Building a road race car is no easy task. However, doing it with a Chevy Aveo makes things, should we say, a lot more complicated. Last month we gave you a first-hand look at Jason Whitfield's Super Lap-prepped Aveo, showing you the initial tear-down of the car from stock form to chassis prep and bringing us to the engine build portion. What was once an eco-friendly, joke-inducing car has now become a street and track force to be reckoned with. Still laughing? Well, we've heard all your jokes, so save them or keep them coming-but without a doubt, this car will rock your world.
Here's a quick recap of what went down last time: Jason and his crew, Whitfield Racing, strapped the Aveo down to his in-house DynoJet, where the car made a blistering 82 hp. Then the Aveo was taken for a stroll down the 1320 to see how it would do there; again, blistering in at 19.2 seconds (yes, cue laugh track). The car was stripped down to the bare chassis, inside and out, mostly to remove unnecessary weight. Keeping the car in relatively streetable form was one of the main objectives so a lot of the stock parts were retained; parts that weren't needed ended up in some LA dump.
While preparations on the inside of the car were being made for the rollcage install, the crew set out to drop the motor into place using three new custom motor mounts to place the LSJ in the Aveo's shoebox-sized engine bay. Shameless plug: Whitfield Racing now stocks these mounts so anyone else who's ballsy enough to try this swap can now do it with ease. Normally, the front end of the Aveo does not require Michael Jackson-type surgery; however, it was cut and modified to accommodate the engine of the Aveo's much bigger brother, the Cobalt SS (LSJ). So now that you're caught up, let's move on!
Although the motor's already in, Jason said it had to come back out. It's not because these guys are dying to work 16-hour days, but to ensure that each piece they design can be removed, modified, test-fitted and then removed again for a 100-percent perfect fit for final installation. Knowing the motor is going to fit tighter than one of OJ's gloves is great, but it was time to feed Popeye some spinach, so Whitfield called on Steve Moore from General Motors, a guy who knows a thing or two about building GM engines and transmissions. The factory Cobalt SS (LSJ) long block was torn down completely so that Moore could work his voodoo magic, taking an off-the-shelf 200 hp setup using Diamond pistons mated to the stock steel rods and crank. The reliability factor is very important so the oil pan was modified for increased windage and the head was secured to the block with upgraded head studs. To up the boost, the factory supercharger pulley was exchanged for a Stage 3 (76mm) pulley and a two-pass intercooler was also added. Upgraded injectors were thrown into the mix to ensure adequate fueling and the MEFI engine management was installed for tuning.
Making more power is cool, but if you can't optimize it on the track, it's as good as useless. So Steve Moore of GM stepped in once again to modify the transmission, which required him to install shorter gears and add a limited slip differential to help put the power to the pavement as it exits corners while racing at Super Lap Battle. Testing was also done on the stock clutch and proved the need for increased clamping force, so Luis at Clutch Masters was called in from the bullpen. Luis suggested a Carbon Twin Disc setup that would offer the Aveo increased performance. You can say what you want about this being an Aveo, but it's pretty impressive that these production pieces hold that kind of power increase.
RMF was called upon to design a 1-7/8" stainless tri-Y style header to meet the needs of the Cobalt SS engine while fitting into the small Aveo 5 chassis. The main purpose was to improve airflow that was needed for this mighty mouse machine. There was also a 1-5/8" setup created for racing the smaller tracks. The smaller header will help when the revs are not as high for long periods of time. The after cat portion of the exhaust was made in 2.5 inch 321 stainless tube using V-band clamps on all ends. While most exhausts exit in the rear, Jason tricked his by making the exhaust exit from both of the rear doors.
With the motor sitting back on a stand, the crew was able to focus its attention on finishing the rollcage. Preparation was made for the rollcage by grinding down and leveling every location it would make contact with the chassis. Remember, this car is going to be a Super Lap warrior but still have a modified streetcar feel. To ensure this Aveo lives up to the design, the rollcage had to be built to help the balance and strength of the car without becoming an eyesore; Rob Miller from Sinister Race Cars was called on to lend his expertise. At first, the bars were bent as tightly to the pillars as possible and tape was used to hold their position for welding where each of the mounting points were secured to the chassis using 6x6-inch plates. Welding those plates onto the floor of the car would anchor the cage to thin factory sheet metal, so Rob came up with an idea to make a platform for the cage to connect the floor and the pillars, which is a hell of a lot stronger. Boxing that platform not only increases the strength dramatically but it also avoids bending in the event of a roll over. Prior to final welding, a fuel cell was mounted, as were three Status Racing seats. Jason positioned the driver seat in such a way so the cage could be adjusted around him, and the two other seats and cage were set back to try and center the vehicle's weight. In fact, they were set back six inches from the normal hoop area so all the steering and pedals had to be moved to match. The car is so small that most of the weight is over the front, especially with the new LSJ addition. While the whole cage is Tig-welded, the steel plates and chassis contact points are Mig-welded.
With the engine, exhaust and rollcage completed, Jason focused his attention on the suspension, braking and paint next. A custom suspension was fabricated with additional reservoirs to keep the car's handling responsive and firm. Falken Tires came in to give that extra grip for the track and the rubber was wrapped around KNIG Heatsink wheels. Jason chose these because he needed a light, strong and an open design to assist with brake cooling. KNIG provided him with two sets, one in 16x7" and the other 17x7" providing him with additional options for steering response on different tracks. The Aveo is meant to go fast but at some point it will have to stop. With so much extra power on tap, the team used Wilwood front calipers designed for a Pontiac and a rear Cobalt SS upgrade.
What car would be cool without a hot paint job? Jason has never been shy when it comes to custom paint schemes; his old CRX and K20 Civic were radically painted and we wouldn't have expected anything less with the Aveo, which he fashioned in bright Sikkens green with deep gold accents. To prep the car for paint, he removed nearly everything and masked off the engine bay to prevent overspray. With the cage exposed, it was sprayed gold along with the engine bay. Once the clear coat had been applied, the car was moved out of the paint booth and the boys went to work wet sanding and wheeling out the car before the shell went back to the shop.
Jason's Aveo was finally starting to come together but the Fred Flintstone look had to go, so the crew began reassembly quickly. They started with the engine first, bolting the LSJ motor in place after lowering the Aveo chassis down to the engine. The interior was next; wiring, pedals, fuel cell with the lines and, most importantly, the seats with racing harnesses were all put into place. All interior panels went in after they were covered in custom carbon-fiber material from Raul's Auto Trim, like the door panels, dash and most trim pieces. In just two days, Whitfield Racing took a painted skeleton and turned out a complete racecar, finishing a six-month project in time for its first Super Lap Battle appearance at the '07 Finals. While it didn't run to its full potential, during the off-season it has been tuned to run our series this year. Curious to see what the sickest 300-plus piece Lego-like project is going to look like when it's done and how it's going to perform? So are we. Next month you're going to catch the final feature and see how dope the Whitfield Racing Aveo really is! The final dyno figures are going to blow your mind!