Motion is what defines a car and what drives many of us to pursue this passion, so what better way to embrace the Chevys we love than to turn them loose on a patch of cordoned off asphalt? From the beginning, that was the philosophy behind our series of track days. Find a group of classically-cool Chevys and put them through a series of performance tests against a modern Chevy. After all, when we update our rides the overarching goal is to make them perform as well as, or better, then their 21st century cousins.
This year we’ve made quite a few changes to the Falken Tire Super Chevy Muscle Car Challenge. The name of the event says a lot. First, we are very happy to have Falken Tire as our title sponsor. Their RT615K 200-treadwear performance tire is very popular with pro-touring cars that want to combine maximum grip with great wear characteristics. The first rule of our 2016 event was that every car had to roll on Falken tires. Tires are critical to how a car handles, so having RT-615K as our spec tire will allow the cars to perform to their full potential while keeping things “fair”.
That word “fair” is a bit problematic. Sure, having the RT615K as the spec tire kept cars from having a rubber advantage, but that was about the extent of it. The differences between the competing cars were vast. We had cars that were newly built, cars that that tons of track time, cars with “normal” sized tires and ones running huge 315mm steamrollers on all four corners. The cars ranged from ones that looked ready to run LeMans to ones that looked nearly stock. That’s why we included a baseline car. After all, comparing a car with a few grand in bolt on suspension widgets to a full chassis car doesn’t really help anyone. Each month we will feature some of the cars from the event and detail what was done to them, including the cost, to get them handling better. This way you can look at that individual set of parts and how it all functioned against our modern muscle baseline ride.
Generally speaking, we didn’t have a lot of rules. Aside from the tires, all the cars had to “run what ya brung”. In other words, the only changes, other than repairs, allowed to the cars were shock settings and tire pressure changes. The cars had to pass technical inspection and be registered, and insured, for street use. As for drivers, the cars were driven by whoever the various entrants wanted to bring. One car had Al Unser Jr, another had Danny Popp while Kelly Collins (ex-Chevrolet team driver) drove for CPP. Why allow hot shoe drivers? Simple, the driver aspect is never “fair” and we’re here to show off cars, so having a good driver will let the car shine to its full potential. It also helped us nail some great photos and video. So, in terms of drivers, some had pros while others had very little, or no, track time.
This year the challenge moved from Willow Springs to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The challenge consisted of three driving events; slalom, road course, and 100-yard dash. The slalom was a zig-zag run through a 420-foot gauntlet of cones. The road course portion took place at Auto Club Speedways’ infield course where each car will got six chances to nail down their best time. The 100-Yard Dash is a new event. Think of it is a short “street style” drag sprint. Each car launched from a dead stop (on unprepared asphalt) and blasted 100 yards through a set of timing lights. Between these three tests, the cars, and the Falken tires, were pushed hard in terms of forward and lateral performance.
We had wide variety of builds this year from all out track terrors to daily drivers. Cars ranged from ones with a lot of track time logged to fresh rides that have hardly been on the street, much less the track. As often happens, the field was thick with Camaros, since it’s a hugely popular platform to build a performance car on. But, we also had Chevelles, a C2 Corvette, and even a truck in the mix. Over the half the field was brought, or sponsored, by aftermarket automotive companies and the rest of the mix were just local guys that wanted to come play in our sandbox. It made for a great day of Chevys being pushed hard. The carnage was low with one hood flying off and the typical problems of oil control, broken power steering equipment, and heat related issues. Did we mention it was well over 100 degrees? Yea, the asphalt temps were even higher.
AND THE WINNER IS…
In reality they were all winners since they were willing to beat the snot out of their cars in 105-degree heat. But, even though we had a baseline car for comparison, we did have an overall winner of the event. The way it worked was that points were awarded to each car based on how it finished with first place getting a bonus for winning. So, first place received 20 points, second place received 18 points, third 17 points and so on down the list. The points earned in each of the three driving events were added up and in the end the winner, with 55 points, was the race-inspired 1970 Camaro, Rampage, fielded by The Roadster Shop. Second place, with 53 points, was the 1988 third-gen Camaro driven, to the ragged edge, by Danny Popp and brought to the party by Heidts and Hawks Motor Sports. Third place was the Speedway Motors 1970 Camaro driven by legendary Al Unser Junior (45 points) and fourth was nailed down by one of our “average joes”, Efrain Diaz in his yellow 1969 Camaro. The top 5 was rounded out by Speed Tech Performance and their retinal-ripping-red ’69 Camaro. Each car’s individual times will be reviewed in full features we’ll be rolling out over the next few months. This event had no prize money, no trophies, just a day of fun with some good-natured bragging rights on the line. The biggest surprise of the day was how well all the 40-year-old modified Chevys did against the new-gen Camaro SS baseline ride. I guess you can teach some old dogs a new trick or two.
Our Tire of Choice: The Falken RT615K
When it came time to choose a spec tire for our event the Falken RT615K was a perfect candidate. The design has been around for years and once the pro-touring crowd discovered how well they work on the track the demand for them skyrocketed. In fact the ever popular 315/30/18 size was in such demand that we had to air freight ship some of them to the event.
Key to the RT615K’s grip is its solid center rib and “motorsports-inspired” 8/23nd tread design combined with massive side shoulder blocks. The tire also balances performance and street manners by using a tread compound that provides great grip and wear characteristics that won’t have you buying new tires every few track events. We run them on our project cars and find they are quiet on the highway and track well, unlike other high-performance tires we’ve ran in the past.