Working for a large multimedia company like Primedia has its advantages, epecially when many of the magazine titles are automotive related. The performance-oriented titles do a fair amount of track testing when a project vehicle gets an upgrade. Having such a valuable resource at our disposal, we decided to take advantage of an upcoming track-testing day. Since we recently equipped a '79 Chevy C10 with Performace Suspension Technology's bushings and suspension, new wheels, and Nitto radials, we thought we'd put the pickup through its paces.
There are four common categories within the testing program: acceleration, braking, slalom, and lateral road holding (g's). While only certain portions of testing benefit a given installation, the numbers produced give us irrefutable proof of what works and what doesn't. If we've learned one thing, it's the value of great tires. Rolling stock makes all the difference in the world, whether accelerating, braking, or cornering.
Enough about what you have seen, let's talk about behind the scenes. For every road test there is a tremendous amount of prep work. Every vehicle must be fully tech ready, as we have no ambulatory service on site and are often dealing with 40-50-year-old vehicles. Ailments such as loose lugs, fluid leaks, faulty brake lines, and deteriorated tires are only a few of the common problems when passing track-test tech. And we take safety more seriously than any other aspect of testing. The drag racing surface is walked to check for debris, and then prepped with VHT compound. The handling portion of the course is also scouted for trash and other obstacles. A single day at the track (while only filling a small column of numbers in the magazine) takes the combined effort of 30 manhours to do right.
On a different note, this feature test truck might look like a mild-mannered '79 Chevy pickup. But looks can be deceiving. Underneath that faded yellow exterior sits a stout PST suspension system, urethane bushings, and one heck of a set of brakes. While still relatively underpowered (a more potent small-block mill is in our hauler's future), the '79 proved to be just as much fun as a new Silverado on the slalom course (and nearly as fast as a '02 Z28 Camaro). The larger sway bar and stiffer springs kept body roll to a minimum, while the new shocks nullified rebound. But by far the greatest improvement was in the braking department. Shaving 20 percent off our braking times was better than we could have hoped for. Stopping almost as well as a new Silverado, the lack of ABS was no problem for our '79. What's the moral of the story? An old truck with modern components can hold its own with the best Detroit has to offer.
The most important function...
The most important function when slaloming a vehicle is its ability to recover quickly when tossing weight from side to side.
In a panic situation, the...
In a panic situation, the natural instinct would be to mash the whoa pedal. As we all know, this will induce a skid. During braking tests, we apply as much pressure as possible without lockup. Take note of the right rear tire as lockup begins to induce.
Even with a large sway bar,...
Even with a large sway bar, our '79 hauler had a mild amount of body roll, just enough to tell us when she was about to give way.
| ||Stock ||Modified |
|Suspension/Brakes ||Suspension/Brakes |
|200-ft slalom ||38.23 mph ||40.00 mph |
|60-0 braking ||175.60 feet ||141 feet |
For comparison: A '02 Z28 Camaro only recorded a .9-mph better lap time in the slalom. The Camaro clicked off a 40.9 along the same course. And as for stopping power, this little pickup tripped the timers from 60 mph within 8 feet of the '02 Camaro! Nothing short of amazing.