Pete Epple Technical Editor
December 17, 2009
Photos By: Patrick Hill, Justin Cesler

In the first few installments of project Shake 'N Bake, our resident Mach 1, we threw on some basic bolt-ons to free up a few ponies and stiffen the chassis for a solid foundation. Until this point, our testing included time at the dragstrip, an unsuccessful attempt at the autocross, and a lot of street miles. Now it's time to really dig in.

In the coming months, Shake 'N Bake is going to see some major suspension upgrades, as well as a lot of open-track and autocross time. But right now it's time to put the mildly modified suspension through its paces to see how well it performs prior to any future improvements. In the process, we are also going to compare two sets of Nitto tires to see how the new NT05 street tires hold up against the NT01 R-compound hides.

The MM&FF staff headed to Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida, which played host to our series of handling tests. After logging a fair amount of street time, we decided to ditch the mismatched tires that came with the purchase of the car. Despite the meaty 315/35R17 rear hides and 275/40R17s up front, they lacked greatly in the grip department-these tires are rock hard and don't even have a treadwear rating.

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To get an idea of how our Mach 1 handled, we started the tests on the Nitto tires that will now be daily equipment, the NT05s. Latemodel Restoration Supply sentus a set of SVE 10th Anniversary Cobra replica wheels, and we opted for black rims with a machined lip to go with the black accents on our Mach 1. Our new wheels came in at 18x9-inches in the front and 18x10-inches in the rear, and would soon be wrapped in 275/35ZR18 and 295/35ZR18 Nitto NT05 rubber.

"The NT05 is designed for high-performance street applications," explains Alan Ngo, staff engineer for Nitto. "It's a blend of the NT555 and the NT01. The NT05 has two polyester plys that wrap across the tread surface and around the bead to provide extra sidewall stability. One of the layers continues past the bead into the underside of the tread, essentially giving you a third polyester ply."

We previously tested a set on Project Superfly, Destroyer of Hideous Camaros, (July '09) with fantastic results. To get an idea of what the NT05 was all about, we put it up against the NT01. "The NT01 is designed for dry competition use," added Ngo. "It is built with a softer 'R' [race] compound, and a tread design that starts at 6/32-inch and can be shaved to 3/32-inch, essentially leaving a slick with two grooves." The NT01 also sports a greater contact patch-more tire on the ground equals more grip. Although it is DOT-compliant, the NT01 is not designed for daily use.

Skidpad
When we arrived at Gainesville, we headed right for the 300-foot skidpad. We started running clockwise laps (three revolutions at a clip to prevent engine oil from getting away from the pickup) and clocked our times with a stopwatch. After a few rotations, we switched directions and and did the same. As our times were being calculated, we jacked up the Mach 1 and switched to the 275/35 ZR18 NT01s.

Not surprisingly, our Mach came away with some impressive results. Average lateral grip with the NT05s was 0.93g's. That says a lot for Nitto's street tire. We were hoping to see at lease 1.0 g with the NT01s and they didn't disappoint. After our final calculations, we had 1.03g's of lateral grip with the NT01s. If you still need a reference point to see how well these tires performed, those rock-hard hides we got rid of only checked in at 0.79g's. With both sets, even at the limit, the car was predictable, with a slight amount of understeer.

Slalom
The next test for our Mach 1 was the slalom. The 420-foot course had six cones at 70 feet apart, and we started with the NT01s. The idea is to drive through the cones as fast as possible, while maintaining control. This shows the ability of the car to switch back and forth quickly.

After a few warm-up runs, we let the Mach 1 loose. The handling characteristics between the NT01s and NT05s were not incredibly different, but noticeable. The tread and sidewall design of the NT05s give it great rigidity and stability during high-speed cornering-much like the NT01.

Once the numbers were computed, there was a 2-mph difference in average speed between the two sets of tires. The NT05s averaged 42.44 mph through the cones, while the NT01s came away with a 44.28-mph average. As predicted, the 01s had more bite on initial turn-in and more overall grip. The Mach was really tossable and it was easy to maintain overall control. During this maneuver the tires gave great feedback.

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