Versus the competiton:
There is the adage that the “third time’s the charm,” but in the case of the Chevrolet Motor Division, it is four times.
Chevrolet takes its place at the head of the pack at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday, pacing the Brickyard 400 for the fourth consecutive year.
Using a specially modified 1997 Monte Carlo Brickyard 400 based on the Monte Carlo Z34 model, Chevy continues its heritage of associating its production automobiles with the grinding crucible of racing.
The heritage comes naturally. After all, Louis Chevrolet was a race driver before General Motors founder Billy Durant picked him to build the first Chevrolet passenger car. The rest is history, with Chevy becoming one of the dominant players in the automotive industry.
The current Brickyard 400 pace car is a far cry from Louis’ first Chevrolet. The performance features of the production Monte Carlo Z34 is light years ahead of the original touring car that Chevrolet built. And the pace car for the 1997 version of Indianapolis’ Winston Cup stock car race is even more so.
Unlike Chevrolet Division’s Corvette that, in production form, has paced past Indianapolis 500 events, the Brickyard Monte Carlo took some work.
Modifications took place in the areas of GM’s 3800 Series II V-6 engine, suspension system, brakes, wheels, tires and body work. Even the stylists got into the act, with Brickyard 400 logos embroidered into the Monte Carlo’s leather accent bucket seats and floor mats. There also is a decklid that features a three-quarter-perimeter wraparound spoiler.
When it’s all combined with a canary yellow paint job that gradually changes to white in the rear, you have a pretty racy-looking Z34.
That’s the good news. The bad is that you can’t buy one. Chevrolet created only a limited number of ’97 Monte Carlo Brickyard 400 pace cars, all of them to be used on the track or in displays.
Not to despair, however.
Performance enthusiasts will be able to get their hands on a street version of the 3800 V-6 (3.8 liters) starting in the 1998 model year. That’s a step forward in displacement from the standard 3400 Series V-6 (3.4 liters) in the ’97 Monte Carlo Z34.
In the meantime, the modified 3800 V-6 in the pace car has its own particular touches to produce power – lots of it.
This engine puts out 228.8-horsepower and 248.6 foot-pounds of torque. That’s up from the 205 horses put out by the production 3800, with the greater power achieved via improved breathing.
A two-piece, ram-tuned intake manifold and a low-restriction exhaust enhances better fuel/air flow, a more sensitive throttle response, and a broader, flatter torque curve.
Cooling capacity has been added to control running temperatures while the Brickyard Monte Carlo is on the track. Additional oil coolers have been added for the engine, the 4T65-E four-speed automatic transmission, and power steering to keep critical operating systems within the proper temperature range.
Unlike the Monte Carlo NASCAR s tock cars that have been converted to rear-drive for racing, the pace car stays with its production front-wheel drive arrangement. The suspension is modified for a tighter ride and better chassis control in the turns.
The front and rear springs for the four-wheel independent suspension are coil. The springs are GM original equipment that have been modified to accommodate a 1-inch drop in ride height. The total drop in ride height with the addition of lower profile tire combination is 1 1/2 inches.
The tires are larger racing-type Goodyear Eagle GS 50ZR16s that are designed for high speed. Their size required the front fenders and rear quarter panels to be flared out 30 millimeters.
And to stop this baby, the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS (anti-lock) braking uses a Raybestos special compound for the brake pads.
Finally, to top things off, there is the required Strobe lightingsystem for safety control of the race. The Strobe lights are built into a special, roof-mo unted rear s poiler and in the decklid applique.
It is obvious that Chevrolet has gone to considerable lengths to create its Monte Carlo Brickyard 400 pace car. It enhances the division’s “Win on Sunday (or in the case of the Brickyard on Saturday), sell on Monday” philosophy as well as developing engineering enhancements for the future.