How hard can it be to round up six or seven of our all-time favorite Japanese '90s supercars and throw them on the track for a day of hot laps and quarter-mile runs? All we want to see is how these highly-tuned old dogs hold up against the Newbie EVO and STi. We even brought out an EVO III to see whether it was a matter of technology or age. Apparently, making all this happen borders on the impossible.
The problems we encountered just finding tuned examples of these cars that haven't imploded on themselves or been turned into stripped-down racecars should have indicated how painful this endeavor would be. We scoured the West Coast for examples of these cars and came up with a decent collection. And then half of them broke and dropped out.
Even after finding the cars and multiple replacements, we had to make sure they held together long enough to make it to the event, last through several hot laps, and survive a few quarter-mile runs and dyno pulls so that we could have a story. We've had four make-up sessions thus far.
Willow Springs RacewayIt's rare that we do testing at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California. Known as the fastest track in the west, Big Willow has a reputation for silly speeds and nasty wrecks. But since these big-power two-wheel drive supercars would get slaughtered by the all-wheel drive compacts on a tight, low-speed course, we chose a track where they would be in their element.
There are no low-speed corners through the 2.4 miles of Willow Springs. It starts with the 80-mph Corner 1 and transitions to the constant radius Corner 2. After charging uphill into the Omega and back down the string of corners in sector 3, the speeds get higher on the back of the track. Things get fast in the flat-out dash through sector 3-4 and into the number 4 sweeper. Some cars will hit over 110 mph on this section. At the end of turn 4, its hard onto the brakes to set up for a late apex through the tighter last corner and then back on the gas for an all-out speed run down the front straight. The Supra and the 3000GT both pegged 144 mph here before getting on the brakes to enter Corner 1.
The Old School cars should have kicked ass here, but most came on era-appropriate rubber that felt like all-season commuter tires compared to the R-compounds on the Newbie cars. While slower in the corners, almost all of the older cars were faster on the straights-more power or not. Even with the crappiest tires of the lot, both the EVO III and NSX posted respectable times compared to the big-horsepower, rear-drive bricks. The Newbies cleaned house with lap times at least two seconds faster than the rest.
We had high hopes for the Galant and 3000GT, which came on Toyo RA-1s, but all the tire in the world won't make up for a car that will last only one lap, as in the case of the Galant, or running on only five out of six cylinders for the 3000GT.
The Quarter-mileThis is where all the Old School boys got riled up. Back in the day, the 1320 was all that mattered, and this mentality seems to have stuck. Though tractable, the Supra and 300ZX, both of which could post jaw dropping times if we allowed slicks, were clearly set up to go straight instead of turn. The 3000GT ran the fastest of its three allowed passes with an 11.22 second e.t. with a massive misfire that killed its trap speed. The STi came in thrid, after the Z32, with its beefy clutch and all-wheel drive, the former of which the EVO lacked. Who knows what the results would have been if all the cars had good rubber and didn't break?