Having been involved with sports car and open-wheel road racing most of my life, I"ve never quite grasped the general public"s fascination with stock cars. Cutting-edge technology, the variety of challenging courses, high-speed competition and the combined talents of crew and driver are integral parts of the appeal the sport holds for me. I always thought a couple of these key attractions are missing in NASCAR. Before you start licking the envelopes for those letters to the editor, please note that A) I have friends in NASCAR, and B) I appreciate every form of motor sport to some degree.
And now I understand one of NASCAR"s lures: They race cars just like the ones you drive. Right? With three LS trim levels, two SS trim levels, the pace car replica and the Dale Earnhardt signature edition available, chances are a few of you are Monte Carlo owners. You drive your car to work, to the supermarket, to school every day. You know full well what that car feels like, how it handles, what it"s capable of. And I"m pretty sure you could dice with Jeff Gordon or Little E, given the chance. But when was the last time you did a few practice laps around Sebring in a champ car? Exactly.
Monte Carlo has won five consecutive Winston Cup championships, and shares a lot with its production counterpart. The profile is the same, having been sculpted in the wind tunnel for minimal drag and maximum stability. Both deliver decent handling and acceleration.
Yours won"t have rear-wheel drive or a V8. But with the high sports appearance package on the SS, you"ll get full ground effects, a race-inspired rear spoiler, aluminum wheels and stainless exhaust tips - plus a powerful 3.8-liter V6, and upgraded wheels, tires, suspension and electronic traction control for standing starts.
Don"t try this at home, kids. I am not encouraging anyone to peel out on city streets. The sport suspension combined with Goodyear Eagles give a gripping performance, even if the tires are a little noisy. Just be sure to grab a pair of earplugs; all the race drivers wear them.
Inside there"s no roll cage or five-point belts. But a cozy cockpit separates the driver, and a racing-style dashboard puts new gauges and controls within fingertip access. The trunk is spacious - something even Gordon can"t say about the No. 24 car.
Keep in mind that, while the wrapping might look alike, what"s inside is vastly different. Please don"t play out your Talladega fantasies on city streets, and I promise not to pretend I"m doing hot laps around Monaco or Road America in a Williams or a Reynard Ö although that "roadside assistance" program is pretty tempting.
*some information compiled from AMI Auto World magazine