Sunday, July 3, 2022

Modern Muscle Car: 94-96 Chevrolet Impala SS

  

96 Chevy Impala SS

These beautiful 94-96 Chevrolet Impala SS sport sedans were not in production long, but they did make a big impact in the Chevy lineup for a couple of years. What made this Caprice in disguise such a success was a Corvette 5.7-liter LT1 V8 engine added in with a few other upgrades.

94-96 Impala SS
  • 260 Horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of Torque
  • 4l60e Automatic Transmission
  • 3.08 Tall Rear Gear with a Limited Slip Differential
  • Lowered Heavy Duty Suspension from the Caprice Police Car Package
  • Performance-Oriented Shocks w/Semi-Stiff Anti-Roll Bars
  • 12-Inch Vented Disc Brakes
  • 0-60 in 7.0 Seconds and 15.0 Second 1/4 Mile Time @ 92-MPH Give or Take  

Now, of course, that doesn't sound like much today, with V6 SUVs outperforming the big-bodied vehicle. But this 4,220-pound beast was considered pretty fast for its size 26 years ago. 

The funny thing is the decision to go with the Caprice LT1 Impala combo came about because the original Caprice 4.6-liter engine was having a hard time making emission standards. The LT1 engine that was placed in the Corvette, Camaro, and Pontiac sports cars were doing fine passing emissions and smog regulations, and that's why it got the duties of lugging the Impala SS around.  

Potential For More Power 

Dropping the 4.6-liter and moving to the LT1 made the Impala SS even more like a muscle car. Since there was not a lot you could do in terms of upgrades to the 4.6-liter, the dud you got in the 93 and older Caprice, was the dud you got. The LT1 on the other hand offered plenty of room for upgrades. If you could get the upgrade for a Corvette, Camaro, Firebird, or Trans Am, chances are you could get it for the Impala. This opened up the door for easy upgrades from cold air induction and computer programmers to cam, heads, and nitrous. I'd go over all the upgrade options, but I figure you could use your imagination here.

Four-Door Competition

It was definitely faster than its American four-door competitors i.e. the Ford Taurus SHO and the Pontiac Bonneville SSEi. Moreover, it was $65,800+ cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz S500 and could accelerate faster, handle better, and match the Benz in braking abilities, all while sounding like true American Muscle

Impala SS front seats



What The Impala SS Had Its Sports Car Companions Didn't 

That's easy, front bucket seats that made you feel like you were sitting on a sofa, a back seat where people even 6-feet tall and hefty could sit in comfortably, and a trunk you could neatly place a dead body in. 

Impala SS rear seats



The Impala's colors were limited. In 1994, you were only able to get one in Black, but '95 and 96-year models brought about a dark Cherry Red and a dark Green color. 

Impala SS


                        
95-96 Impala SS


Dark Green Impala SS


There were also a few other differences about the 1994 Impala SS. There was a digital dashboard with no tachometer and a column shifter. When Chevrolet noticed the consumer's want for this vehicle in the muscle car capacity, they added in an analog dashboard with a tach and a floor shifter to add to the muscle car feel. 

94 Chevrolet Impala SS


95-96 Impala SS


For all three years, the exterior sported special 17-inch 5-spoke rims wrapped up in large 255/50R-17 tires, a nice-sounding dual exhaust system was added with a rear spoiler, and deleted Caprice chrome. The stance, the sound, the power, and the name of it alone, Impala SS, made this disguised Caprice no longer a car you would expect a 90-year-old church-going lady to drive.  

Driving Impala SS


Taking One For A Ride

I've taken a few for a ride here and there working at a dealership. They're not that fast, but one thing they are is a little surprising. You just don't think a 94-96 Caprice with special SS Impala badges is going to offer you so much.

The Impala gives you more than enough throttle response to get the big, long sedan in the passing zone and go. It also gives you plenty of comforts, from the leg and headroom to the soft suspension that performs well but still gives you a ride that reminds you of your grandpa's unmolested Lincoln. 

And no, there is no media center, cell phone connectivity, or sophisticated driver assist safety functions that allows you to disregard paying attention to the road. These Impala SS big-bodies are true cruising cars. A car that you can shine up, hit the road, listen to the muffles humm, and get a few looks of envy from drivers in their cookie-cutter trucks and crossovers. 

