The '66 Chevelle that Air Ride Technologies brought to the event certainly wasn't going to win any beauty pageants; then again, that's not why it was there. Of course, it would have looked a bit more sparkly if the guys at Air Ride would have hosed it off after its 2,500-mile drive to our event. That's right-they drove the car from Jasper, Indiana, to our Challenge in sunny Southern California. And it wasn't a direct route, either, since they stopped off to play in the salt of Bonneville during Speed Week. It's no wonder they didn't want to wash the car. It wore the caked-on salt like a badge of honor.
Outfitted with a 430hp crate small-block, what the Chevelle lacked in power compared to some of the other cars it more than made up for in handling. This is one of Air Ride's fleet of test mules, and to say it's one well-sorted-out car would be a huge understatement. Thousands of autocrosses have been logged in the big, blue Chevy, and tens of thousands of road miles have been dumped on the odometer. In short, this car just works, and the time spent dialing in the car really paid dividends in our battery of tests.
This ride is about as simple as it gets and proves that you don't have to spend buckets of cash to have a Chevy that can carve up corners with the best of them. And after being thrashed on all day, what did the Air Ride guys do with the Chevelle? They pointed it east and drove it back to Indiana.
Driver's Impression - On The Autocross Course
Of all the cars I tested, this Chevelle offered the best brake response and was wonderful as an autocross car. It had great acceleration, excellent traction at corner entry and exit, puts the power down, and most important, goes where it's pointed. This car could easily be steered using the throttle, and trail-braking into the transitional sections of the course rewarded me with blessed rotation. Onlookers kept saying there was minimal, if any, body lean, but I felt every reaction of the suspension through the seat and steering wheel. Adjusting my driving input and responding to the car's feedback was so easy. This Chevelle was extremely compliant and a most wonderful car to drive. - Mary Pozzi
Driver's Impression - On The Street
I'd hopped into the Air Ride Chevelle and was heading off the former El Toro Air Base when I realized the shocks and tire pressures were set on "kill" for the autocross. Even so, the ride was still comfortable. Same thing on the street. Potholes, train tracks, etc.-you felt them but were not jarred by them. Knock 5 psi out of the NT01 Nittos and soften the shocks and you'd be in a rather plush A-body.
The steering was very quick and accurate, though I detected a little play on center. The brakes were markedly better than when I first drove this car two years ago on the Putnam Park road course in Indiana. Then, the pedal was hard as a rock and difficult to modulate. On our 2008 test day, the brakes were a highlight.
If you take a gander at the test numbers, the Air Ride Chevelle demolished the C5 Corvette in every measured category. True, the NT01s offer far more grip than the 555s on the late-model sports car, but there's no denying the Chevelle treated the Vette to a large can of whup-ass.
From the test log: "The Air Ride Chevelle offers a fine combination of ride and grip. It's obvious by the car's behavior that it has had thousands of miles of development. It's one of the most sorted-out of all the cars in attendance." - Jim Campisano