Last year, Super Chevy embarked on an arduous task: to bring together some of the aftermarket's leading suspension companies and pummel their cars though a battery of tests. Turns out it was so much fun that we were asked to do it again. Since driving cool cars beats working in a stuffy office, we agreed. Thus was born the second annual Super Chevy magazine Suspension & Handling Challenge, presented by Nitto Tire.
Like last year, the important part to remember about these tests is that it isn't science. That is to say, comparing highly modified cars to one another is far from precise. Car weight, alignment settings, tire contact patches, and a host of other variables all conspire to make a comparison between "car A" and "car B" more of an estimation than a scientific conclusion. The one "scientific" way to pull something like this off would be to gather up all the various parts and then try them on the same car. Even that experiment would be tough since uncontrollable factors like the weather could skew the results. It would take months, cost a fortune, and we still wouldn't be assured of fair results.
With this in mind we came up with another idea. Each company would bring a ride to the party equipped with its suspension parts and be run though our standard battery of tests. Rules were simple. The vehicle had to be a Chevy built 1981 or earlier. In addition, the car had to have parts installed from the company's catalog-no one-off or custom suspension parts. Also, the cars had to be licensed for use on the street. Another caveat was that companies that competed last year couldn't run the same car again. We wanted fresh meat. We would supply drivers for the four segments: slalom, skidpad, autocross, and streetability.
Once the companies showed up to our facility in El Toro, California, they were only allowed to make adjustments to air pressure and shock settings; no swapping out of parts would be allowed. In case of a breakage, they would be allowed to make repairs so long as the replaced part was the same or equivalent to the failed part. This increased the challenge of the event since a combination of parts that might be great for the skidpad testing may not be the best for the slalom or autocross (or street driving).
Since comparing the cars to each other posed problems, we decided to compare them to a modern muscle car. After all, most guys looking to upgrade their suspensions want to know that spending their hard earned cash will help their classic Chevys ride, handle, and perform better than they did when new. Last year we brought out a C5 Vette as a benchmark car, but this year we decided to make it even tougher by borrowing a '10 Camaro SS from Mark Lazio over at Anvil Auto. Although Matt's Camaro is bone stock, all of its leading edge 21st century components like IRS and ABS would certainly provide a tough target for the suspension companies to shoot for.
Who's Who Every suspension company we could think of was invited to the party, but more was involved than just showing up. For last year's participants the rule that they had to bring a different car proved problematic since in some cases they didn't have another Chevy to bring. When all was said and done, 10 of the industry's best suspension companies, four of them from last year's challenge, came out to sunny California for our event. Some brought their own company-owned Bow Ties while others showed up with rides borrowed from their customers.
In terms of variety, we couldn't have asked for more. Of course, four of the 10 cars were Camaros (hey, at least one was a second gen), but we also had two wagons, a Nova, two Chevelle coupes, and the Roadster Shop's big-money Vette, which had just been crowned Street Machine Of The Year by Goodguys. Big-blocks, small-blocks, LS engines, automatics, manuals, low buck, high buck, you name it and chances are it was represented in some fashion.