japanese imports. Nor do I hanker after '60s muscle cars.
With that said, the first great American car I drove was a Ford Mustang Cobra R. It was hot and noisy, enormously powerful and utterly basic, but left a lasting impression.
More recently, the D3-modified Cadillac ATS 3.6L, which we compared to our BMW 335i Sport, impressed me. However, it wasn't a car I'd rush out and buy. The same can't be said of the Corvette Stingray tested in this issue against the Jaguar F-Type. It was a joy to drive. In fact, it reminded me of our E90 BMW M3 in the way it felt a little heavy and temperamental when cold and at low speed, yet came alive once the revs rose.
The other advantage of driving the Vette was that you didn't have to look at it. And while I liked it from some angles, it was particularly challenging from the rear. But once behind the wheel, the heavy clutch pedal and notchy transmission plus the thunderous V8 overwhelmed your senses, putting everything else in the shade.
In comparison, the F-Type V8S was such an easy car to drive and live with. It's undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous designs on the road, and its power delivery will leave you wide-eyed as the rear tires light up, accompanied by one of the most exotic V8 soundtracks you'll ever hear.
When we proposed pitting the Jag against the Chevy, we were concerned the price difference and characteristics wouldn't be comparable. But after an epic 18-hour drive across 500 miles of some of California's twistiest mountain roads, we were surprised at how much they actually had in common.
Turn the pages to read our full test and let us know if you agree with our findings.