Jessi Lang meets a vintage T/A Chevy


Driving an Infiniti. To a Mazda sponsored track. To drive a Chevy. Gotta love the little ironies that working in automotive media throws at us sometimes!

After spending a year in rehab following a devastating car accident, Jessi Lang takes the bull by the horns so to speak with her first automotive assignment. As part of Motor Trend’s lead up to the Monterey Historics, Lang had the opportunity to take a couple of hot laps around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in a full on ’69 Camaro Z/28 from the glory days of the Trans Am series. Sadly, a couple was all she got in, as the beast clocked in at 113 db, which is above the sound limits at the track.

Even though my Dad raced an AMX and not a Camaro, I am oh so jealous!

Source: Motor Trend via Youtube

Classic Player’s Challenge Racing in the rain


Few who were around to experience the Player’s GM Challenge will argue that there has never been a more exciting racing series in North America. The cars were stout, fast and came out of a showroom. The drivers were talented, fast and tenacious. The fans were drunk and rabid.

As the series took place from the late Eighties to early Nineties, before the age of digital cameras, there is a sad lack of media material available from the series. Hopefully, more fans will start scanning their old photos soon.

Through a friend on Facebook, I just came across this fantastic (for the era) in car video from a race at Shannonville in the rain. The driver is not identified. Do you know who is driving this machine?

Update: Canadian racing legend and top competitor in the series, Ron Fellows, has weighed in on the video. Ron believes that this is one of the Motomaster cars, which he drove himself at Shannonville in 1987. That was a dry race, so Fellows thinks this is David Empringham in the ’88 race.

Impatient Camaro driver clips oncoming Volvo


A number of years ago, I remember reading a Q & A with then Sgt. Cam Woolley, when someone asked when it was ok to pass on a rural road. The not so obvious answer was that on a single yellow line, one can pass provided it is safe to do so. Then there were the obvious dotted line discussions and the fact that you may never, ever pass on a double yellow line. Common sense that one.

When that double yellow is on a twisty canyon road, it shouldn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that you should stay in your own lane, even if there is a local turtle ahead of you. Last weekend in California, a current generation Chevy Camaro driver felt that the law and common sense didn’t apply to him. #becausecamara ya know.

Reddit user humanwire was out for a drive and had a couple of cameras on board.

Went out this Saturday to hit up my favorite canyon road with some friends, but it ended up being closed once we got there. Hesitantly, we decided to give a Malibu canyon road (Decker Canyon, aka Route 23) a try on the way back, so the whole day wasn’t a complete waste.
I was quickly reminded why I don’t like driving on Malibu canyon roads, and why I head out much further away from Los Angeles for some frisky driving.
A group of three cars came barreling up behind us; a black Comaro, a red Mazdaspeed 3, and a black M3, unable to wait a second for a turnout.

Completely ruined the fun mood of the trip, and my friends and I turned around almost immediately so we wouldn’t be associated with that group. Wouldn’t want a CHP call to go out including us with that group.
Too many dickhead drivers. Too much traffic. Too many police patrols. Less than stellar roads (not all of them).

Pony car boy gets fed up with idling along behind a slowpoke in a Ford Explorer, and decides to pull out and pass, on a blind corner. He actually clips a Volvo that was headed in the opposite direction. Things could have very easily been a deadly incident, so everyone involved were very lucky.

Here’s to hoping that the local police get hold of this and track the moron down.

Source: YouTube via Reddit

Chevy shows the Wonder Twins at Detroit

As some of the traditional imports work their tails off to capture the youth market, General Motors has their work cut out for them as they try to capture some of the younger demographic. Rather than attempt to decide for the public what format the masses want, The General launched 2 distinctly different concept cars wearing the Chevy Bowtie at Detroit.

One, the Code 130R is a rear wheel drive, four seat coupe that looks like a mashup between Chevy’s big boy Camaro and the ever so popular BMW 1 Series. The other is a 3 door hatch that looks more like a Chevy-fied Mitsu Eclipse than anything else on the road. Like the Eclipse, the Tru 140S would be a front wheel drive layout.

Both cars look great, but my nod goes to the Code 130R as the most likely candidate to steal some thunder from the upcoming Toyota / Subaru twins.

Check out the full press release and a gallery of both cars after the break.
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Review: 2012 Chevy Camaro SS

While the ‘newness’ of the new Camaro may have worn off some, the passion and reaction to this car certainly has not. As East Coast Editor for The Garage, I was able to spend a week with a 2010 Camaro RS, and I genuinely came away impressed with Chevy’s re-entry into muscle car territory. Yet for all the attention the car received wherever I went, when people asked me what was under the hood, and I replied “A V-6″ you could just see their disappointment. I pleaded with them, telling it IS quick, has over 300hp yet can get nearly 30 MPG on the highway. But they weren’t hearing any of that. They would smile, tell me the car looked cool anyway, and went on their way.

