DETROIT, MI -- When the 1955 Chevy, '63 Impala and '67 Camaro Z28 finally can no longer be found or restored what will automobile enthusiasts take to American drag strips? What will they drive to cruise-ins? And what vehicles will they labor under in garages finding new ways to improve horsepower and performance?

Chevrolet officials announced today that two glimpses of the future can be seen Oct. 9-17 in nine eastern American cities as part of the 2,000-mile cross-country Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour. After a kickoff October 9 in Fitchburg, MA, the tour will make overnight stops with cruise-ins in Carlisle, PA; Gaithersburg, MD; Ft. Mill, SC; Conyers, GA; Daytona Beach, FL; and, Ocala, FL. The Power Tour concludes Oct. 16-17 in Panama City, FL.

More than 10,000 automobile enthusiasts have driven on all, or a portion of the Hot Rod Power Tour since it began in 1995. In each community where the tour stops overnight, they share ideas with others on the route and local enthusiasts who bring their hot rods to cruise-ins. The cruise-ins provide non-enthusiasts with opportunities to get acquainted with nostalgic high performance automobiles as well as those that might be available in the future.

This year, the $2 million Chevy Nomad design concept car, fresh from an appearance at the Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany, will headline Chevrolet's entourage. Combining nostalgic styling cues from the legendary Nomad of the 1950s with the technology and convenience consumers have come to expect from sport utilities, the Nomad has been characterized as a breakthrough vehicle.

"Design concept cars never leave the confines of the high profile auto show circuit," said Jon Moss, Manager of Special Vehicles for General Motors. "If you miss them in Detroit, L.A. or Paris, it's unlikely you'll ever see them in the flesh. A vehicle like the Nomad has never been seen by folks in communities like those on the Power Tour."

"The two-door station wagon look of the Nomad was retained, but we added hidden panels on each side that slide back like minivan doors," he explained. "Horizontal styling lines on the original Nomad were transformed into functional venetian-blind type panels that open and slide forward, revealing a 36-inch space for hauling tall cargo. The rear tailgate folds down and slides away. A reinforced rear floor is designed to accommodate heavy loads."

Moss explained the Nomad is on the tour to gauge public reaction and illustrate some of the innovations Chevrolet is considering for the future. Auto lovers appreciate the fact that the Nomad has two key characteristics embodied by all great hot rods -- rear-wheel-drive and a high powered engine.

Another key GM attraction on the Power Tour is the Steinmetz Catera concept car that was also shown at the Frankfurt Auto Show in mid-September.

"We pushed the envelope of Cadillac Catera with the Steinmetz," said John Smith, Cadillac's brand manager and GM vice president. "The rear-wheel-drive platform and superior handling of the Catera was perfect for what we had in mind."

The German-based Steinmetz Opel-Tuning, added a supercharger package that gives an 84 horsepower boost to Catera's standard 200-hp, 3.0-liter, dual-overhead-cam V6 engine. Other engine upgrades, like the intercooler, low back pressure stainless steel exhaust system and low restriction air cleaner assembly boosted the torque rating to 275 lb.-ft. at 5200 rpm.

An orange fire paint scheme set the Steinmetz Catera apart from its Catera cousins. Smith said a special four-stage paint process was used that "travels" from light to darker values, depending upon the proximity and intensity. A lower front grille, spoiler and sport mirrors complete the design.

Not to be left in the dust by futuristic possibilities, GM Powertrain has a 1993 Camaro Z28 on the tour that will change the face of auto racing in Y2K by putting the "stock" back into stock car racing.

The 430-horse, LS1 engine in the Camaro Z28 will become the required powerplant for vehicles competing in the American Speed Association (ASA) short track racing series next year. It was built at the GM Powertrain Romulus Assembly Plant, with only a handful of non-production engine components.

"The most important immediate impact of this new engine is that it breeds greater competition," said Rick Dunagan, of GM Powertrain. "Talented teams who couldn't afford high-ticket engines will now be back in the race because engines will cost race teams $10,000 instead of $30,000 for hand-built ones."

Other Chevrolet demonstration vehicles on the nine-day Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour include a canary yellow '55 Chevy powered by the new LS1 small-block engine, a 1999 T1 Corvette and a 1989 Camaro Z28 that showcases a smog-legal engine conversion kit for 1982-87 Camaros and Firebirds.

"These vehicles have had their performance upgraded, using off-the-shelf GM Performance Parts," said Mark McPhail, an engineer with the GM Raceshop who oversaw the vehicle conversions. "They provide enthusiasts with inspiration and practical tips on what can be done in their own garages." Factory GM engineers who investigate ways to improve performance in automobiles will be at the Chevrolet display each evening of the tour to talk one-on-one with local people who visit the cruise-in about their own hot rod projects. They will also act as Chevrolet Motor Medics, helping diagnose mechanical problems with participant vehicles and locating parts.

Participating Chevrolet dealers will have the new Silverado, Monte Carlo, Impala, Corvette, Camaro and other performance-oriented vehicles on display at each cruise-in site along the route.


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