Directly inspired by the Ford Escort’s success, Vauxhall decided to participate in rally racing in the middle of the 1970s. The task was easier said than done because General Motors’ top brass had far more important matters on their hands at the time and was reluctant to cut a check to its European division for something as superfluous as rallying.
Vauxhall turned to its dealer network for support and formed Dealer Team Vauxhall. With funding secured, engineers started designing a hot-rodded variant of the three-door Chevette hatchback. As was often the case, the rally-going car had to spawn a limited-edition production vehicle in order to be allowed on the starting grid so Vauxhall launched the Chevette 2300 HS in January of 1978.
The performance-focused Chevette stood apart from its econobox sibling because it was only offered in silver with red stripes and sat on 13-inch alloy wheels mounted on notoriously wide tires. The spoilers found on both end of the car were inspired by the ones mounted on the rally variant and consequently gave it a true race-bred look that many other hot hatches only managed to imitate.
A 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine fitted with a 16-valve cylinder head was bolted in the hatchback’s engine bay and tilted at a 45 degree angle. Through miscellaneous modifications engineers pushed its output to 135 horsepower and 134 lb-ft. of torque, a considerable improvement on both accounts that made the HS the fastest regular-production Chevette built up until that point by a long shot.
How long the car took to reach 60 mph from a stop depends on who you ask. Period brochures claim 8 seconds flat while Vauxhall’s archives department says the figure lies closer to 8.8 seconds. Regardless, top speed was reached at 116 mph.
A heavy-duty alternator, an oil cooler and a set of brakes borrowed from the bigger Vauxhall Cavalier helped keep the extra power in check.
The 2300 HS’s instrument cluster included a tachometer and warning lights that alerted the driver when the oil pressure was low and when the brake fluid level dropped, among other potential issues. Four more gauges were fitted on the center console.
To create a sporty ambiance, the car was fitted with a three-spoke steering wheel, bucket seats upholstered in red and black tartan and red carpet. Tinted windows and a radio both came standard.
The Chevette 2300 HS cost £5,107 in 1976. Although quick and well-equipped, it was considered expensive and dealers had a tough time moving them off their lot.