94-96 Impala SS for Sales


Purchasing A 94-96 Impala SS   

With 69,758 Impala SS sports sedans produced between 94-96, they are not the rarest cars in the world. But a lot of them are stored away in garages as their value goes up. If you're looking to purchase one of these modern Impala SS muscle cars, your best option is to look out for one that has low miles and has little to no upgrades. Some of these cars have been heavily modified, and some have been around the block a time or two. 

SS Impala at the track



Look for rust in the usual places, signs of years of abuse, aftermarket hacked stereo systems and suspension components, and beat-up interiors. Some of these cars may still have potential, but it would depend on how much money you want to put into them. There are still plenty of good ones out there that have been well-taken care of and can offer you a fun and cool multi-purpose Hot Rod!  
   


Thursday, May 12, 2022

1969 Corvette "AstroVette" Stingray Apollo-Themed

 

1969 Corvette Stingray AstroVette

This Corvette you're looking at was built specifically for the Astronaut Alan L. Bean. There were only two others made just like this for two other Astronauts, Richard Gordan Jr. and Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. All three men were shipped into orbit on the Apollo 12 Mission in the second Lunar Module to land on the Moon.

NASA and General Motors

In the '60s and early '70s, NASA astronauts were like rock stars in America. Reaching the Moon before Russia was something America did that helped bring a divided country together after the controversial Vietnam War.

GM president, Ed Cole, saw the potential of linking the NASA program to the GM brand for product growth. GM already gave astronaut Alan Shepard, the very first man to break his way into space, a new white 1962 Corvette with a custom space-age interiorand had also done business with astronaut legends like Niel Armstrong and high-performance enthusiast, Gus Grissom.

1962 Corvette

Of course, it's hard to imagine GM giving away Corvettes, but Cole's decision to do so, according to his widow, Dollie (Chairman of the National Corvette Museum and Vice Chairman of the National Air & Space Museum), made sense to Cole. "The astronauts were incredibly visible," she says. "And good publicity is good publicity." But putting astronauts in Corvettes wasn't just for publicity. "Who more worthy than guys who represent our country?" says Dollie. "They were literally risking their lives. Space travel today isn't 'ho hum', but people perceive it that way. There were so many unknowns then. The cars were a way of saying 'Thank you.'"

Executive GM Lease Program For NASA 

Eventually, GM would see big benefits from being affiliated with NASA, so they went ahead and started an executive lease program for NASA employees. If you qualified for the lease program, you could lease a GM vehicle for $1 for one year. According to astronaut Alan Bean, most qualifying employees chose Corvettes, making it an interesting sight to see when you drove past the Space Center and looked in the parking lot. 

Apollo 12 Astronauts With 1969 Corvette

Those Who Fly Together, Drive Together
All three astronauts that boarded the Lunar Module for the Apollo 12 Mission were very close, and all were car guys in their own respect. They became good friends with Jim Rathman, a Chevrolet and Cadillac dealership owner who was also known for winning the 1960 Indy 500. 


Jim's dealership was located in Melbourne, FL, and its close proximity to the Space Center is what made the friendship between the three astronauts and others in NASA like Niel Armstrong possible. With "Pete" Conrad Jr., Gordan Jr., and Bean successfully completing the Apollo 12 mission, they all decided they should get matching Corvettes with some special visual upgrades to distinctively separate them from the rest of the Corvette owners and lessees.


Rare Riverside Gold Corvette Color

It just so happened, in 1969, Corvette was offering a one-time-only Riverside gold exterior color for the Stingray. The three astronauts joined forces with friend and dealership owner, Jim Rathman, who helped aid in getting all three gold Corvettes to his dealership.

No one really knows where the black "Wings" were painted on the Riverside gold base paint, but it wasn't at the factory or at Ratham's dealership. As the story goes, the three astronauts took a lot of time to decide on what design they wanted to go with before settling on the black "Wings." 

