ITH - Best of Stateside - The Interview {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

20 Sep 2017

We may be playing to the more amusing side of the American car scene, but it’s a big business in the UK, with many owners wanting that particular blend of looks, raw power and noise that you only get with American cars. We approached Clive Sutton, owner of one of the best known US car importers in the country to choose four of the best the USA has to offer, here he goes through and explains why he chose each car:

Ford 150 Raptor

The Raptor has become the de facto American Muscle Pick up. For years, the Pickup truck market; left tuning to the aftermarket with a few notable exceptions such as the GMC Typhoon and the Viper engine Ram. However, it was Ford that created the F150 Raptor to offer a daily driver Pickup muscle truck in 2009 with a 5.4 litre motor and an optional 6.2 litre V8 engine with 411 hp and 434 ft. lb with suitable off road suspension and tuned exhausts. Most were black and took the F150 to another level. From 2011 the raptor was only available with the 6.2 litre motor and was available as a larger Super crew cab.

When the 13th Generation F150 came to the market in 2015 there was an 18 month wait for the raptor version. Initially there were concerns that the new model was only 6 cylinder but with 450 hp coming from the 3.5 V6 twin turbo EcoBoost the new Raptor doesn’t disappoint. With high levels of tech available in the cabin the latest raptors are available in Supercab (rear suicide doors) and Supercrew with 4 full size doors. Shelby American and Hennessey makes higher performance versions called the Shelby Raptor.

Camaro ZL1

The ZL1 has been the high-performance model in the Camaro range since the 60’s My favourite is the 1969 with the 427cu in 7.0 litre aluminium block. The Camaro has seen some ups and downs a like most muscle cars lost its mojo in the 80’s and 90’s We were the official London dealers in the late 90’s and the cars then were all noise and no go. The 5th Generation Camaro from 2010 produced the next great ZL1 variant will over 580 hp from its Supercharged LS3 6.2 V8 and further track derivatives such as the ZL1 1LE showed. The ZLI is a serious contender for the best of German sports cars now. Smashing the Nürburgring records and now the latest model (6th Genera ration) not only has the 6.2 litre supercharged motor but also a 10-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, GM have never really succeeded in the EU and this model is a personal import only. Made even more famous by the “Transformers” movie as the Bumble Bee the ZL1 is the business for long distance continent crossing

Shelby GT350

Originally introduced by the late great Texan race driver and tuner Carroll Shelby, he took what he considered to be a secretary’s car the original Mustang with the 289cu V8 the first cars were built for racing in 1965/66. In fact, the GT350R had plex glass rear windows, no rear seats and were built for competition. Today those cars have huge value. The GT350 remains most iconic in Wimbledon white with dark blue racing stripes. Typically, these cars were built by Ford as standard cars and then shipped to Shelby’s facility to be upgraded. Later 60’s cars became more comfort orientated and one notable model was the Shelby GT350H. This was a collaboration with Hertz car rental and were mostly black with gold stripes.

Today these are also very sought after. After the 60’s the partnership with Ford ended and was only revived in recent years. Ford now produce entirely for the US market the Shelby GT350 and GT350R. They licence the brand but do everything else. The current GT350 is more than spoilers and stripes. It has a 5.2 litre “Voodoo” flat crank motor that revs freely to 8250 rpm. Combined with exhaust, suspension, Recaro seats and body mods this is a tremendous car which we import to the EU for local customers. For those who want Right Hand drive we modify ourselves stock RHD GT Mustangs to give the look and feel of the GT350 . But for that engine only a LHD import will do. Recently we just imported a GT350R which must be the ultimate track car you can drive on the road

Chevy Stepside Pickup Resto-Mod

The 1950’s American Pickup trucks are widely regarded as the most iconic. The subject of the American obsession with custom works. The Pickup truck is central to American life and we go out of our way to find some of the best “restomods” you can find. Largely projects that take the original trucks, strip them to the chassis and rebuild them with custom body chops, low riding suspension, air suspension, fuel injected modern V8’s and new paint and trim. Generally, the Chevy is regarded as the best looking and for example we have a 1954 example which was mostly built in the US and then “finished” in the UK. We work with some of the best sources in the US.

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Clive Sutton, the man behind the eponymous luxury car business and bespoke tuning service, has been dealing in American cars alongside the world’s best marques for more than 30 years. Here he explains his love affair with American muscle motors.

Biography

As much as they pack a punch under the hood, there’s something more evocative about the legendary American cars which have provided the country with such an impressive motoring history.

The ’59 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz sounds far more appealing than a Morris Ital, while the ’78 Pontiac Firebird is linguistically light years ahead of the Austin Allegro before we even touch on styling or performance.

It’s the iconic appeal, cemented in years of US movie history, that has seen a meteoric rise in sales. A lot of it led by Clive himself, who imported cars to these shores way before the competition.

“American cars always had that cocktail of performance and occasion which many European cars just failed to match,” says Clive, speaking from his London office.

“Whether it was Bullitt or Smokey and the Bandit, cars took centre stage in Hollywood and that romance is a part of history. Even today the recent “Entourage “ movie has made a 66 Lincoln continental 4 door convertible sexy!”

Clive started importing American muscle cars and high-performance vehicles as demand grew. He was the official Chrysler/Jeep dealer for London and at one stage was the biggest Jeep dealer in Europe. Now he’s the UK’s official Shelby distributor with an armoury of impressive models on the forecourt and at the mercy of his team at Sutton Bespoke.

“People were going on holiday in the States, renting one of these amazing cars and then returning to the UK and asking to buy one,” he explains.

“The American car market falls into three categories essentially: pick-ups, where the owners want a huge V8 that you’ll find in trucks like the Raptor; luxury SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator or Chevy Suburban; and muscle cars such as a Dodge Challenger, Chevy Camaro or, back in the day, a Trans-Am.

“But while we do some of these off-the-peg cars, we have really grown our bespoke tuning arm to try and create the ultimate muscle cars - American pedigree but with some European tweaks to make them drive better.”

Admittedly the Americans have “upped their game” in recent years. Yet Clive’s tweaks and additions have to be seen - and heard - to be believed.

“Our CS800 supercharged Mustang is an incredible piece of kit,” he says, smiling. “The guys at TopGear absolutely loved it.

“We’ve also imported eight Dodge Hellcat Demons which are almost impossible to get hold of, selling four already.

“The market has definitely changed,” he reflects. “Customers are more knowledgeable than they’ve ever been and they demand the best America has to offer but with Germany suspension and more subtle styling. Chrome is being replaced with matt finishes, air intakes are becoming gentler, aluminium dashboards are being switched for carbon fibre, yet underneath is still that undeniable raw power.”

Clive himself has been a lifelong Ford fan. His first car was a Ford Granada Coupe which he spent a lot of money customising.

But choosing his own dream car is tricky, especially given the array of marques at his disposal.

“I’ve lost count of the wonderful cars I’ve driven but I really did enjoy driving the CS800. It was out of this world and as comfortable pootling to the shops as it was sprinting around the back roads.

“Thirty years ago people would have drooled over an American car but laughed at its engineering. Now it’s a different story altogether.”

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 Don’t forget to pick up your tickets for this week’s incredible Stateside In the Headlights cars right here

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