Since 2008, we’ve brought the finest suspension parts manufacturers together for a two-day free-for-all known at the Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge, presented by Nitto Tire. The idea was we would do the hard work evaluating the latest and greatest suspension parts on a variety of classic Bow Ties, so you didn’t have to. We set up a skidpad, autocross and slalom at the AMCI Test Center in Irvine, California, then ran the cars to the ragged edge—and sometimes beyond. Throw in a detailed street evaluation to analyze actual drivability, and the readers got tons of information to help select the suspension parts that best suited their needs and budget.
The formula worked great—everything from simple bolt-ons on daily drivers to full aftermarket frames under $200,000 custom builds was evaluated. We were always amazed at how much improved our test vehicles were over stock. For an added bonus, we’d bring in a new Chevy bogey car (either a Camaro SS or Corvette) to see how these updated classics compared to the best GM had to offer in the 21st century.
Alas, this year we lost our old test facility. But for every problem there is a solution—and this fix was actually an improvement. In the hope of staying in the SoCal area, we booked two days at the Streets of Willow Springs Raceway, a 1.6-mile track in the high desert near Edwards Air Force Base. This gave us a long, wide straight to use for slalom testing, a legitimate, permanent skidpad (rather than one we set up on an old Air Force runway), and a road course that was prepped, swept, and full of tacky rubber.
We had five companies RSVP in the affirmative, secured a ’13 Camaro SS with an automatic for a bogey car, and were ready for action. Some years we’ve had more participants than others, and usually the carnage occurs during the event. This year we had two cars drop out—one just hours before testing began. Regardless, the show went on and we had great new vehicles to evaluate.
To quell participants’ concerns that the event would turn into a horsepower fest that favored high-output rather than high g-forces, Mary Pozzi, who usually sets up the skidpad, and your author, reconfigured the track into one of its many set ups. This left us with a tricky course that had a unique combination of elements—elevation changes, diving turns, climbing turns, and a chicane on the front straight. We made sure a premium was put on handling above all else.
1 We did not use the back section of the track. Instead, we blocked off the area where you’d enter the back, came down a hill, made a left, and then a quick right into the bus stop across from the Start-Finish line. To get to the front straight, we turned right into the S-turns and back onto the main straight. The result was a 0.99-mile track that put a premium on handling, not horsepower. The yellow line marks our circuit.
2 We made sure to bring plenty of donuts for our guests.
3 We used Monday as a test and tune day for the participants. We also got our skidpad and slalom testing done that day.
4 The ’69 Camaro from Art Morrison Enterprises may be the same vehicle it brought a couple of years ago, but it’s vastly different under the tin. It’s now equipped with AME’s new independent rear suspension for F-bodies, an owner-devised anti-lock brake system, and some front end tweaks.
5 The Church Boys Racing Nova was so hot, it actually caught fire when Chuck Church had it on the road course. Obviously, this was no laughing matter. Fuel was spilling on the exhaust after the vent tube came loose. Luckily, we had a fire extinguisher handy and there were no injuries or damage.
6 Each car was tech’d in for safety, to check it had the correct, production parts installed, and to be weighed with our Proform scales. These are trick. They measure the weight at each corner and give you weight biases, front-to-rear. They also come in a wireless version.
7 Photographer Cesar Andre proves that taking pictures isn’t easy.
8 The Global West-suspended ’71 Malibu wagon is seen here coming down the front straight. With the “hot cam” LS3 crate motor from Chevrolet Performance and a T56 six-speed, it did not feel like two tons of long roof. For suspension, it had Global West’s weld-in coilover system with Penske single–adjustable shocks. Not a bolt-in system, the mounts are cut through the frame. Wheels are from Forge line, the tires 275-35R18 NT05s in front, 275/35R19s rear.
9 Super Chevy Tech Editor Calin Head goes over skidpad results for the Global West-suspended Malibu with test driver Jason Scudellari.
10 The Art Morrison Enterprises ’69 Camaro was impervious to imperfections in the track and the road, thanks in part to the independent rear. Best lap time was a 1:03.71, significantly quicker than the ’13 Camaro SS.
11 Stock ’13 Camaro pulled 0.88 average in both directions on the skidpad. Not bad considering the amount of desert sand that kept blowing on our road surface. It was the only car in our test not wearing Nitto tires. It kept the factory Pirelli PZero Neros.
12 The stock SS exhibits a lot of body lean, but it had no problem hanging in there on the road course. This tradeoff certainly contributed to the car’s sweet street manners. Its best lap time was 1:05.56
13 Slalom speed for the SS was 45.5 mph.
14 On the skidpad, the AME Camaro pulled 0.91g, bettering the ’13 SS. Slalom speed was 48.5 mph, far surpassing that of the stock Camaro.
15 The Malibu pulled a two-way average of .88 on the skidpad, same as the stock SS. Remarkably, they ran nearly identical lap times as well, with the ’71 turning a best lap of 1:05.67. Slalom mph was 44.1.
16 Slalom speed for the Church Boys Racing Nova was a terrific 45.5—same as the ’13 Camaro SS.
17 Mary Pozzi, our 11-time national autocross champion, had the CBR Nova booking around the Streets of Willow Springs, but if the car had a roof and shoulder harnesses we’re sure she’d have bettered her times.
18 Scuds really had a ball with our ’13 Camaro bogey car.
About Our Tires
To keep all the cars on equal footing (or as equal as possible), we ran all of our entrants on Nitto’s NT05 high-performance tires. The Z-rated NT05 has a 200 treadwear rating and good water channeling technology, so it can be your everyday tire. They come in a host of sizes, from 17- to 20-inch rims.
Nitto’s been at the forefront of affordable high-performance street tire technology for well over a decade. Its lineup, from the 555 to NT05 and NT01 (a DOT-legal road race tire) is well-known in the aftermarket.
“NT05 blends the street performance characteristics that existed in the NT555 [Nitto’s staple muscle car tires] with the competition proven race performance technologies from the NT01 [Nitto’s race compound road course tire] to create the ultimate street performance tire,” according to Stephen Leu, Nitto’s marketing strategist. The NT05 fits the niche perfectly between the super streetable 555 and the all-out, competition-proven NT01.
The NT05 is an excellent option for the weekend autocrosser/open track driver who does not want the hassle of changing back and forth between his street tires and a set of competition rubber. They provide high limits of grip and are very predictable at the edge. They won’t just surprise you and just suddenly break loose.