J-Body Organization 2001 SEMA Review:
GM Tuned In and is now Tuned Up
By: Matt Teske

One year ago at the 2000 SEMA show the success of the J-Body in the aftermarket was very clear, but there still seemed to be a lack of support from General Motors. At least that is what was thought. Behind the scenes there were some huge steps being made in the areas of both performance and appearance.

In recent years General Motors tuned in and listened to what J-Body enthusiasts wanted. Taking research and development to new levels, GM is now Tuned Up. Bringing out the greatest arsenal of performance and appearance parts to date for the 2001 SEMA show, GM made it clear that they are a force to be reckoned with.

GM knew that their sport compact line needed a great deal of attention. Combining the vision of the Cavalier/Sunfire Brand Teams and the new Ecotec platform of performance, GM designed cars that many J-Body enthusiasts can only dream of owning. But will it remain a dream? Not likely. Keith Newbury, the Assistant Cavalier Brand Manager, is very adamant about GM helping to make the J-Body a premiere enthusiast vehicle. He has been involved with the JBO now for 3 years and has been listening closely.

"We are using SEMA as an avenue to develop a portfolio of performance parts and accessories for the J-Body," explained Newbury. "We want to see if there is potential to bring some of these concept cars to market. We also want to show people how to build their engines right." For the many people that wonder how they can help, there is an answer. "I encourage people to study our SEMA vehicles and let us know if there are portions of the vehicle they would like to see on the market," Newbury continued. "Let your voice be heard by GM. We value the collective opinion of the J-Body Organization."

Working right along side the Cavalier/Sunfire Brand Teams to make the J-Body the best it can be is GM Racing. Many hours were spent testing the new Ecotec engine to see how far it could go and what modifications would need to be made. Josh Peterson, GM Racing's FWD Drag Racing Program Manager, explained how their research is aimed at making the 2.2L Ecotec a great alternative to other 4-cylinder motors.

"Our goal is to have parts for the consumer," said Peterson. "We have developed performance components for the Ecotec engine, but we have more testing to do. We do have parts though and they do work."

How well do they work though? That answer is clear in the Cavalier Ecotec 2.2L drag car. "The engine is very robust, putting out 650+ hp and 450-500 ft/lbs or torque," Peterson continued. "The car has been tested and is performing. Our goal is to work at it slowly. We don't want to let anyone down. We want to look good and have a car that people can be proud of."

Testing of the car has been going on for months now with continued progress. Overseeing the build up of the engine has been Russ O'Blenes, GM Racing's FWD Drag Racing Engine Program Manager. Behind the wheel is Stephanie Reaves, an accomplished pro-stock motorcyclist.

GM Racing says that they will be hitting the track for either the IDRC or NHRA 2002 season, possibly starting as early as February.

Another hot topic at SEMA was the release of the GM Performance Parts supercharger for the 2.4L. The final product is pictured in the 2001 SEMA gallery, shown both on and off the motor. The designer of the kit, Magnuson Products, says that they are ready to go, but they are waiting for the word from GM. "They are finishing up calibration," explained Kevin McMillan. "We are ready to go, but at the moment we are just being patient."

Rest assured the supercharger is going to be available with pricing information to be released soon. GM is simply taking the same precautions with the 2.4L performance parts as they are with the 2.2L Ecotec.

Past the performance focus of GM is the appearance appeal. Boasting detailed body upgrades including new body kits, custom hoods and wide-body kits, GM's Cavaliers were true showstoppers. For Sunfire owners there is the new 2003 Sunfire. Letty Larkin, Assistant Sunfire Brand Manager, has also had an ear out for J-Body enthusiasts. She explained that the new styling of the Sunfire focused on enthusiast wants and also eye-catching styling. One question before SEMA was if the fender flares would fit the older Sunfires. The answer is yes.

Overall, the J-Body was a large portion of interest at the show, with aftermarket companies such as Borla, Wings West and NOPI proudly displaying Cavaliers as project cars. GM has made it clear that we as enthusiasts have been heard and that they are going to answer or call. The future is bright for the J-Body, but right now is when we as enthusiasts need to step up. We will be starting a poll on GM concept products here at the JBO. Your votes count, so let GM know what it is you want the most, be it either a turbo or body kit, it can be produced.

We as an organization have been successful in influencing both the aftermarket and even General Motors, so we can be very proud. There is more we can do though, so lets let the world know. To everyone, good luck with your work on your J-Bodies and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to e-mail anyone of us at the JBO.

Matt Teske
JBO Marketing Director