Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Full review of concept Camaro

Nothing real surprising from the review, the only question left is "Will GM build it?" Ironically, at the North American Autoshow this past January, I was initially more impressed with the concept Challenger. After the awe-factor resided though I realized something, the Challenger is cool in much the same way that Ford's GT is cool. It screams nostalgia, yet is hardly ground breaking in design. In fact, the Challenger is essentially a copy of my 1970 Challenger. The Camaro on the other hand took the classic lines of my 1969 Camaro, the meshed them with cutting edge lines a la Cadillac styling. The more I have seen the two in magazines, the more I have realized that I do in fact like the Camaro much better. So much so that it may be the first car I'd be willing to lay the cash down to buy new.

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MARK PHELAN: Exclusive Camaro test drive
GM needs this car to pump up excitement, sales
May 16, 2006
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Build it.
That's all I can say after 40 minutes driving the ravishing Chevrolet Camaro concept car around General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford.
The head-turning new sport coupe can't hit the road soon enough. GM has not officially decided it will build the Camaro, but the legendary car's powerful appeal, the adrenaline shot it will give Chevrolet and conversations with a number of GM executives are enough to convince me only a catastrophe will keep this car off the road.
You don't spend this much time nailing every detail -- from the growling rumble of the exhaust to the light and easy feel of the clutch pedal -- if you're not serious about a car.
And the Camaro is serious fun. Its unique design may set the tone for other Chevrolet cars, boost sales and add excitement to GM's most important brand.
The sensuous and threatening-looking coupe will be a welcome addition to Chevrolet showrooms. That was apparent even in the handle-with-care driving mandated by the fact that this is a show car, built for looks not speed.
Despite that, the Camaro felt very polished. The power steering is direct and responsive; the brakes are firm with good pedal feel, and the six-speed manual transmission was more precise than some production cars.
"We spent a lot of time on the sound of the exhaust," GM concept car engineer Kris Hess said as the Camaro's 400-horsepower V8 burbled to life on the test track in Oakland County for my drive. "We have a lot of performance fans on the team that did this car."
The concept's classic wasp-waisted shape, flared fenders and eager forward-leaning grille made the Camaro a hit when it debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.
Camaro was introduced in 1966 as the answer to the Ford Mustang and went through several generations before production ended in 2002.
"We set out to capture the essence of the Camaro," said Tom Peters, who led the design team that created the concept in Studio X, a secret den below the design building at GM's technical center in Warren. The concept's styling borrows elements from the classic 1969 Camaro, the 2005 Corvette and the YF22 jet fighter's rounded cockpit.
Crowds packed Chevrolet's stand to admire the Camaro at the show, but almost nobody got close enough to see that the concept's interior is equally appealing and well executed.
The big, chrome-rimmed speedometer and tachometer perfectly complement round brushed-metal dials for climate and audio controls. Door and dash insets the color of burnished copper match the faces of four small rectangular gauges -- fuel, battery, oil and water -- set in the center console just ahead of a round aluminum shifter knob.
Even if everything goes flawlessly, the Camaro isn't likely to hit the streets before 2009, and the production model will not be identical to the concept.
There's no magic or sleight of hand involved in making the case for the Camaro.
The concept uses GM's new Zeta global architecture for rear-wheel-drive cars, which goes into production in Australia this summer and should form the basis for several big, powerful sedans and coupes in North America.
The Camaro's engine, transmission, brakes and most other major components are off-the-shelf technology, ready to run today, but ready to mate high-horsepower performance with 30 miles per gallon or more on the highway, GM said.
GM executives have told workers in at least two North American assembly plants -- Oshawa, Ontario, and Wilmington, Del. -- that they're in the running to build the Camaro.
So the decision to build it comes down to a few questions: Will people buy it? How can GM build it profitably? What will it cost?
GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told Automotive News that GM won't build the Camaro unless it can sell 100,000 a year.
To reach that goal, Chevy will have to offer a less-expensive V6 model in addition to the V8, said Jim Hall, vice president for industry analysis at the Southfield office of consultant AutoPacific.
Even then, it's unlikely Camaro could beat the popular Ford Mustang's $19,115 base price, he said.
The Zeta family of cars features an independent rear suspension, a more-expensive layout than the Mustang's trusty old live axle.
Nobody at GM will touch the price question, but it's clear Chevrolet doesn't need -- and probably couldn't sell -- another high-priced, low-volume image car. The Corvette fills that role beautifully.
Chevrolet accounts for around 60% of GM's annual sales in North America. Adding a couple of exciting and profitable cars to Chevy's lineup would go a long way toward curing what ails GM.
The stylish 2008 Malibu sedan -- unrecognizably different from today's mundane model -- set to debut next year may be the first of those cars. The Camaro could be the second.
Build it.