AstroVette 1969 Corvette

1969 Corvette "AstroVette"


Ratham decided to get his friend involved, Alex Tremulis. Tremulis was an industrial designer who held automotive design positions at Cord Automobile, Duesenberg, General Motors, Tucker Car Corporation, and Ford Motor Company before later establishing a consulting firm.

Tremulis and Ratham both did have a hands-on part in the design. Ratham placed the white stripe that separates the black and the gold colors, and Tremulis designed and painted the special red, white, and blue logos on the fender. 

1969 Corvette Stingray


The Special Red, White, and Blue Emblems and The Meaning

The red, white, and blue emblem represent what you would think - America, the American flag, and NASA. Each emblem had a different set of initials drawn out on a certain color of the emblem representing the Corvette owner's rank during the Apollo 12 Mission. Bean’s LMP initials were placed on the blue tag signifying him as the Lunar Module Pilot. Pete’s initials of CDR were on the red tag of the emblem, which stood for Commander, and Dick’s initials of CMP, for Command Module Pilot were drawn on the white tag of the emblem. 

The colors the initials were painted on also represented the color each astronaut used to label their belongings during the Apollo 12 Mission.


396 cu. in. engine

Corvette "AstroVette" Spec.

  • 427 CU.-IN. Big Block L36 

  • 4-Speed Manual Transmission

  • 490 Horsepower - 460 lb.-ft. of Torque

  • Four-Barrel Rochester Carbrator

  • Hydraulic Four-Wheel Disc Brakes

  • Fully Independent Suspension

  • Optional Side Exhaust Selected But Not Installed

  • Performance: 0-60 mph 6.0 Seconds; Quarter-Mile 14.3 at 93 MPH

  • One-Year-Only Riverside Gold

  • Special Steel Wheel Covers

  • Curb Weight: 3450 lbs.


1969 Corvette "AstroVette"

Where Are The Iconic "AstroVette" Stingrays Now?

Out of the three 1969 Stingray "AstroVette" Corvettes that were delivered to the Ratham dealership for the crew of the Appollo 12 Mission, only one is known to exist. 
Alan Bean's Corvette is the last AstroVette that is known to exist. It was turned in after the $1, 1-year lease was up. In 1971, it showed up in Austin, TX on a GMAC car lot. It went up for auction, where a space enthusiast by the name of Danny Reed put his bid in. He initially lost the auction, but the original winner could not come up with the money, and Danny eventually won the "AstroVette."

Making the "AstroVette" Perfect

The Stingray "AstroVette" was put on track to be restored to its original state to save its integrity, which meant no full restoration. Danny Reed worked with many Corvette experts throughout the process to get it back to its original look - the way it would have looked when it came right off the assembly line with overspray in the correct spots and everything. 


The National Corvette Restoration Society (NCRS) has given it many awards at some of the most prestigious Corvette car shows in the world. 

It has been on display at NASA events, the National Corvette Museum, the Kansas Cosmosphere, Flordia Space Center, Johnson Space Center, Houston Space Center, in Washinton, and many other worthy places. 

Alan Bean has since been reunited many times with his now-famous "AstroVette." Bean has become a painter since his days of walking on the Moon. A lot of his painting work has to do with space and his moonwalking, as he writes, “Our time on the Moon ended much too quickly and, in the years since then, I have created paintings to try to capture the feeling of our Apollo 12 mission, as well as all the other Apollo missions, too. It’s my hope that these paintings will help other people share in the great adventure." 


Astronaut Alan Bean

How to Tell If You Found One of The Lost "AstroVette" Stingrays?

Just like all rare cars, there are some imposters out there, but there is a way to tell if you found a real "AstroVette." Only these three Corvettes in the lease program were special ordered and registered in the lessee's name. This featured Corvette has a tank sticker that says, “Courtesy car delivered to Alan L. Bean.” If found, the other two would have a similar tank sticker with the corresponding astronaut's name - Richard Gordan Jr or Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. All other Corvettes for the NASA executive lease program were put in the military's name.

AstroVette 1969 Corvette

There is nothing like a little Corvette and NASA history! The $1, 1-year executive lease program for the astronauts ended in 1971. Whether or not it was because the Space Program became less popular and the executive lease program was less worth it from an advertising standpoint, I'm not sure. But there was a time there for a while when being an astronaut was better than being a Hollywood star or a pro-athlete.    

