If you’ve been reading Chevy High Performance magazine or are a regular visitor to chevyhiperformance.com, then you can expect to see a wide range of Chevy build styles. Everything from barely street legal drag cars, Pro Touring, Pro Street, old-school street freaks, restomods, and the occasional early-’60’s big cars are part of the mix. Once in a while we’ll throw in a late-model Camaro that grabs our attention, but that’s pretty much it as far as new-car stuff goes.
And with the popularity of driving events happening all over the country within the past 10 or so years—especially the Holley LS Fests and Optima’s Search for the Ultimate Street Car series and their successful Ultimate Street Car Invitational—it comes as no surprise that the Corvette is the late-model car of choice to blaze through cones. Go to any of these events and you’ll notice it’s a virtual sea of C5s, C6s, and C7s. And I get it … sort of. It makes sense if you only care about being quick around the cones, and don’t mind skimping on individuality and personality. So where does that leave us dudes in the heavier vintage Camaro or the portly fifth- and sixth-gen Camaro world? In the dust, that’s where. But I’m OK with that since autocross is about being focused, driving a cool car, and, most importantly, having fun.
So the game is definitely changing—actually it has been for quite some time. The days of a vintage Camaro, Nova, or Chevelle winning an open-class autocross event are long gone. Case in point. At the 2012 Holley LS Fest in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the top five autocross times were owned by two second-gen Camaros, one first-gen Camaro, a fourth-gen Camaro, and an LS-swapped Miata – all full-frame cars, too (no tube chassis race cars).
Now, I appreciate the handling ability that late-model Corvettes possess and I bet they are a hoot to drive, but I worry about collateral damage to fan interest of these events if the top 10 quickest times belong only to similarly looking Corvettes. When I first started driving in these events a lot of people spoke up about how impressed they were to see a first-gen Camaro do things they thought were not possible. The whole idea was to show how, with aftermarket suspension parts, our vintage muscle cars could have sports car handling while retaining the car’s original spirit and personality.
Once NASCAR and the NHRA became so enamored by aerodynamics, and how “slippery” the cars went through the air on the track, suddenly all the cars started to look the same and fan interest decreased. Beyond stickers that resemble the headlights, taillights, and grille of the car they are attempting to emulate, it’s now difficult to tell the Chevy Camaros from the Ford Fusions. There are Toyota Camrys out there, too, but you wouldn’t know it from the side and more than 60 feet away.
When Ford dropped out of NHRA Funny Car racing at the end of the 2014 season, while waiting for his new Camaro Funny Car bodies to arrive for the 2015 season, John Force outfitted his old Ford Mustang Funny Car with Camaro headlights and taillights. The average drag racing fan probably had no idea.
Beyond the brand name stickers on any particular NASCAR ride over the past 30 years, I couldn’t tell you what make or model any of those cars are. Back in 1968, you knew Richard Petty was driving a Plymouth—not only because the “Plymouth” sticker on the side of the car said so, but because it actually was a Plymouth. Up until the late ’80’s the cars still looked like the cars the dealers were selling off the showroom floor, but by the ’90’s one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a Ford Taurus and a Chevy Lumina on the NASCAR circuit.
So, listen up Corvette drivers, we know your car is fast and it can wiggle around cones better than pretty much any other car, even a personality-starved Miata, but let’s not lose the spirit of what these events were built on. I say we preserve the cool factor and history at these driving events and continue bringing out classic muscle cars to show everyone that good old vintage rides with modern suspension and horsepower can do things just as good as a late-model Corvette ... just a wee bit slower.