Today, it's all about handling. The melding of modern sports car road capability with classic Detroit iron is the name of the game with any serious car build these days. Don't agree? Don't believe it? Hard ... cold ... fact: In the last 15 years, the aftermarket offering of upgraded suspension parts has increased ten-fold, encompassing both full replacement chassis and bolt-on chassis upgrade parts. Where aftermarket chassis like those offered by Art Morrison Enterprises and The Roadster Shop were high-dollar oddities that once appeared at shows like ethereal apparitions of awesome, today they're common, and almost expected sights to be seen.
Super Chevy Magazine watched this genesis from a front row seat. We were the first (and for a long time, only) Chevy magazine testing these components. With the growing number of options for improving the handling of a classic Bow Tie growing exponentially, we saw the need to provide our readers with a showcase of these parts, and realistic demonstrations of their capabilities. So, in August of 2008, the Super Chevy/Nitto Tire Suspension and Handling Challenge was born.
Our tests consist of a slalom, skidpad, and autocross course. We don't crown a winner, since all of these systems have their own advantages. The wide variety of vehicles tested make such an award almost impossible to give. The purpose is to show readers what each system is capable of.
This year's challenge featured six manufacturers and vehicles. Art Morrison Enterprises' '69 Camaro, Chris Alston's Chassisworks' '67 Camaro, Church Boys Racing's '62 Nova Wagon, Hotchkis' '71 Camaro, The Roadster Shop's '66 Chevelle, and Speed Tech Performance's '66 El Camino.
All six cars were tested on the autocross course and skidpad by multiple-time SCCA autocross champion Mary Pozzi, on the slalom by Source Interlink test driver Jason Scudelari, and on the street by Super Chevy Editor Jim Campisano.
One admission up front: We tested the cars on the skidpad like we do every year, but our timing computer malfunctioned and corrupted our test numbers. We don't have solid data for this portion of the test, so unfortunately we can't present lateral G-force numbers this year. We apologize up front, but there's nothing we could do about it.
Each car's results will be printed in the features on each car in this and the next two issues, where we'll show how they compared against the 2011 Camaro SS bogey car, and print feedback on the street and autocross exercises from both test drivers. It takes two full days to run this event (and months of planning), but it's definitely worth it.
The Sticky Stuff
This year the participants had two options when it came to Nitto rubber. We offered up either a set of NT555s or a set of Invos. The NT555 is a high performance street tire designed with increased traction and handling capabilities. The 555s have a large contact patch, which adds more rubber contacting the surface roads. This large contact patch provides improved dry performance while cornering, braking and accelerating. It comes in 44 different sizes from 235/45ZR17 to 295/25ZR22 and features a 300 treadwear rating.
The Invo is also classified as a high performance street tire that Nitto claims provides a blend of performance, ride comfort, and quality. Computer engineering and specialized digital testing equipment were used to produce a tire that reduces perceived road noise, provides a comfortable ride and delivers increased traction in both dry and wet conditions. It is offered in 66 sizes from 225/45ZR17 to 275/25ZR24, 18 of which are in the 17 and 18-inch diameters. The Invo has a 260 treadwear rating and features four distinct tread patterns that are designed to all provide traction.