The guy in the Sentra SE-R Spec V looks like he just walked in on his mom with the mailman. Utter disbelief is painted all over his face. He figured his new Nissan would walk all over our little yellow Cavalier. Wrong. We're turbocharged, baby, and we've just smoked you like a Marlboro Red.
Never really happened.
The guy in the SVT Focus, however, thought he was hot stuff-sittin' at the light, revvin' his tiny 2.0-liter, makin' noise. He was lookin' to run, and surely thought the Cavalier was a sitting duck. Wrong again. We left that fool for dead once we spooled up the Garrett T28 GM Performance bolted to the little Chevy's 2.2-liters of domestic bliss and spent the rest of the night hunting Vipers and Cobra Mustangs. Quack. Quack.
OK, that never happened either, but this 2003 Cavalier, which was built by Jon Moss and his team of evil witch doctors at GM Performance, really is sporting a Garrett T28 and a Spearco intercooler, and it can really outrun any stock SE-R or SVT Focus. Despite its bodykit, TurboSport decals, yellow paint and 19-inch wheels, you might even call this Chevy a sleeper.
Truth is we never really got to drive this car on public roads. GM wouldn't let us. Something about a tight car show schedule, a paint job that costs more than J. Lo's Bentley and no license plates. But GM did offer to truck the thing anywhere we wanted the day after it was displayed at the International Auto Salon at the L.A. Convention Center this past May.
Choosing destinations was a no-brainer. First we wanted the car on our chassis dyno, and then we wanted it on the starting line of California Dragway, which is the dragstrip on the grounds of California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. We was gonna do some testin'.
Although Moss and crew spend most of their time building 572 cubic inch Camaros and big-block, rear-drive Monte Carlos, they built this Cavalier on the mellow side. Internally, the 2.2-liter Ecotec is still very stock, although Moss did have the head ported a bit. Though the engine is running only 8 pounds of boost, for added durability, Wheel to Wheel in Troy, Mich., which actually assembled the engine, magnafluxed the crankshaft, nitrided the journals and used a thicker O-ring-grooved copper head gasket to lower the compression ratio from 10:1 to 8.6:1.
Wheel to Wheel also fabricated the intercooler and heat exchanger assemblies, fabricated the air box to work with the functional ram air hood and made the tubular 321 stainless-steel exhaust manifold and stainless 2.5-inch exhaust.
Store-bought items used are a K&N filter, a Borla muffler, Borla Boomer series exhaust tip and Fel-Pro 36-lb/hr fuel injectors, which work with the stock fuel rail and lines. The stock fuel pump was replaced with a W-body (Pontiac Grand Prix) pump for increased flow, but the stock single-bore 60mm throttle body and intake manifold are right where the UAW workers put them.
To keep things cool, the stock radiator's core thickness was increased from 1 inch to 1 3/8 inch and an Earl's engine oil cooler was fitted.
The five-speed is stock down to its shifter, but a Centerforce clutch is used.
The suspension is an airbag system from Air Ride Technologies, chosen so the car can be dropped easily for display. The brakes are from Stainless Steel Brake Corporation. The kit includes massive 13-inch slotted front rotors with polished four-piston calipers, and 12-inch rear rotors with polished single-piston calipers. And it all rides on Racing Hart M5 wheels measuring 19x8 and Toyo Proxes FZ4 rubber (235/35R-19).
The black interior received a smattering of yellow accents on the dash, console and door panels, and heavily bolstered Sparco seats were bolted in.
On the outside is a bodykit Chevy is seriously considering selling through its dealer network. The kit includes front and rear fascias, the ram air hood, rear spoiler and rocker panels. The look is just aggressive enough to keep the Cavalier from looking like an Avis rental reject, without being too ricey.
When strapped to our Dynojet, the Cavalier turned the rollers at an impressive, but not mind-blowing, 182 hp at 6000 rpm. For comparision, that's 57.5 more hp than a stock Ecotec, and 25 more hp than the last MINI Cooper S we tested. What did impress us, however, is the engine's 176 lb-ft of torque at 5500 rpm, which is no doubt a result of its large 2.2-liter displacement.