Contact MARK PHELAN at 313-222-6731 or phelan@freepress.com.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Writers test drive Concept Camaro

I wonder if we should inform this "auto critic" that the 69 Camaro has square gauges, not oval like the 67 & 68 Camaros.

Phelan to GM: Build the Camaro
May 15, 2006
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Mark Phelan was the first writer to drive the Chevrolet Camaro concept vehicle this morning at General Motors’ Milford Proving Grounds.Here are his early impressions:It sounds even better than it looks and it looks exactly like a 21st century Camaro should.The 400 horsepower V8 has the bubbling note of authority a muscle car needs and the interior was an ingenious combination of comfortable modern materials and design touches, like the round aluminum shift knob and big circular speedometer and tachometer, that harken back to the classic 69 Camaro. GM hasn’t said if it will build the Chevy Camaro yet, but barring a catastrophe they will and it can’t get this sharply styled sports coupe on the market soon enough.Come back to Tuesday's Free Press for the full review.

Next Generation Camaro

Monday, May 01, 2006

Maintenance on old blue

This past weekend I had to change the water pump on my Formula. I headed on down to the Murray's in Mexicantown to pick up a new one. None of that remanufactured shit for me, I don't care if it comes with a lifetime warranty. Most lifetime warranty auto parts come with that warranty for a reason, since it's not as durable as a new part, they figure they should offer a lifetime warranty to help sell the product. I'm sure they realize that many people would eventually forget all about that warranty after a few years and get suckered into buying another reman part, to save money. Well, to my surprise, they were out of both new and reman water pumps. Yeah, that's right, the most plentiful engine in existence and my closest auto parts store didn't have one in stock. So off I was to the Autozone further up the road. I walked out with a brand new heavy duty water pump with roller bearings.

I have to say, the water pump change was pretty straight forward and way easier than I expected. At first glance I assumed I'd have to remove some of the other accessories to gain access. To my surprise, removal of the air intake hose was all that was needed. It took longer to get the bolts loose from the pulley than it did to actually remove it.

After the water pump was changed, I then decided to inspect why the hell the thing was running rough once again. Didn't take much inspection to find a few plug wires had found a quaint little resting space atop the manifolds and cooked themselves. I had a set of Taylor high performance 8 mm wires lying around that were in like new condition, so I cleaned them up and installed them. Problem fixed, as the miss was now gone.

I have some other maintenance I've been putting off on that car for awhile now. For one, the headlight motor on one side burned out months ago. I'm simply reluctant to drop $200 or so for a new one. I figure I'll first see whether or not it can be rebuilt first. I've also developed an exhaust leak where the intermediate pipe meets up to the y-pipe behind the cats. That will be a quick and easy fix....once I find the correct gasket and clamp. I think I'd be better off heading on up to the muffler garage a block or two away once the parts are off, as the auto parts stores would likely send me off with the wrong thing. While loud ass exhaust is the norm in my hood, I don't wanna be "that" neighbor quite yet, so I'll hold off on removing the exhaust and traveling to the parts store with open headers. Who am I kidding, I think I've already been labeled "that" guy.

As for the Camaro, well I haven't made a whole ton of progress, but I have removed the front brakes and steering. I have decided that the next big purchase will be a bolt-in rack and pinion setup for it. This will both lighten the front end as well as make the car handle better, not that it was bad by any means. The car is slammed to the ground, 1.5 inches of clearance to the oil pan, (yeah, that is somewhat of concern, especially when all sides are no ground off the drain plug from scraping) so the center of gravity is right on the money. I will address both the oil pan and ride height when the time comes. First off, there is no reason I should be running an oil pan that hangs below my crossmember. I'm lucky I haven't ripped the thing open on a pot hole by now. Secondly, the ride height is where it is because I bought the 2 inch drop springs, most you could get, for a small block chevy. Well once I switched over to a big block chevy, the added weight made it more like a 4.5-5 inch drop. In all honesty, it looks badass sitting that low, but for at the drag strip you obviously are hurting your launch. I suppose some adjustable drag shocks and springs are on the list as well. While I'd like some tubular a-arms, I simply can not justify dropping $800 on them. I'll have enough (like $2,000 or so) in the steering and braking.

I got my welder a few weeks ago, went with the Lincoln 140a unit. I still need to get a tank and cart, then that will be good to go. I'm not envisioning a whole lot of project this summer, simply because the house projects are going to have to take precedence. However, once fall rolls around this year, I will be more than set. Hopefully have the garage insulated and a heater or furnace installed by then. Tv is on the list as well as one of the last major items to finish the garage off.