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Joe Basil

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Musclecar Dream Engine Comes True in Modern Technology

LT1This column is typically reserved for “next practice” tips for better retail automotive management, but today we’re paying homage to the source of our passion for this industry — the allure of the automobile and all it signifies. It stole our hearts and captured our imagination with dreams of speed, power and freedom on the open road. For me, the passion was sparked by the Chevrolet musclecars of the 1960s and 70s.

For all you other musclecar motorheads who used to have hair with a color other than gray, the 2014 C7 Corvette Stingray LT1 engine is a motorhead’s dream come true. It’s got all of the technology you dreamed of in the day but had no idea how to bring it to mechanical life. Just go back to the 60s and early 70s, when you were 18 and building that small block drag car. Yeah, when you pulled up to the Sunoco gas pump and cranked the octane lever to 110+; when the gas filler was behind the tail light on a fin or behind the license plate; when you burned a full tank of premium on a Friday or Saturday night street racing with your hottie.

That’s when you spent hours and hours talking to the guys at the track, trying to get the latest tricks from the speed shop and spending lots of bucks building that small block to put out every bit of horsepower you can squeeze out of it. You remember, putting in that highlift cam, swapping out the stock intake for an Edelbrock high-rise topped off with an 1100+(or larger) CFM Holley. Pulling off the heads and putting on the double bump angle plug 2.02’s. And since you switched the rear end gears and you threw out the stock distributor you had to replace it with an HEI mechanical advance and had the advance curve tweaked. Oh and don’t forget those “Hooker Headers” and a couple of Cherry Bombs just for effect.

And then when it came to race day, on the track or on the street, you checked the temperature to see if you were going to swap out those jets on the Holly, reset the base advance, and maybe adjust up those rocker arms to change the cam timing. All of those little tweaks you did under the hood with tools are now being done by computers in milliseconds without ever touching a wrench.

Back in the day, I was a musclecar motorhead and even with gray in my temples, I guess I still am.   That’s why I’m so excited about a very special event coming up later this month in Tonawanda, New York.  Where the heck is Tonawanda, New York?Tonawanda is a suburb of Buffalo and it happens to be the home of the GM powertrain plant where the 2014 C7 LT1 Corvette Stingray engine is built.

The C7 LT1 has it all. Let’s start with 450 hp out of 6.2 L. By the way, that’s 378 cu in. No need to make any adjustments anymore since we now have computer-controlled direct injection, variable valve timing with 2.13 intake valves, and computer-controlled ignition timing. By the way, remember using “plastiguage” to check your bearing clearances? Now the clearances are measured in microns. A micron? Yeah, a micron; that’s one millionth of a meter.

So how would like to see these engines being built? On August 23rd and 24th the General Motors plant in Tonawanda is having an open house. So what? It’s an engine plant, you might say; well, there’s history that goes with this plant and the Chevrolet musclecar engines it produced. When they look under the hood of 60s and 70s musclecars, collectors always look for a little rectangular sticker on the valve cover that reads “Produced by Chevrolet Tonawanda.” Not only is the Chevrolet Tonawanda engine plant noted for producing 60s and 70s musclecar engines and big block marine performance engines, it holds the world record for the most number of engines produced in one day — 8,832 (in 1988).

The plant is celebrating its 75thanniversary and is having an open house and classic car show on August 23rd and 24th. You get a full tour of the plant and the actual crews that build the engines will be explaining and showing you how they do it. I was in this plant quite often in the 1970s when we had a Chevy store close by and serviced the plant cars. I went on the tour a couple of years ago and what a drastic contrast!

It’s a great opportunity to fly into one of Buffalo’s  private aviation strips, bring your off shore boat and do some “street” racing on the Niagara River or Lake Erie, or just cruise your favorite musclecar ride to the car show. Last but not least,don’t forget to visit Frank and Teresa’s Anchor Bar (where chicken wings started) for some wings and “beef on weck.”

For details just go to GM Powertrain Tonawanda Engine 75th Anniversary on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/75thanniversary) or give me a call and let’s wax nostalgic about the days of our shared musclecar mania!

Formerly of the Basil Automotive Group, Joe Basil is a 20 Group Moderator for NCM Associates.  NCM has many GM nameplate 20 Groups including Buick, GMC and Chevrolet dealer groups. For information, call 877.803.3631 or to reach Joe directly, email jbasil@ncm20.com.

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About the author

Joe Basil

Joe Basil

An NCM 20 Group member for 10 years, Joe now serves his former peers as an NCM Executive Conference Moderator. With 40 years of retail automotive and general business experience, Joe began his career at age 14 progressing through a variety of positions in his father’s dealership in Buffalo, New York, eventually becoming the used car manager for the Chevrolet store. At 26, Joe became the owner-operator of an Oldsmobile dealership. As the oldest of seven, he has bought and sold three dealerships of his own, ventured into several non-automotive businesses, including business consulting and training. During his career with the Basil Group, Joe assisted in the purchase, sale and start-up of over 24 dealership transactions and five non-automotive businesses. Joe is a graduate of Northwood University with a degree in automotive marketing and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Canisius College. Joe is a graduate of the Chevrolet Management School and has completed formal training in family business advising and entrepreneurial leadership.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2013/08/musclecar-dream-engine-comes-true-in-modern-technology/

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