On the Autocross
This year, Hotchkis Sport Suspension brought out one of the nicest Chevelles I've had the pleasure of driving and like its other cars in previous years, this one didn't disappoint one bit. Modded with one of the best non-LS powerplants available for autocrossing, a GMPP ZZ383, and backed by a TKO600, the ‘65 laid waste to my little map of orange with ease. As Hotchkis has developed a whole plethora of aftermarket suspension goodness for A-bodies, every bit of the catalog was in place and ready for work.
At the start line, the initial launch got me rolling perfectly straight. Wheelspin was minimized and the car put down power quite well., The initial "dogleg left" followed by a quick right found the Chevelle oh-so compliant and easy to position under power coupled with light steering input. Another left-hander and the car smoothly threaded around the apex and presented itself to the first slalom cone under full power. What I especially loved was the Chevelle maintained the "forward" so easily and gave me plenty of opportunities to route a proper driving line. This wasn't a car that I had to so much react to but rather one I could move anywhere, trail brake and then rotate around a tight, decreasing radius corner, and then track-out at my, not the car's, opportune moment. Gotta say that not all cars are like this.
At the end of the high-speed four-cone slalom, the Baer Track and SS4's did their job and got about 3,500 pounds of steel suitably slowed for the turnaround at the end. This was followed by a quick flick two-cone weave followed by serious braking, the Chevelle, planted on it's nose for the hard left that followed, offered a hint of push. This quickly was dissipated using light throttle while unwinding that steering wheel and reminded me that what I learned in Autocross-101 many eons ago: "Slow in, fast out," does have some merit.
Entering (or sliding into, as the case here) my go-to element, a "Chicago Box," I was able to position the car straight before braking like mad to get through the tightest corner, a right-hander, and then hammer it back across the course to the "walloms." Again, the Baer binders performed admirably and the Chevelle dipped in front, gave me precise corner-entry for that tight right-hander, allowing me to get back on the throttle feet before the apex. Across the course at WOT at the top of second gear, there were little expected traction issues but none that upset this car's "forward" as the Nitto NT01's hung on and did their job. Setting the nose at the end of the ‘cross, I trailbraked, then rotated, the big car into each of the three wallom offsets and from there, hammered it again through the finish lights. I was especially impressed with the Nitto's as after five back-to-back hard runs, the tires produced the same consistent feel each time.
If you're looking for a bolt-on suspension system that produces miles of fun, Hotchkis has the answer. I found this car extremely well balanced with almost every system and their bits working in sychrony. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm tossing almost two tons of metal all over the tarmac and what stood out the most is that this Chevelle didn't "drive heavy" under pressure and at speed. It simply went where it was pointed and was able to take lateral weight transfer without staying locked in place. The only change I'd recommend would be a slightly quicker steering ratio, as I felt it was a tad slow causing me delayed steering reaction time. Other than this minor nit, this is a car I'd be more than willing to go the distance in all the while grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. —Mary Pozzi