Let’s work on keep­ing the mus­cle car spirit alive

Chevy High Performance - - Contents - Nick Li­cata NLi­cata@en­thu­si­ast­net­

I’ll take a Pro Tour­ing mus­cle car over a late-model Corvette any day

If you’ve been read­ing Chevy High Per­for­mance mag­a­zine or are a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to chevy­hiper­for­, 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.

You in?

Back at the 2012 Hol­ley LS Fest the top five au­tocross times came by way of all Ca­maros and one Mi­ata, but we wouldn’t let that car in the photo. #mus­cle­car­sonly

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