Sunday, May 1, 2022

1982 Buick Grand National: History, NASCAR, And '80s Performance

 1982 Buick Grand National


Although almost everyone you ask will tell you, there is no such thing as a true Buick Grand National that was not all "Black", the fact is, they'd be wrong! 

They might also tell you there's no such thing as an '82 Grand National, that would also be wrong! The first Grand National was actually born in 1982; it was charcoal grey and silver and has a pretty cool little story to it.

The Birth Of Something That Would Soon Become A Legend 

Back in 1981, Buick took to the main stage at NASCAR with their G-Body Regal. A few Regals made their debut in California at the Riverside International Raceway. But it was in Daytona, the second week of the season, where the tides changed for the Regal and set the way for Buick and the G-Bodies in NASCAR for quite a while. 



Richard Petty Wins Daytona 500 In A Regal

For a record-setting 7th time, Petty takes the checkered flag, but this time in a Buick Regal. This win broke a long drought of 16 years since someone drove across the finish line at a NASCAR event in a Buick. It was last done by Herb Thomas, who did it in 1955 in a '55 Buick Century. 

Record-Breaking Year For Buick In NASCAR 

Throughout the season, a Buick Regal would cross the finish line first in 22 out of 31 events with just five different Buick DriversPetty, Boddy Allison, Ron Bouchard, Cale Yarborough, and Darrell Waltrip. In the end, Waltrip would bring home the championship title for his team and Buick.

These efforts brought the NASCAR Manufacturing title home to the Flint, Michigan plant that had been pumping out those Regals since 1978. 

The new sporty image and the accomplishments at NASCAR that followed prompted Buick to take full advantage of the newfound "This Isn't Your Grandma's Car" image and run with it. 

1982 Buick Grand National Flyer


In December 1981, Buick announced that a "Special Edition" Regal was going to be unveiled in the first week of the NASCAR season. This just so happened to be the first time the Daytona 500 would be set for the first race of the season, and is now a staple in NASCAR racing to this day. The Daytona week is like the Super Bowl of NASCAR and prime time for anything special, especially for automotive manufacturers that want to show off something new. 
 

Buick And NASCAR Copyright Issues

Buick went ahead and already named their "Special Edition" Regal the "Grand National", the only problem was that NASCAR already had the copyrights to the nameNASCAR Winston Cup Grand National Seriesso NASCAR sued. After some legal wrangling, Buick kept the name but changed the nameplate to the recognizable one everyone knows todaya big turbo-6 on the right side of the emblem, the words "Grand National" stacked on top of each other, and a checkered flag on the left side of the emblem. 

1982 Daytona 500

Daytona 500 Week 1982

Now whether or not the Grand National was ever actually unveiled at the 1st Daytona week, no one seems to really remember. Many think it never made it, largely because of the ongoing legal dispute with NASCAR, but regardless, the "Special Edition" prototype GN was done. 

Not only was the Grand National project moving forward for Buick, but on Feb 14, the day of the Daytona 500, 25 of 42 cars lined up as Buick Regals, and 7 of 10 of them were in the top 10 positions. The race ended just about the same way it started, with Allison winning in his Buick Regal, followed by three other drivers driving Buick Regals. The success continued for Buick throughout the season, and so did production on the Buick Grand National. 

1982 Buick Grand National


1982 Buick Grand National: What Was Special 

Was the first Buick Grand National fast? By today's standards, not at all! In fact, most soccer Moms' crossovers would take the '82 Grand National out pretty easily. But in 1982, it's sad to say; this V6 would beat most factory V8s on the road, at the same time looking cooler than most of them.

When I say V6, you're probably thinking of the turbo 3.8-liter that Grand Nationals are known for, but this first GN was a little different. The '82 Grand National came with a 4.1-liter V6 that ran through a 4-barrel quadrajet carburetor naturally aspired. This fun combination would get you a whopping 125 horsepower and 205 lb.-ft. of torque. 