That was when the Camaro was brand-new. A couple years in, the appeal has not faded. While the Camaro is the best selling two door muscle car in the US by quite a margin (beating the updated Mustang by 20,000 cars as of the end of November), this is still not a car you see on a daily basis. And with no change in appearance for 2012 (ok, Camaro fanatics, all Camaros now get the smoked RS taillamps), the presence of the Camaro is still something to behold. Our test car, finished in Carbon Flash Metallic, and equipped with the 45th Anniversary Package with the requisite stripes and 20” wheels, the Camaro was absolutely menacing. On seeing it, my five year old sons’s jaw dropped. My wife, a fan of the TV show “Hawaii 5-0” which features a Camaro, loved it. When you pull up at stoplights, the guy in the minivan in the next lane hates you. Really hates you. But the hate doesn’t linger, because you’ve soon completely disappeared from view.

While I was generally pleased with the 2010 Camaro’s interior there’s always room for improvement. The most dramatic step forward is the new steering wheel. While the old tiller was retro in appearance, it just felt too large and awkward. Chevy has completely addressed that for 2010 with a wheel that looks and feels just right. Soft-touch materials on the dash add an air of quality to the Camaro cabin. While the Camaro is not the easiest car to see out of, the addition of a rearview camera, built in the the rearview mirror, is of enormous help in backing up the car. While the Boston Acoustics audio provided decent sound, the Camaro is a couple generations behind in terms of infotainment. Don’t get me wrong, the Camaro has Bluetooth and XM Satellite Radio, but built in GPS Navigation is not even an option. Yes, there is OnStar which will download turn by turn directions to your car, and the staff can offer restaurant advice and other services, but still. The reality is, the buyers do not care, the Camaro is sales king in 2011.

The real story, of course, is what lies in the engine bay: a glorious 6.2L V-8 knocking out a healthy 426hp. On start up, the SS likes to clear its throat a bit, just to let anyone within ear shot that you are not to be messed with. Despite the amount of power being put through the rear tires, the Camaro SS is a very easy car to putter around downtown in. The driver is the ultimate decision maker in the character of the car. You can idle stoplight to stoplight, and the car is composed, even quiet, for what it is. But where’s the fun in that? Stomp on it and the Camaro responds immediately. Power delivery is strong, but never overwhelming. You’d have to be really brave or really stupid to scare yourself in this car, as long as the roads are dry. Our test car was equipped with a six-speed manual (a six-speed automatic is available, but power drops to 400hp). The clutch was a cinch to modulate, and I enjoyed rowing the gears, although the big V-8 is so tractable you don’t need to. But the audible burbles and crackles spitting out the exhaust on downshifting were addictive.

For a car that has 426hp on tap, sales and racing legacy dating back 45 years, head-turning good looks and a comfortable interior and ride, I consider the Camaro a more than decent performance car bargain. Our 2SS Coupe is the top-spec Camaro (until the ZL1), and with a generous list of standard equipment, you start with a base price of $35,450USD. Our test car had the optional 45th Anniversary Package, which adds special striping, HID headlamps with LED halo rings, 20″ silver painted wheels, and special stitching on the leather seats, logos, and kick plates. Including delivery, our Camaro rang in at $37,725.

In autumn of 2009 when I had reviewed the Camaro RS, with its V-6, I argued that it is a perfectly acceptable and quick Camaro that would more than satisfy its owner. That was stepping out of a top of the line V-6 RS with all the goodies. I want to alter that statement. For around $700 more, give me a stripped 6.2L V-8 SS over a topped out V-6 RS any day. I now understand why people reacted when I said the Camaro had a V-6. And by the end of the week, I was tired of defending it. North America wants its Camaro with a fire breathing V-8, a no excuses car, and the 2012 Camaro, while not perfect, is a performance icon, and for 2012, a further refined one. Take my advice friends, because I don’t want to hear that old advertising line “I should’ve had a V-8”.

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Camaro owners descend on Oshawa plant

Our busy Camaro Homecoming week began with a blast through Ontario cottage country in a pair of 2011 Camaro Verts, and then went full speed yesterday with the first day of the actual homecoming at the GM Canada plant where the Camaro is built.

The last number I heard yesterday afternoon was close to 600 Camaros on site from as far away as New Orleans and they were expecting another 150 or so more cars! Our day began with a tour of the incredible plant and then we wandered the lot, checking out some of the incredible machinery.
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First drive: 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

Yesterday’s dawn was grey and wet here in the Durham Region, which was a bit disappointing as I headed down the road towards General Motors of Canada’s headquarters. Our mini road trip in the 2011 Camaro Convertible had already been rescheduled once due to rain. Fortunately the sun burned off the clouds by the time breakfast was finished and it was looking like a top down day! A great way to start Camaro Homecoming week.

My drive partner for the day was good friend of The Garage Blog, Lesley Wimbush. Our adventure would take us north from Oshawa, where the Camaro is built, to the town of Bobcaygeon and back. Along the way, it really did become an adventure as we discovered Lesley’s childhood home and the rural schoolhouse she once attended. We even met a gent who had owned several Camaros over the years and was delighted to get some photos of his young son in the beastly looking black and orange SS.

