Have helmet, will drive as autos of future debut

first_imgOur tour guide was John Heinricy, director of high-performance vehicle operations at GM’s Performance Division. He knows his way around a track, too, having won a bunch of Sports Car Club of America national titles. In the morning briefing, he told us that this particular track had some of the tightest turns he’d seen and substantial elevation changes. Then he took us for a familiarization ride in a souped up Trail Blazer. Anticipation turned to trepidation. But, hey, I’d already driven a Solstice so no problem, right? The review model had doors. This Solstice, the GXP ZO Club Sport version, had a roll cage. Let’s just say that sliding through the window into the seat takes practice at becoming a pretzel. The next ride was in a 2004 GTO with an LS 7 crate engine that turned out 505 hp, one of the fastest cars out there. This had regular doors, though. And the question is: How fast did I go? Got no clue. Didn’t dare take my eyes off the road because it comes at you real fast. Didn’t miss any gear changes and kept both cars on the asphalt. John Lazar, our photographer, accused me of causing a traffic jam, though, and claimed he has a photo to prove it. (It shows me in front and another car a couple of turns behind.) Then came the Camaro, and while it was speed-limited to about 35 mph around a course set up in a parking lot, it stole the show. “I really like it. It has enough sharp angles to it for a mid-’60s look that looks just right,” said Marshall Pruett, automotive editor for SPEEDtv.com. “I would call the concept drool-worthy. You want to drive it?” This is the fifth generation of the iconic brand that will be in showrooms for the 2009 model year. Automobilemag.com says the concept is “a retro-styled, two-door coupe with a honking big V-8 that harks back to the glory days of Motown.” And that’s the point, said Brian J. Smith, design manager at GM’s Advanced Design Center in Warren, Mich. “I think the biggest challenge was working the balance of heritage versus keeping the car really fresh and modern,” he said. “We worked really hard trying to capture the style and spirit of the ’69 Camaro. And we wanted to keep the car relevant for the 21st century.” He was the exterior design manager on the project. The production model, a coupe first, will feature V-6 and V-8 power plant options. It will be priced to compete with the Ford Mustang, which means affordable, much like the originals were in their day. The showroom model won’t stray far from the concept, Smith promises. “I think the layperson will struggle to tell the difference. There are very minor proportional changes. Things had to be scaled down for production feasibility.” greg.wilcox@dailynews.com (818) 713-3743 What a concept! The GM vehicle lineup for the day at Willow Springs Raceway: 2007 Camaro Convertible concept 2007 Holden EFIJY concept, right 2007 Chevy Beat concept Solstice GXP Club Sport Cobalt SS Open Air Coupe G6 Performance Coupe 2004 GTO with an LS7 crate engine Cobalt SS SC w/Stage 2 GM Performance Parts Kit Trail Blazer SS w/GM Performance Parts Brake Duct Cooling Kit Solstice Weekend Club Racer (SEMA) Summer School 1972 Chevelle with a 572 crate engine Hot Rod Solstice with LS7 crate engine COMING NEXT WEEK: Jaguar XJR160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! ROSAMOND – Had a license to thrill, courtesy of General Motors Corp.’s Performance Parts Division. OK, I exaggerate a bit. It was more like a learner’s permit and it was only valid for a day. But it came with a crash helmet, the keys to several powerful race cars, Chevrolet’s approximately $6.5 million Camaro concept car and a restored 1972 Chevelle convertible. Oh, yeah, I also had permission to tear around a track at Willow Springs Raceway in a few of these gems with no speed limit signs in sight. last_img

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