[“Nut Driver” features updates on Dave Nutting’s 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo]
To catch up on the other installments, click HERE
One of my goals for this year was to attend a full season of SCCA autocross, so as can be imagined the blown transmission in the Monte LS was a major setback. In March I had sorted the rear suspension out, but with the first points event less than a month away, not a single bolt turned in the bellhousing to remove the old transmission, and my terrible time management skills, I had pretty much written off racing at the first event, let alone racing the LS at the event.
Then, like a dusty, neglected, and slightly-oily brick, it hit me: I owned another one of these god-forsaken cars, and to top it off it actually MOVED UNDER ITS OWN POWER.
Back before the LS stole away my attention and the SS became something that I backed of the garage every Saturday in order to get the lawn mower, I had poured a lot of time and money into it. Hell, I even introduced the SS as a project car on the site, only to all but abandon those plans once the LS came into the picture.
The last time I had the SS out on an autocross course it continually stalled going around corners, which let me tell you is a ton of fun for both myself (As I frantically attempted to restart the car while going 40 MPH) and the corner workers that had to dive out of the path of 3600 pounds of steel death. I later diagnosed the problem as a clogged fuel filter, but by that point I was racing the LS and the rest was history. Well, with the LS doing its best to return to the Earth, now was the time to give the SS a second chance, starting with the first points event of the year, the Winter Tire Shakedown.
You know the drill by now, photos and captions.
Points Event #1: Skid City
With the sway bar links fixed and my stalling issues under control (Proven out with some “testing” at a local parking lot after hours), I thought I was on my way to a successful start to the season. Nevermind the dried out, almost 10 year old no-name Chinese tires, my less-than-stellar driving ability (Which was rusty after the winter to boot), or the fact that I was driving a car with a completely different suspension and over 100 horsepower more than the LS. All of those are minor details, so let’s rock.
So how’d it go? Well, TECHNICALLY I came in third out of five, but there’s more to the story. Let’s take a look at the final results:
Oh, and about those crappy tires:
You know how it’s always said that “tires matter”? Seriously, tires matter. My lack of ability to successfully recover from a skid aside, in each one of those spinouts the tires gave up the ghost mid-corner out of nowhere. While entertaining to watch, it really sucked as I was forced to slow down for the last three runs so as not to overdrive the tires.
On the plus side, even with my lack of a performance in terms of lap times, the SS was a blast to drive with the extra power and gearing over the LS (For those curious, it’s not much of a powerhouse at ~270 HP at the wheels, but that’s a big jump over the LS’s 150 HP at the crank), so that was a win at least.
Points Event #2: New tires
With the second points event about a month away, I knew that I had to rectify the tire situation, but with the LS tying up my car fund I had to do so on a budget.
While I’ll admit that I was a bit apprehensive going into the first run of the day, the car felt completely different with capable rubber underneath it. Even though only an “ultra high performance summer tire” and not an “extreme performance summer tire” like the 200 TW and softer options, they made a huge difference in my confidence, even if it didn’t show in my lap times thanks to a hit cone on my final run:
Below is a video of that sixth run, which shows that I needed to be more aggressive and stay in the throttle now that I had tires that could take the abuse. Yeah, I got a little profane and dropped the audio at the end; listen, my mom reads these, ok? Seriously though, there’s nothing more frustrating than giving it your all during a run and gain half a second only to clip a cone in the process.
SCCA Tire Rack Nationals
Having missed the third points event due to Memorial Day weekend, the next event was the SCCA Tire Rack Nationals, a two day event in June.
Leading up to the event, I had two goals:
1. Raise the ride height to address the rubbing issue
2. Try to improve my lap times as I knew the car could be driven harder
Here are videos from my best runs from Saturday and Sunday. Notice how the course is run in reverse from one day to the next. Sunday’s third run was my best overall of the event at 78.540.
Coming into the event I decided to work on being more aggressive with the car, which to be honest is easier to tell yourself than it is to actually do. I’m learning and relearning each event that while the car isn’t perfect, I’m more of a limiting factor than the car itself, as each time I watch the above videos I see elements where I could have stayed in the throttle longer, turned in differently, or just plain driven harder. The beauty (And curse) of autocross is that each event is different and you only get so many looks at a course to figure things out. However, skills like looking ahead and feeling the limits of the car will apply each and every time.
While the goal is to get the LS back on the road (Which I will have more updates on soon, I promise), in a way I’m almost glad that it has taken this long as it’s allowed me to have that quality time with the SS I needed in order to appreciate the car again.
In fact, I’m enjoying it so much that I’m going for a moonshot this coming August with the car in the form of the CAM Challenge East: This coming August I’m going to be driving my SS 1800 miles round-trip to attend the CAM Challenge East SCCA event in Peru, Indiana. Running from August 7th to August 9th, it’s a three day event with some of the biggest names in Pro-Touring attending, and I’d love to see some of you BangShifters there with your cars. At $75 for the weekend it’s a steal. Here is the link to sign up: SIGNUP PAGE
For more information on the series, CLICK HERE
‘Til next time!