Worse was to come, the car Broke Down during the test…and had to be replaced… this is an opportunity to showcase the General’s expertise in this ‘newfangled’ Go-Faster business and, think about this….we have here the biggest, boldest statement in a performance car ever made in this country, properly engineered by GMSA*, going directly up against the established leader in the quick car game… and the ball is dropped on the 10 metre line. But, using the GTO as a reference, you will say that a breakdown is not a crime…these things happen…NO… in this context they should not. The two situations were totally different both in time, circumstance and the fundamental requirement. Pontiac were making a statement in uncharted waters and, relative to the stunning performance of the car and the era…. An engine problem caused by hammering a road car on a race track as part of a rigorous test was seen as a minor glitch (The test team, whilst incorporating the performance testing, did over 5000 Km in the GTO) The spare car immediately on hand anyway showed a level of unspoken professional intent. The Can Am test, had it been done properly, provided a magnificent opportunity to quite literally, change the mindset of what a real performance car was about. Firstly by completely obliterating the Perana on every level of full throttle performance (which it does easily anyway…but as we will see in a ‘mo…not quite so, according to Technicar) but also leaving the scene having done a really smart, professional job. What really happened, compared to the larger opportunity, was like the proverbial ‘Big Bang’ firework that gets wet, stutters and goes off with a puff rather than the bang.
The original test car was replaced for the test directly from the dealer….My earlier point….a replacement car of this calibre and type, brand new and from a company newly into the go-faster business and if we are honest…needing to make a serious statement. NO. Here’s the point, at the end of this we do not know which car was chosen to represent the figures given in the test…I’ve been in this game for a long time and to have two cars, one of which is on the way to being crippled and the other straight off the showroom floor, giving identical times and speeds as quoted …not likely… and neither coming close to optimising the result.
Also the Can Ams had an update to a radiused pipe ‘mini header’ type exhaust manifold as a running change in production. Early Can Ams were fitted with the old type of Log Exhaust manifold (An extremely agricultural looking device) which knocked measurable BHP off the power curve…Which one was fitted to the second car?
Lastly, the ignition distributor spec for the Can Am ran a single point system, which if not properly set, would result in point bounce and a misfire at around 6300Rpm…from the text it would seem that that could quite likely have been the case…certainly on the 2nd car..
The bottom line was that the Test was conducted poorly and the performance figures below par… So… having made the point, we cannot leave this to opinion or conjecture…there is a need to drive the point home….and it will get a bit technical.
Unquestionably what happened was a massive opportunity lost but before we go into the detail, it is important to look at the Z28 Camaro because that gives a pretty good baseline as to what should have been the outcome…. a Petrolhead’s view of what that US icon had already achieved. This was the donor car for that magnificent 302 engine… and should in my thinking, have formed some portion of educated commentary in the test text.
The engines were the same, 302 DZ’s hitting 290+ Bhp between 5800 and 6500Rpm (See the brief note on this later in this piece and covered in detail in the Can Am Development story “Undercover Engineering”)
The Camaro curb weight 1390 Kg.
The Camaro Road test ¼ mile figures varied between 14.6 and 14.9 sec (Various publications)
Terminal speed at ¼ mile 98 to 101Mph
0-60 Mph hovered around the 5.5 to 5.7 bracket.
The Can Am Weighed in at under 1100Kg….. 300 odd Kg lighter than the Camaro
Technicar managed a ¼ in 14.6 @ 100Mph… identical to the quicker stated Camaro times..but way off the pace.
0-100Kmh: 5.4 … that number again… quicker…but again way too slow.
Now…if there is not something fishy in this, we are not paying attention. Yes there were gearing differences but these are minor issues compared to the Camaro having to lug an extra 300Kg (and greater frontal area) down the strip…that for the Can Am is an extra 3 fairly robust South Africans at 100Kg each.
Stop there…The Engineering Test Can Am was run at Scribante…absolutely stock …. after nearly a year of hammering….@ a 13.05 @ 106 Mph. That’s getting to 100 Mph well under 13 seconds, more like very low 12s. That is nearly 2.5 seconds faster than the Technicar figure and as noted later in this text … could have gone quicker.
And as a point of clarity…Peter Du Plessis (RIP) in his 1967 Z28 Camaro (with Headers but an otherwise stock 302) ran 13.8/9’s …and did so consistently in the early 70’s at Witteklip in Port Elizabeth.
Those two strip figures are also consistent given the weight difference between the two cars running the same engine but with headers on the Camaro … and… the Camaro Figure is consistent with US Road tests…because we need to add a few tenths due to test equipment.