The the ride out in the morning, we had chosen this wicked, black SS with a manual transmission, just as the pony car gods require. We had a quick toot around Oshawa, past the plant where our steed had been born, reveling in the burble and pop soundtrack from the dual exhaust. Heading onto the highway, I opened up the 6.2 liter V8 and we discovered that high speeds with the top down are best attained with the windows up. Coffee cups, hats, jackets and hair all went flying as we both flailed about trying to retrieve them. Windows up! Chevy offers an optional wind screen which would prevent this sort of mayhem. That is not to say that the interior is a crazy place, with the windows up, conversation is easy even at highway speeds. Speaking of the interior, our ride boasted a sexy looking black and orange leather interior that perfectly complemented the exterior. I would assume the car has a stereo, but with an exhaust note that exciting, no self respecting gearhead would turn it on.
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Extreme Testing Verifies Top Quality for Camaro Convertible

Chevrolet Canada press release

OSHAWA – When the Oshawa built Chevrolet Camaro Convertible sets the pace for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 this Sunday, it will showcase a top built to last a lifetime, operate worry-free and maintain the appearance of its Coupe sibling.

To assure long-term durability, the convertible top underwent extensive testing during development, being opened and closed more than 22,500 times – three times more than would be expected in a typical 10 years of use. Some of those cycles were performed in extreme conditions; temperatures ranging from minus 30° C to 77° C and humidity of up to 95 per cent.

“This past winter we even had our engineers driving 80 of these convertibles back and forth to work every day here in Michigan and Ontario,” said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. “They had to open and close the top five times each day no matter what the weather was like.”
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Tony Ave wins rain soaked Trans Am crash fest at Mosport

While the Trans Am cars sat on the mock grid, the World Challenge teams were circling Mosport International Raceway under a full course yellow. The reason? A damp track that deposited 5 cars into the tires between corners 9 and 10. Typical of Mosport’s weather patterns, the rain stopped and started a couple of times. As the TA cars made their way out on the track, the skies opened.

One quick lap behind the pace car and the field went green. For about 30 seconds.
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Another Mosport based challenger to join 2011 Trans Am series

We’ve been lucky to share a bit of the Trans Am series with our readers here in The Garage through our long time friend Blaise Csida, who runs Gateway Racing at Mosport when he’s not racing in the series. I received a note earlier this week from Jon Brett of Time Warp Racing, telling me that he would be entering the Mosport round of the 2011 Trans Am series.

TWR press release

Plans are being made by Time Warp Racing to field a Derhaag bodied C5 Corvette in the upcoming Mosport Trans-Am event on the May long weekend.

The car is currently at Gateway Racing where it is being prepared by Trans-Am competitor Blaise Csida and staff.

Jonathan Brett who owns and drives the car does not expect to be competitive, but says “yeah we are probably a field filler but we are dipping a toe into the water, and who knows where it could go from there” he said.

The original chassis was created in 1977, by Mo Carter and ran succesfully as an IMSA GTX car. It also saw action in Trans-Am in the hands of Jerry Simmons during the 80’s and 90’s. It has held short track records at the Glen and won the South Atlantic Road Racing Championship. Over the years many upgrades have been done, but it is still old school compared to the modern designs.

Jonathan has raced with VARAC, CASC and SVRA for a decade and is ready to try something new and hopes to support the growth in Trans-Am.

I’ve seen the car and was a little bit surprised to hear that the chassis is as old as it is, so I decided to do a bit of digging. This car has some serious Canadian racing history!

Robert Barg, another Canadian who raced T/A back in the glory days says:
According to IMSA info on the net this was actually an early De Kon Monza (Horst Kwech & Lee Dykstra) that was crashed and sold to Mo Carter.

I had always assumed that Brad Francis built this car for Mo, but maybe it was just restored by Brad and that wild camaro bodywork was put on the car? As I remember the engine that was used and raced by Mo was a big block Chev with 2 inline 4 bl. carbs. Roy Bean, who helped look after the ex Mo Carter 67 camaro that I raced for Al Richards, also ended up working with Brad on that Carter car. Last time I saw it racing was at the 1980 Sebring 12 hr – co-driver with Mo was Craig Carter (no relation). It was later sold and raced in the T/A series with different Corvette bodywork I understand and has found it’s way to the Toronto area some time ago. I understand Roy has been working for Leo Romano and built a truck racer for him that runs at Mosport. It would be nice to see it back on the track as raced by Mo, but you can update a chassis from those years and they are still fast. The current closed wheel track record holder at Mission is a late seventies era T/A Corvette that has been updated and driven by Dave Kunicki.

It is going to be very cool to see local car, with 3 decades worth of racing history under a modern skin, in action with the big boys in a couple of months. We’ll keep our readers up to date with news and images as the race weekend comes closer!

Current photos courtesy of Malcom Haylock. Vintage photo of Mo Carter Camaro from Gene Felton Restorations.

Editor’s note: Oops, the vintage photo appears to be the 1970 Camaro That Mo Carter raced earlier. The correct car is pictured below, in a shot by Jerry Winker.