Baby, You Can Drive My Car
Very seldom do I say "no" when someone asks me if I'd like to drive their car. Recently, that exact scenario came up when Stacy Tucker asked me if I wanted to drive DSE's 1969 test Camaro for a few laps around the autocross course at the recent Goodguys event in Costa Mesa, California. Of course I said "yes." Now, I've driven lots of cars on and off the track, and I have to say, after just one lap around the course, I literally fell in love with this car. It's not often a vintage Camaro responds to driver commands the way this ride did. Its predictability on the autocross was as sure as Britney Spears' mug would be on the 11 p.m. news that night. With every aggressive hit of the brakes coming into a corner, there was no question about how the car was going to react. The same could be said on acceleration going out of a corner. The car just accepts its role and knows how to keep the driver happy in a racing environment. If letting me drive the car for a weekend on a closed course wasn't enough, Stacy then offered me the car to drive as I please for a week. Again, if I had said "no," then I'd have misunderstood the question. The DSE Camaro became my daily driver for the next seven days. The first thing I noticed was how well the car adapted on the street. The suspension was as well-tuned for everyday driving as it is for racing. Don't get me wrong; the car's transmission is a bit noisy on the highway, but not enough to deter me from enjoying the ride. After all, my favorite T-shirt says "Loud Music Loud Cars." Take that for what it's worth, but when you are in a '69 Camaro that announces its presence and handles as well or better than most any late-model car, you tend to feel like you own the road. Hell, for that week, I did own the road—at least in my mind. And it's not that the car is the fastest or the best-looking '69 our there, but the confidence I felt in the driver's seat gave me the feeling I was behind the wheel of one bad-ass Camaro.
So, after driving the car for a few days, I decided to take the car to a local, early morning cruise spot in Irvine, California. "Cars and Coffee" is an automotive gathering that generally draws exotic, foreign autos more so than American muscle. After parking the car, I opened the hood and stood back to see what the reaction would be from the local show attendees. I was a little surprised to see the car receiving the amount of attention that it did. There were guys lurking in the engine bay, crawling underneath to get a look at the suspension, and sticking their heads in the windows to have a gander at the race-inspired interior.
Still not done with the car, I decided to take it through the paces of the Camaro Performers magazine testing program, which includes 420-foot slalom, 200-foot skidpad, and 60-0 mph brake testing. Once more, the car didn't disappoint. Reeling out high marks on everything we threw at it (see main article) just confirmed that this Camaro's wide range of versatility makes it as much fun to drive on the street as it is on the track.
So, you may be asking yourself, "Why the heck is this guy stroking this car so much?" There's no reason other than the fact this car is All That. —Nick Licata