It's hard to believe it's been five years since our first suspension challenge took place at he AMCI Test Center in California. In that short time, we've seen the aftermarket blossom with new offerings for classic Chevys to improve handling and performance. Our fifth installment, held in August 2012, saw the latest and greatest in action.
In the time since the Pro Touring market exploded, a vast array of suspension products, from bolt-ons to full chassis, have been designed and produced to make the cars of yesteryear drive and handle beyond what the original designers ever intended. Ask anyone who was around 10-20 years ago if they ever thought a bolt-in IRS system for a second gen Camaro or '62-'67 Nova would even be conceived of. Control arms, coilovers, springs, subframe connectors, bolt-on front clips, torque arm conversions—it's enough to make your head spin (but not your classic car!).
For enthusiasts, the choices cannot only be daunting, but confusing. What's best for my car? What can I afford? Will this really make a difference?
The goal of the Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge, presented by Nitto Tire, is to answer those questions for as many people as possible. And along the way, have some fun testing really cool street machines.
The Rubber Meeting the Road
Nitto Tire was the official tire sponsor of the event for the fifth consecutive year and any tire in Nitto's line was available to the competitors, but only two were needed. All the competitors decided to run either the NT01 or NT05. Most went for the stickier 100 treadwear NT01 but a couple went for the 200 treadwear NT05s.
"Nitto is excited to be presenting sponsor of the Super Chevy Suspension Challenge for the fifth consecutive year. The event provides great content to readers and shows how well our tires perform on some of the top performance cars in the industry," said Tim Coltey, Marketing & Event Specialist for Nitto Tire USA.
The NT01 is a D.O.T.-compliant dry competition radial designed with the weekend road racer in mind. The compound was developed to provide the best balance of traction, consistency, heat cycle performance and longevity. The tire features a large, nearly continuous shoulder block to maximize the surface area contacting the road.
UTQG Treadwear: 100
The NT05 is basically the more streetable of the two, but it's not just the same tire with a different compound. Nitto developed it through extensive computer simulation modeling and on-track testing. This produced a street tire that that provides precise and responsive handling and performance, but still retains good street mannerisms. Though it's an outstanding dry tire, it performs admirably in the wet and will give you far longer street life than the NT01.
UTQG Treadwear: 200
The Autocross Course
Eleven-time SCCA Solo Champion Mary Pozzi lays out a different autocross course each year, with a variety of maneuvers and obstacles to really see what these aftermarket suspensions can do. For this year's course, Mary had something special in mind.
"My autocross course for this year's Challenge was designed to test more than just suspensions. Most modern Pro-Tourers sport LS power, huge stoppers, structural improvements, and support all this on lightweight modular wheels encapsulating wide, grippy rubber. All of this goodness has to play together well for a car to be spectacular through the cones.
"My course led off with two lower-speed sweepers, one in each direction, as I wanted to immediately find out how the cars transferred weight, maintained tire contact and traction, and balanced roll coupling between front and rear. From there, each car negotiated a four-to-five cone 75-foot equal spaced slalom to test steering ratio, spring rates, and shock settings. After the high-speed slalom, heavy braking before and in corner entry for the turnaround ensured the brakes themselves were up to the task but more important, tested each car's balance, sway bar rates and their function, tire pressures, and shock settings.
"The 'Box' took the cars through a fast entry sweeper leading into a decreasing radius, hard 90-degree right turn which tested steering response and ratio, and how well each handled changes in momentum. A fast left-hand sweeper fed the cars across the diagonal, or crossover, to a zig-zag three part "wallom" before a hard charge to the finish. Here, I was looking to ensure how each car managed power and kept rear-wheel traction, corner entry turn-in, and the ability to get rotation (if desired)."—Mary Pozzi
The autocross course is designed and laid out by our SCCA championship winning test driver, Mary Pozzi. She adds numerous features to the layout in order to test each suspension system in a variety of ways.