For the first year of the Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge, presented by Nitto Tire, we used a C5 Corvette on NT05 tires as our "bogey" or baseline vehicle. We did this for a number of reasons. First, we wanted to see how our contestants compared to a modern sports car through our battery of tests. The fifth-gen Camaro hadn't been invented yet and we couldn't get our hands on a C6.
The next two years we compared our modified vintage muscle cars to a '10 Camaro SS. Last year we wanted to shake things up and use a bone-stock vintage car as our bogey vehicle. We'd proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the aftermarket suspension systems could provide both grip and comfort that was on par with and (in some case) beyond that of Chevy's hottest new ponycar. The problem was what kind of sane individual would be willing to let us use and abuse his or her pristine stock supercar in a g-force laden whack attack where spin outs and cone rash are inevitable consequences of the festivities?
We thought we had a fish on the hook for 2011, but at the last minute the deal fell through, so we procured a new SS/RS from an unsuspecting rental agency. It worked out great, but for 2012 we doubled-down on our efforts to get a stock classic for our baseline tester. Things were not going well when I mentioned our dilemma to our Resto Tech columnist, Mark Lundquist. Did he know of anyone who could help us out? He immediately volunteered his '68 Camaro SS. It had a couple of updates, like urethane bushings, shocks and radials, but I figured it was close enough for government work. During a subsequent email exchange, he asked if we would prefer to use his unmolested '72 SS396 Chevelle?
Does Pinocchio have a wooden butt?
This highly-optioned A-body had BFG radials (P245/60R15, 400 treadwear rating), but was mechanically correct and stock, from its Quadrajet to its OE replacement shock absorbers. He picked the car up in St. Louis (it was originally sold through Bill Allen Chevrolet in Kansas City, Missouri). There was some cosmetic restoration work performed—paint and interior—but mechanically it is 100-percent numbers-matching. The engine, trans and rear have never been apart.
"All the factory build techniques were still present from the original build in 1971," Mark related. "I use it as a benchmark unit to research that particular build method of the day."
Among its many desirable options are air conditioning, remote control outside mirror, visor (vanity) mirror, floor console, power disc brakes, tilt wheel, gauges, F41 heavy-duty suspension, and the Lighting Group (mirror/map light, trunk, ashtray and under hood lights).
Since its rebirth, Mark and his wife Shirley have enjoyed taking it on many long trips through California, Arizona, and wherever else the spirit moves them.
In our sea of highly-modified Chevys, the SS stood out like a young man just back from boot camp. It was all grown up and muscular, but without a hint of steroids. Our group of veteran hot rodders, all jaded by jillions of aftermarket horsepower, humongous, gooey tires, lowering springs and loud exhaust, was awed by the Chevelle's simple perfection.
The big-block fired instantly at the twist of the key, settled to a nice idle and burbled through its stock mufflers. Judged strictly by the timing equipment, the Chevelle was out of its league, but it was never outclassed. Mary Pozzi, our merciless test driver, wanted to snuggle with it.
Besides the 240-horse 402 Rat, it came with a horseshoe floor-shifted Turbo 400, 2.73 Posi gears and the tough-looking, grey-finished five-spoke Sport rims. Inside, it has the slick-looking four-spoke sport wheel, comfy (if unsupportive) bucket seats and electric clock. To give you an idea how good this car is, the map light built into the rearview mirror still works.