When a name is attached to a "world's fastest" title, there should be some respect for what talents this person may have. Jason Whitfield was once known for having a mighty fast Honda CRX; some say it was one of the fastest in the world. Since the glory days of drag racing, Jason has been steadily building cars from his shop, Rage Imports, in Upland, CA. Back in '05, General Motors released the Chevy Cobalt and wanted to find a tuner shop to make a performance-minded build for them. They approached several shops and because of a coincidental cover car in a magazine at the time, GM found Whitfield Racing's Rage Imports. GM liked the work they did and challenged them to build the Cobalt. Long story short, the Cobalt was a great success for both GM and Whitfield Racing; thus, a working relationship began. Three years later, enter the Chevy Aveo, a tiny hatchback that is geared up with faux carbon fiber, MP3 players and modest fuel economy to be a competitor against similar offerings from the Japanese automakers.
With the emerging market of micro-economy cars like the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Scion xD, GM felt it could be a strong presence with the Aveo. GM wanted to build a show car based on the hatchback version of the Aveo for the '07 SEMA show, so it once again turned to Whitfield Racing to see what could be done. Jason knew fully well the Whitfield Racing team could exceed expectations. "Originally, they just wanted a show car; you know, a cool car with TVs in the headrest and the whole nine. They even requested a wide body. I could build a show car, but that's not what I'm about. I'm really into performance, but I want my cars to look good as well. So we just went ahead and built a fully tuned car with show car looks to make GM happy." When asked what direction they wanted to take the build, Jason says, "When we started taking the car apart, there were a lot of things we saw that we could do, like working with Wilwood to design custom brakes that could become an actual part number and other things like motor mounts for engine swaps. The Honda and Nissan engine swapping is so crazy where you can take out anything and put anything in. I wanted GM to have that opportunity and to make the task of taking a part out of one chassis and put into another chassis like the Aveo as easy as possible. So we made motor mounts and all these other parts that kids could buy directly from the dealer. The objective was to build a car that anyone could build for a small amount of money, or basically build a car that any kid could build for the same price as building a Civic."
As Super Street has been covering this Aveo build, we were initially skeptical about what could be possibly done to make an Aveo cool, or even worthy enough to buy for the prospect of tuning. We wondered if a car like this could inspire or ignite a trend for people to start building Aveos. "Getting kids to think about Aveos was one of the 10 goals we had when starting this project. For Chevy, that was really high on their list of priorities; for us it was probably number nine or 10. But at the end of the day, if one kid goes out and builds one and Chevy sees that, it'll make them happy. And that's what I want to do, make Chevy happy," says Jason. By Jason's estimates, if someone showed up at his shop with a brand new Aveo hatchback and wanted to do what they did to add performance like an engine swap, boost, suspension, brakes and exhaust, he could probably do the whole job for $8,000 to $10,000 (nearly the same price of the car, brand new) with a build time of a few weeks. The best part is that almost all of the parts are coming straight from the Chevy dealer. For another $5,000 to $7,000, an Aveo owner could have even more customization done to the car, like the single theater-style seat in the back, twin exhausts coming out of the doors or upgraded stereo.
But the looming question is whether this car is all show and no go. The Whitfield Racing crew has taken the Aveo out to the drag strip for a little fun, but according to Jason, it has bigger plans for the green hatchback: "We're going to get with GM and their teams to get it out to the Super Lap Battles to do some road racing events when we get the car back." Sounds like a plan.
Fast Facts'07 Chevy Aveo
Owner General Motors (built by Whitfield Racing/Rage Imports)
Hometown Upland, Ca
Daily Grind Shop owner of Rage Imports; driver for GM
Under The Hood 4cl 2.0L '07 Chevy Cobalt LSJ supercharged motor, all internal parts by GM, Whitfield Racing air intake the power 298 hp at 216 lb-ft (remember, this is an Aveo)
Stiff Stuff Eibach springs (f/r), front stabilizer bar; Ohlins shocks (f/r)
Stoppers Wilwood 15-inch drilled/slotted rotors, four piston design, brake pads
Rollers Konig 17-inch Heatsink wheels; Falken Azenis tires (215/40/17)
Outside Frakture Industries custom twin exit exhausts out rear doors, hood scoop; Sikkens Candy Green/Gold paint by Jason Gamble
Inside Status Racing Kevlar suede seats; custom carbon-fiber dash, panels; Sparco steering wheel; custom audio wiring by James Lin; JL Audio speakers; iPod audio interface
Shoutouts Amber, my wife, for all her support; my sons, Seth and Jason, Jr., for pushing me to work harder! Whitfield Racing crew, James Lin for always coming through, Frakture Paint and Jason Gamble, Rob at Sinister Race Cars, Scott at Konig, Ryan at Eibach, Josh and Sean at Status, Nick at Falken Tires, Shaun at HPC, Steve and Todd at GM, Jason and Mike at Wilwood, Luis and Lonny at Clutchmasters, Paul at Raul's Auto Trim, and all the "*?#! guys" that called me a "sellout" because we build with a Bowtie these days. Wait for the next GM car!