Our 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.” email@example.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.
The House has passed a $50 billion bill that would keep war operations afloat for several more months, but set a goal of bringing most troops home by December 2008. After Bush threatened to veto the measure, Senate Republicans have blocked it. In turn, Democratic leaders say they won’t send Bush a war spending bill this year at all. In response, Pentagon officials began saying the military will have to take drastic steps next month if it doesn’t get the money soon. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered the Army and Marine Corps to begin planning for a series of expected cutbacks, including civilian layoffs, termination of contracts and reduced operations at bases. Bush reiterated that theme at the Pentagon, backed by Vice President Dick Cheney and military leaders. “Congress limits how much money can be moved from one account to the other,” Bush said. “Secretary Gates has already notified Congress that he will transfer money from accounts to fund other activities of the military services to pay for current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – and no more money can be moved.” The standoff between Democrats and the White House plays well with a fiercely anti-war Democratic support base. But it gives Bush an opportunity to hammer Democrats for not supporting troops, which is what he did during his Pentagon visit. “Let us tell our men and women in uniform that we will give them what they need to succeed in their missions, without strings and without delay,” Bush said. “I ask Congress to provide this essential funding to our troops before the members leave on their Christmas vacation.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush sternly pressed Democrats to approve money to fund the Iraq war “without strings and without delay” before leaving town for the Christmas holidays, something congressional leaders have already indicated they will not do. After more failed attempts to pass legislation ordering troops home from Iraq, Democrats have said they plan to sit on Bush’s $196 billion request for war spending until next year. Bush said this will push the Pentagon toward an accounting nightmare and affect the military’s ability to do its job protecting the country. “The American people expect us to work together to support our troops. That’s what they want,” Bush said Thursday after spending two hours meeting at the Pentagon with military leaders. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat Kings“They do not want the government to create needless uncertainty for those defending our country and uncertainty for their families. They do not want disputes in Washington to undermine our troops in Iraq just as they’re seeing clear signs of success.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., responded that Democrats will get troops the money they need as part of a “war strategy worthy of their sacrifices.” “Bush Republicans have indefinitely committed our military to a civil war that has taken a tremendous toll on our troops and our ability to respond to other very real threats around the world,” Reid said. Meanwhile, there was at least a sign of a potential breakthrough. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said Thursday that after talking with Bush’s adviser on the Iraq war, he thinks Congress and the White House might be able to end the showdown on war funding. After a phone conversation on Wednesday initiated by Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, Murtha said he’s “more optimistic that there’s a possibility now.” Murtha, chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, said one possible area where he thinks Democratic leaders could compromise is on a date to end the war. He said Democratic leaders want Bush to “sit down and work out a plan with the Congress so that we work this whole thing out.”