I don't travel nearly as much as I used to, but man, is that going to change. I mean this in a good way. This past weekend I was at the Year One Experience at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, but before that I flew into Jasper, Indiana, to visit Air Ride Technologies for the inside scoop on its latest '68 Camaro build.
I really wasn't sure what to expect, but the whole experience was one I'll never forget. The plan was to fly in on the Tuesday before the event, which would allow time to check out Air Ride's facility on Wednesday, then drive the Camaro for the 450-mile journey to the event. For the most part, things worked out that way, only they were putting the finishing touches on the car and we left a little later than anticipated.
While these guys were cranking, I got a behind-the-scenes look from a manufacturing standpoint and got a really good feel for the R&D department; I'm telling you, I was amazed at how the crew could dream up something and whittle it out on a moment's notice on their CNC machines. That takes incredible dedication and a group of people who work well together.
Fast-forward to launch time: It was pretty late into the night and the rain had rolled in pretty hard. We decided it was best to trailer the ride and hope for a better tomorrow. But the next morning was still pretty bleak, the sky was still gray, and there was a slight mist in the air. We ended up stopping in a remote area to pull the '68 out and let it stretch its legs. Of course, as we did, Mother Nature decided it was time to sprinkle on us a bit more.
It was at that moment when main man Bret Voelkel asked, "What do you think? Should we drive it?" I must have looked like a deer caught in the headlights because I just assumed no, but that wasn't the case, and the next thing I know, we're rolling down the interstate and enjoying the ride. One problem, though: The rain was coming down hard and the passenger-side electric window that had worked the night before decided it didn't want to close. But it didn't matter, we were driving and having fun. Then, not more than 30 minutes into the drive, we heard a serious thud. We looked at one another and Bret said, "I really hope that was the crossmember and not the air splitter." A few seconds later, he checked the gauges, smiled, and said, "Apparently it wasn't the oil pan; we still have oil pressure."
The remainder of the drive was smooth, trouble free, and a testament to the quality of the build. At the Year One event, Bret continued to flog it through the Street Challenge course and even went on to take hot laps on Road Atlanta-yes, that was a blast! I have to say, I've always been a drag racer at heart, but that weekend really opened up my eyes. When you read through the feature, just keep this in the back of your mind: It's a true driver and that is the type of car we enjoy!
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