1982 Buick Grand National Engine


There were a few buyers out there that had inside information about the soon-to-be-famous 3.8-liter turbo engine combo, and checked the right boxes on the order sheet. This combo would get the buyer 175 horsepower and 290 lb.-ft. of torque.

Heading Off For Special Treatment 

All soon-to-be Grand Nationals rolled off the assembly line as normal Buicks and then were shipped off to Cars and Concepts in Auburn Hills, MI, where they received their Grand National treatment. They were all done in Charcoal Gray exterior paint and grey interior but weren't all based on the same Regal. Some base Buick Regals were sent to Cars and Concepts, but so were some Limited and Sport coupe Regals. So for a collector on the hunt for a legitimate one, there are a few different real options out there (do your research). 

1982 Buick "Grand National" Special Edition Upgrades  

  • 215 made plus on prototype
  • 4.1-liter V6 naturally-aspired or (roughly) 20 3.8-liter V6 turbocharged
  • 125 horsepower (4.1) or 175 horsepower (3.8 turbo)
  • 205 lb.-ft. of torque (4.1) or 290 (3.8 turbo) 
  • Automatic transmission
  • Heavy-duty engine and trans coolers
  • 3.23:1 rear gear (4.1) or 3.03:01 (3.8)
  • F41 Grand Touring Suspension

   1982 Buick Grand National Interior


Cosmetic Upgrades
  • Silver stripe in the middle of the charcoal grey paint (hand-laid) red pinstriping separating the Colors (hand-laid) 
  • Big Buick letters on the back quarter panels and on the back decklid lip

  • Blacked-out grille and headlamp door covers
  • Special Edition rally wheels w/Buick center caps
  • Front bucket seats w/black leather inserts throughout the whole interior
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Center console w/shifter
  • Special Grand National gauge cluster 
  • Special Grand National badging on exterior and interior

1982 Buick Grand National Gauge Cluster

It's hard to find these cars in good shape. One of the biggest problems they had was through the years, their lack of power left a lack of enthusiasm to keep them running and looking good. The usual rust invades the lower doors and quarter panels in the usual places, and their interiors are commonly faded and torn from sun damage due to T-tops (some had sunroofs instead).  

But these Grand Nationals can still be considered collector items thanks to their history and the lack of numbers produced. You could say they started a mid-to-late-'80s revolution of more desirable cars for the auto enthusiast, not to mention they paved the way for the '80s most famous muscle car, the 1986 and '87 Grand National.   

1982 Buick Grand National


How Expensive Were They?

The Grand Nationals weren't as expensive as buying a Corvette, but spending extra cheese on a Buick was something people didn't do much of since the muscle days. With a Regal sticker price of $8,702, you would have to cough up another $3,278 for the Grand National packages and about another $1,000 more if you ordered the turbo 3.8-liter version. With America in a recession at the time, that was a lot of money, and Buick's most expensive styling and performance package it ever sold. 

1982 Buick Grand National 

All and all, if you found one in good shape, it would be worth buying a 1982 Grand National just to preserve it. And if you found a 1983 Grand National, I have a bridge to sell you because there were no Grand Nationals made in '83. 

Sunday, March 27, 2022

2009 Corvette ZR1: The Era’s Most Pinnacle American Sports Car

2009 Corvette ZR-1


Corvette ZR1 Comeback


Corvette has always made a big splash with their Z-Series sports cars. Badass Vettes such as the ZO6, ZR1, and the ZL1 would receive more power and torque, handling capabilities, and all-around upgrades for better track performance than any other vehicle General Motors was pushing on the market at the time (expectation '14 and '15 Camaro Z28). 

Chatter started around 2007 about a new version of the ZR1, a ZR1 that would be so performance packed it would give it a supercar status that would have its name mentioned in the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini. 

This first 2009 ZR1 was auctioned off for a Million bucks to a one, Dave Ressler. He is also the owner of the oldest known Corvette in existence, #003. 



6.2-liter LS9


Motor and Transmission

6.2-liter LS9 aluminum V8 with a Twin Vortices Series supercharger and a top-loaded intercooler is what powers the ZR1. Hand-built in Wixom, Mi., this powerhouse motor puts out 638 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 604-lb.ft. of torque at 3800 RPMs.

