STAGE WRITE

IN THE STATES I RODE MY HARLEY ALONG THE TAIL OF THE DRAGON, BUT A LATEMODEL CORVETTE FLEW PAST THAT MADE ME LOOK LIKE I WAS STANDING STILL

HAVE you heard of the Bugatti Chiron? Itís the French sports car companyís follow-up to the spectacular Veyron, which was the fastest street-legal production car in the world when it was released. The new Chiron is no slouch either, with a top speed of 420km/h, and will apparently do 0-100km/h in less than 2.5 seconds. The 1500hp supercar weighs 4400lb, so theoretically it should run 8.34@162mph. But Iíve been informed by Jared Bailey, who owns a 10.5-second Golf (which his brother Tim ran in last yearís SM Drag Challenge) that the Bugatti would probably run low 9.3s or 9.4s in stock form, due to the Volkswagen-built DSG gearbox and built-in self-protection controls.

There are so many wealthy people in America Iím sure there will be a few Chirons heading to that country. If someone in the States can afford to spend $2.2 million on a Chiron, donít be surprised if they find a way to override the self-protection that limits the car to 420km/h (261mph) and squeeze it into the eights. But even in stock form, itís a low nine-second street car that handles and stops Ė thatís a hell of a factory ride in anyoneís book.

Now Iím going to tell you a story that is going to make many of you laugh. I bought a Harley during my trip to the States last year, and I rode the Cherohala Skyway and the Tail of the Dragon, which runs from North Carolina to Tennessee. One of the most famous stretches of road in the US, the Tail of the Dragon has 318 curves in 18km.

I took off on my new bike with no one behind me and was scraping around every corner Ė very easy to do on a Harley. From out of nowhere came a few late-model cars: a Camaro, a Corvette and a Viper. I pulled over to the side a bit and they flew past and disappeared in a flash. There was a bunch of Japanese bikes that made me look like I was standing still as well. But to be honest, as fast as some of those bikes were, they wouldnít have caught those late-model muscle cars.

Thereíre so many good twisty roads in the States if youíre into cornering. I rode north from San Francisco and turned off just after Sausalito onto the old No. 1 highway. It was like the Great Ocean Road on steroids. There were old and new Camaros, Mustangs, Corvettes, Cobras, BMWs, Porsches, Lamborghinis, Ferraris Ė every type of high-performance car you can think of zooming past. Not everyone was on a mission though.

There were restaurants beside the road and some of the machinery parked outside was like a free car show. It seemed to me the pro touring scene was pretty big in the States, but I donít think it has really caught on that much in Australia. Maybe Iím wrong.

The US is the land of sleepers. Theyíre the ultimate wolf in sheepís clothing: an old innocuous car that goes like a bat out of hell. I personally love the concept, and one of my favourites was Kurt Urbanís 1200hp 1972 Nova that raced at one of the Drag Week events. Itís a nine-second pump gas streeter. Another sleeper I love is Sean Whitleyís red 1970 C10 Chevy pick-up. Itís an old beat-up truck with a nitrous big-block that pulls the front wheels in the air. If you havenít seen it already, have a look on YouTube.

Recently I was asked how to make a 289 ZA Fairlane handle. Weíve had one in the family for years; itís a great car, but rides and steers like a marshmallow. Normally Iím asked how to make cars hook up and go straight, but I had a bit of fun making a car go around corners last century.

Iím not an expert by any means, but getting any old-model car to handle and ride well seemed pretty straightforward to me back in the 70s. I had a 308 HQ van, and stock it would understeer and wallow around corners. I ended up trying several different stabiliser bars for both the front and back.

With sports shocks, mag wheels and wide radials, that barge turned into a pretty decent-handling car.

From memory the Pedders sports shocks worked great. I had a Selby (now Fulcrum) bar on the front and a K-Mac bar on the back. I also put some stiffer, lowered Selby coil springs in the front.

What I found was that the diameter of the front stabiliser bar made a huge difference to handling.

I ended up trying a 1.125-inch diameter, which was too big, so I went back to a smaller diameter Ė I think I settled on a .875-inch-diameter bar for the front.

The work required to replace or fit a sway-bar is so easy practically anyone can do it in an afternoon.

And if youíre not confident with the spanners, surely youíll have a couple of mates who are. And replacing shocks is a snack Ė only a couple of nuts and bolts.

The other thing with any older car is to replace worn ball joints, idler arm, suspension bushes, and get a good wheel alignment. Changing some ball joints can be difficult though. Iíd leave the ball joints, bushes and wheel alignment to a mechanic or a suspension place like Pedders. s

IN THE STATES I RODE MY HARLEY ALONG THE TAIL OF THE DRAGON, BUT A LATEMODEL CORVETTE FLEW PAST THAT MADE ME LOOK LIKE I WAS STANDING STILL