Race Car, Revealed: New Chevrolet SS is the Brand’s 2013 NASCAR Hopeful
It was a tough decision for Chevrolet: Continue to badge its NASCAR Sprint Cup car as an Impala—and there would have been an argument for that, since the brand-new 2014 Impala arrives early next year—or swing for the fences and take a chance on the new Chevrolet SS, which won’t even go on sale until late next year.
The Australian-built SS won out, and the introduction was well received. (The car was formally introduced late last week in Las Vegas in connection with the NASCAR awards banquet, and at a less-publicized showing at the Performance Racing Industry show in Orlando.) For the first time in years, Chevrolet actually will be racing a version of a rear-wheel-drive, V-8–powered street car, which could help return a little of the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” magic. After all, following a Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon win a race in an Impala, it would be difficult to believe that anybody high-tailed it to the dealer to buy front-wheel-drive, V-6–powered Impalas.
The roadgoing Chevrolet SS will be a derivative of the global rear-drive architecture that underpins the Camaro and Holden’s upcoming VF Commodore. The Chevrolet SS will be a 2014 model and will hit showrooms in late 2013 as a limited-production model. (So if you want to “buy on Monday,” it’s probably a good idea to do so quickly.) It’s the first time in 17 years that Chevrolet will offer a rear-wheel-drive sedan for sale in the U.S.
The SS comes at a particularly opportune time, since the only other rear-drive, V-8–powered candidate, the Dodge Charger, has lost its factory support for NASCAR. Dodge fans and Dodge dealers—who, incidentally, helped finance the brand’s return to Cup racing—aren’t happy about having a car that won the championship for 2012 (with Brad Keselowski driving Roger Penske’s car) disappear with no real opportunity to capitalize on the best underdog story in motorsports for 2012. But Dodge botched negotiations with Penske early in the 2012 season, which sent Penske to Ford, and Dodge wasn’t able close a deal with another team for 2013 and beyond.
The 2013 season marks the debut of new body styles for the Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota Cup cars, as NASCAR finally listened to the carmakers, who insisted that they needed to race a car that at least resembled the production model on which it was based. NASCAR and the manufacturers did a splendid job of coming up with a rough template that would fit all three cars, yet leave the nose and tail open to mimic the street car’s appearance. NASCAR also allowed more flexibility on side profile appearance, allowing for more innovative use of metal and clear plastic to offer a more production-like greenhouse.
The bottom line for Chevrolet: The brand will not only have a new Cup car, but has finally decided to run the Camaro in the Nationwide series, against the Ford Mustang (and maybe a few leftover Dodge Challengers).
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- Comparison Test: Ford Mustang 5.0 vs. Chevrolet Camaro SS
Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, said the SS race car “puts the stock back in stock cars. The new SS won’t be mistaken for any other car on the track. It bears a striking resemblance to our production car, the 2014 SS, and that will be in showrooms here next fall. Like the production car, the design of the front end is bold, purposeful and highly styled. The hood has distinctive contours that replicate the production model, as well, and similarly, the rear of the race car is very representative of the stock SS.
“The profile clearly shows the large wheel arches and the dramatic cove behind the front wheel here just like the production car. The exterior similarities between the SS race car and the production car are very, very clear,” Reuss said. “This is good for our fans, it’s great for NASCAR, and Chevrolet and our dealers, and most importantly, the relationship for our customers. Everybody wins here.”
The SS, as well as the restyled Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry, debuts at the 2013 Daytona 500—and its preliminary races—in February.