Sure, nowadays there are some stout performers that make more horsepower and torque, but not 13 years ago. 

Controlling all this power is easy with a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox and a high-capacity, high-performance clutch that makes anyone sitting in the driver's seat feel like they are driving a professionally-built race car. 

Performance Stats

This General Motors engine and transmission combination is responsible for the staggering numbers that it puts down while going in a straight line. This ZR1 gets from 0-60 in 3.4-seconds while reaching 100 mph in a matter of 7-seconds. The Corvette has no problem covering the quarter-mile in 11.3 seconds at 131 mph. With a top speed of 200 mph, without a doubt, this was the most capable, powerful Corvette put into production.  

Frame and Suspension

The ZR1 comes standard with an aluminum frame structure that weighs in at a mere 138 pounds. This frame is the exact frame that is used on the C6.R race car, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of 5.2 pounds per horsepower. 


The aluminum frame rides on a Magnetic Selective Ride Control suspension. The Magnetic Ride Control was the most sophisticated suspension of its kind. This ride control system gives the driver two different driving modes to select, Sport ride-control, which is ideal for the racetrack, and a Touring mode, which is ideal for everyday driving. These modes can be easily switched back-and-forth in the cockpit by the driver with just a push of a button. This may not seem like much of a wow factor today, but back in 2009, this convenience was just starting to become a top technology on American vehicles. 

Tires

With all that power and such a capable suspension, you have to have some way of keeping the tires and wheels sticking to the ground, and in this department, GM spares no expense. When testing the Corvette at the Virginia International Raceway, the stock Michelin tires were eventually replaced with a set of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires. With this change, the ZR1 was able to shred a considerable amount of time off of each lap. And that’s when the decision was made, the Michelins that performed the best would come on the best Corvette ever produced.


Corvette ZR-1 Wheels

Braking

You can't have a vehicle with all that power and ability without having an effective way of stopping it. So massive Brembo Carbon Ceramic 15-inch front and 15.5-inch rear vented cross-drilled rotors were added. These rotors can withstand heat of 1000-degrees celsius before warping. The brake system includes six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers in the rear. When this system all works together, it creates the stopping power that you would need for a 200 mph supercar.


Corvettes First Super Car


The Looks Of A Supercar

With a wider stance than the average Vette, the ZR1 is designed to take corners better and get around the track faster. Sporting 19x10-inch wheels in the front and 20x12-inch wheels in the back, the look of the ZR1 says nothing but supercar. All buyers would have had the option to choose the color of the wheels, which include a bright silver coated finish, a deep black coated finish, or a chrome finish. All three colors look great, depending on the look you are trying to achieve. There are nine color options for the exterior finish, all of which are in an exotic tint helping give the ZR1 the supercar look that Corvette is ultimately after. The spoiler on the back is both functional and proportional-looking, and the see-through carbon fiber hood really makes a supercar statement.


Interior Options For The ZR1

Corvette ZR-1 Cockpit
When it comes to the interior, the ZR1 comes with an abundance of options and colors. The buyer was able to request almost everything from the steering wheel to the door panels be wrapped in rich leather. They would also have the option of different model-specific badges to be placed about the inside of the vehicle. Power adjustable heated leather seats with microfiber inserts could be purchased for a better day-to-day driving experience. Corvette also offered a package called the 3ZR. This package included a nine-speaker Bose system, Bluetooth wireless technology, a head-up display, and a SiriusXM satellite radio, all designed for a more convenient and exciting driving experience.

Price Tag And Gas Mileage

With supercar looks, supercar power, and track times to match, this ZR1 puts otherworldly supercars to shame when you compare price tags to performance. When brand new, the MSRP price tag was $112,000.00, which was much cheaper than a higher-powered Farria, Lambo, or a Porsche at the time. The ZR1 also rated very high in gas mileage for a 2009 sports car. With an EPA-estimated 14 city/20 highway mpg, the Corvette did better than most vehicles with that size engine. 


The best thing about the ZR1 is for the first time ever, Americans that were in the market for a supercar cloud finally buy an American-built supercar, minus the outrageous cost of maintenance, luxury tax, and everything else that comes along with owning an overseas supercar.  


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