Handling Hauler

Looks Can Be Deceiving!

Over the past 9 months we've had the opportunity to test quite a few cars. We've had seat time in Art Morrison's GT55, Paul Newman's '57 wagon, and Christopher Titus' '56 Speedster, to name a few. In addition to the exciting photography, the SUPER CHEVY Road Rage program has been a learning experience for editors and manufacturers alike. Before Road Rage there was only a seat-of-the-pants retrospective, which gave quite a thrill, but lacked the accuracy of automotive testing.

Just to refresh your memory we have four common categories within our testing program: acceleration, braking, slalom and lateral road holding (g's). While only certain portions of testing benefit a given installation, the numbers produced give us irrefutable proof of what works and what doesn't. If we've learned one thing over the last 3/4 of a year, it's the value of great tires. The rolling stock makes all the difference in the world, whether accelerating, braking or cornering.

Enough about what you have seen, let's talk about behind the scenes. For every road test there is a tremendous amount of prep work. Every vehicle must be fully tech ready as we have no ambulatory service on site and are often dealing with 40-50 year-old vehicles. Ailments such as loose lugs, fluid leaks, faulty brake lines, and deteriorated tires are only a few of the common problems when passing Road Rage tech. Without fail we take safety more seriously than any other portion of testing. The drag racing surface is walked to check for debris, and then prepped with VHT compound. The handling portion of the course is also scouted for trash and other obstacles. A single day at the track (while only filling a small column of numbers in the magazine) takes the combined effort of 30 manhours to fulfill.

On a different note, this month's feature test might look like a mild-mannered '79 Chevy pickup. But looks can be deceiving. Underneath that faded yellow exterior sits stout PST suspension system, urethane bushings and one heck of a set of brakes. While still relatively underpowered (a more potent small-block mill is in our hauler's future, though), the '79 proved to be just as much fun as a new Silverado on the slalom course (and nearly as fast as a '02 Z28 Camaro, which we earlier took to a 40 mph clocking). The larger sway bar and stiffer springs kept body roll to a minimum, while the new shocks nullified rebound. But by far, our greatest improvement was in the braking department. Shaving 20-percent off our breaking times was better that we could have hoped for. Stopping almost as well as a new Silverado the lack of ABS was no problem for our '79. What's the moral of the story: an old truck, with modern components, can hold its own with the bet Detroit has to offer. And, don't forget the fact that we simply love testing!

5

0409sc_01z 1979_Chevrolet_Pickup Passenger_front_side_view 1/5
0409sc_05z 1979_Chevrolet_Pickup Driver_front_side_view 2/5

Before

0409sc_02z 1979_Chevrolet_Pickup Driver_rear_side_view 3/5

The most important function when slaloming a vehicle is its ability to recover quickly when tossing weight from side to side.

0409sc_04z 1979_Chevrolet_Pickup Driver_front_side_view 4/5

When in a panic situation the natural instinct would be to mash the whoa pedal. As we all know this will induce a skid. During braking tests, we apply as much pressure as possible without lockup. Take note of the right rear tire as lockup begins to induce.

0409sc_03z 1979_Chevrolet_Pickup Driver_front_side_view 5/5

Even with a large sway bar our '79 hauler had a mild amount of body roll, just enough to tell us when she was about to give way.

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