The tides have turned. The focus has shifted. The emphasis on the j-car at last year's SEMA Show in Las Vegas, NV largely came from the aftermarket. Though GM had certainly put a great deal of time and money into the sport compacts, it was not their centerpiece. What a difference a year makes.
If the GM exhibit at the 2001 SEMA Show had a focal point, it must have been the front-wheel drive Cavalier drag racer. This 2.2 liter Ecotec powered car is set to push the limits with over 650 horsepower. The full tube frame, carbon fiber body Cavalier was certainly an attention-getter, inviting the likes of Ed and Ron Bergenholtz and Shawn Carlson to speak with GM executives.
The front-wheel drive drag program is further expanded with two other cars in the lineup. Take an Ecotec, modify it, add some NOS into the mix, and out comes the Ecotec powered 250hp bracket racer. Also backing up the pack is the 425 A/FX Cavalier. The A/FX is an Ecotec-powered 425 horsepower drag car.
In the import drag racing arena, GM hopes to set the standard for safety. All three drag racing cars have taken safety to a new level. Features such as six-point harnesses, fresh air systems, and even outfitting drivers with the HANS device, all add up to a new level of safety that they hope will catch on with all pro-import teams.
Though the professional drag racing circuit is exciting, it is a far cry from the enthusiast is looking for. GM is also putting a great deal of attention into the tuner market. The majority of Cavaliers and Sunfires on display were highlighting the new 2.2 liter Ecotec engine. The 2.4 liter LD9 is not yet dead, however, as several cars were still sporting the supercharged Twin Cam engines.
Vehicles such as the Cavalier 220 Turbo Sport, with it's 220hp turbocharged Ecotec engine, were highlights of what is possible even with a daily-driver. The Cavalier 263, which appeared at the 2000 SEMA Show as a maroon Cavalier, took on a whole new form, being transformed with a wide-body kit, custom paint and interior, as well as a number of other body modifications. On a much simpler scale, the Cavalier Z24R boasts a 180hp Ecotec power plant, achieved using only basic modifications to intake, exhaust and cams. Future appeal and past technology combined formed the Sunfire H.O. - a 2003-body Sunfire with the now-discontinued 2.4 liter engine.
Throughout the Las Vegas Convention Center, Cavaliers and Sunfires were featured in manufacturer displays and in outside areas. Products such as the new RK Sport Sunfire body kit, and the Wings West Avenger body kit for 2000+ Cavalier were on display on many cars. A popular body kit, the RK Sport 'Type-J' body kit could be found on many Cavaliers on display.
Many of the customizations featured on the GM vehicles could be available soon. Though some products will likely be sent to aftermarket companies to produce and market, many items will also be available through GM Accessories and Performance Parts. The most important key to this process is consumer and customer feedback. General Motors has taken a huge step forward into the enthusiast and tuner market. In order to remain in that position, they must know that they have the support of the enthusiasts.
Important contact information and surveys will be available on j-body.org soon. The support of the entire j-body community is vital in the production of everything that GM spent a great deal of time and money to create. The SEMA Show was all about the enthusiasts, and now the enthusiasts must be heard.