For Mustang crazies, the Chevrolet Corvette has always been near the top of the list of cars they want to beat in a race. Since the demise of the Camaro in 2002 and now the Aussie-built GTO, the Vette and the Mustang represent the last bastions of traditional V-8-powered/rear-drive American performance (unless you count the four-door Dodge Charger and Magnum station wagon, which we do not).
The new Corvette, dubbed "C6" by Chevyites, is a heck of a value, even with a price of $43,000 or so for a no-options version. There are few compromises with Chevrolet's flagship model--no V-6 option, no massive understeer for the dolts, and no back seat. It's got 400 entry-level horsepower--505 hp if you can "buck up" for the mighty ZO6. Both versions have Bow Tie lovers beating their chests.
One of the things that makes being a Mustang fanatic so great is playing the role of underdog. Few undertakings are more satisfying than modifying your blue-collar, Blue-Oval bruiser and stomping on a high-dollar competitor--namely Vettes, Ferraris, and Porsches--especially when you've got much less invested.
Over the years, Ford has typically (though not always) left it up to specialty ops like Shelby, Roush, and Saleen to do the hard work in the battle against the high-end machinery. These companies have made scads of money turning up the wick on Ford's ponycar.
But the bottom line is: How does a heavily modified Mustang compare with a car like the Corvette? That's the question we aimed to answer when the latest Roush Stage 3 was unloaded in our parking lot. At $51,635, it tops the base Corvette sticker by almost $8,000. Could a solid-axle Mustang compete in such rarified air?
We attempted to procure a Corvette from the local GM public affairs office, but the only examples available were a ZO6 (too expensive and 90 more horsepower than the Roush Mustang), and a six-speed automatic convertible with the new paddle shifters (an intriguing concept, but we wanted to pit coupe versus coupe/manual tranny versus manual tranny). In the end, we turned to New Jersey's own David Overbaugh, who purchased his Millennium Yellow '05 Z51 coupe new last year.
Performance-wise, the '05 and '06 Vettes are identical; only a couple of changes (color and the steering wheel) differentiate the two. David was generous enough to let the MM&FF staff put the Vette through its paces, which either makes him insane or a heckuva generous guy. Perhaps both.