When Chevrolet rolled out the current Camaro what seems like 60 years ago, everyone was up in arms with excitement on a muscle car dog fight in the 21st Century. You see, Dodge had just brought back its Challenger, Ford was actually making the Mustang handle like a European sports car, and the Camaro was supposed to look like Austin Powers delivered it from the summer of love himself.
While the new Camaro is loved by many, it’s actually not that great looking, has a pretty horrid interior, and is just okay to drive. The shifter requires a hand the size of Shaq, and the steering wheel’s about as comfy to use sportingly as a bigger gentleman spooning with you in a prison cell.
Regardless, there’s no denying the popularity of the Camaro, and congratulations to Chevy for it. In fact, they’ve got the most watch advertisement of all-time with their Ms. Evelyn’s “Wild Ride” Super Bowl commercial.
But finally for me, this special Camaro has a steering wheel that looks good, appears as though it’ll feel good to use, a shift knob that won’t require my best four-finger changeup, and a face that would scare a child. The interior still looks just decent enough to be usable. It’s not called a Z28 like everyone was hoping/expecting. It’s the ZL1, which is so much more awesome and nostalgic. I wish it were the Z-L1 like the original ’69 cars were spelled. But that’s neither here nor there. The car is expected to produce roughly 550 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque; two monstrous sets of digits, if I may say so myself.
Now you’re probably wondering why calling a Camaro the ZL1 is so nostalgic, right? Well, if you weren’t, prepare for a short history lesson anyway. In 1969, the COPO Camaros were hot tickets (Central Office Production Order), because you could get your car just the way you wanted it. And with a special order car, that meant a very special engine; and in the case of the Camaro, you had the choice of an iron block and head L72, or the aluminum block and head ZL-1.
The L72 was a 7-liter 427 cu.-in. engine making 425 hp at 5,600 rpm and 460 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. It was a very powerful motor. But with the ZL-1, you got 430 peak horsepower at 5,200 rpm but only 450 peak torque at 4,400 rpm, with the same 7-liter 427 motor, except it was a beefed up aluminum head L88 V8 motor with an aluminum block. The first Camaro to do so. The engine alone came in at around 500 lbs, which was the same as a standard 327-cid V8.
Both cars are rare collector items, but the ZL-1 was the more interesting of the two. You see, it was developed as a stock dragster motor with famous Camaro drag racer Dick Harrell in mind. Or as he was widely known, “Mr. Chevrolet.” So the engine was meant to be ordered and shipped in a Camaro to guys who were going to be doing a lot of NHRA stock drag racing events. Only 69 were ever produced, especially since the engine took 16 hours to hand assemble in a special area of the factory labeled by Zora Arkus-Duntov as “surgically clean”. The engine alone cost $4,160, which made a total vehicle price of $7,200. The average cost of a car in 1969 was a little over $3,000…
The original ZL-1 also had a 4:10.1 positraction rear-end (limited-slip differential in the ’50s-’70s), with heavier duty 4-speed manuals or Turbo Hydra-matic automatic transmissions. Otherwise, it was just a stripped SS trim cars.
Back to the current, 2012 ZL1 Camaro, though. The ZL1 is packed with the same supercharged 6.2-liter LSA V8 that comes crammed into the CTS-V of current. So while GM is claiming 550 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque, expect about 563 horsies with 550 lb-ft of torque, just the same as the CTS-V. Something that also comes from the ZR1 and Z06 Corvettes along with the CTS-V is the Magnetic Ride Control that will hopefully keep this monster well planted around any track in the world.
No word on the amount of weight the Camaro ZL1’s LSA motor will have to carry around with it, but expect something in the 3800-3900 lb area, similar to that of Ford’s GT500 Mustang.
Check out the video, pictures and press releases below:
ZL1: Chevrolet Camaro Enters The Realm Of Advanced Performance Technology
* LSA 6.2L supercharged engine will produce an estimated 550 horsepower (410 kW) and is matched with a six-speed manual transmission with a dual-disc clutch system
* Packed with performance technologies, highlighted by Magnetic Ride Control, and advanced materials – including a vented carbon fiber hood insert. Extensive aerodynamic development designed for high-performance driving
* Development ongoing, targeting launch at the beginning of 2012
CHICAGO – The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 debuted today at the Chicago Auto Show. It is the highest-performing Camaro and the most technically advanced car ever developed in its class. The new ZL1 continues the momentum of Camaro, propelling it into an entirely new realm of leading-edge performance technology. It is planned to launch at the beginning of 2012.
Motivated by a supercharged V-8 engine producing an estimated 550 horsepower (410 kW), the Camaro ZL1 will be the fastest Camaro ever offered by Chevrolet. And more than just power, the ZL1 features technologically advanced and highly developed chassis and suspension systems that help it deliver balanced, track-ready handling and braking power to complement its high engine output. Rigorous development of the ZL1 is ongoing, and official estimates of the car’s capabilities will be released later in 2011, as testing nears completion.
“Camaro ZL1 is about high-tech performance and design, and is a type of car no one has ever brought to this segment previously,” said Rick Scheidt, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. “It’s the most technically advanced Camaro ever, so we’ve chosen a name from the most elite and exclusive Camaro in history.”
The ZL1 name is derived from the all-aluminum racing engine of the same name, which was developed in the late 1960s and installed into a handful of regular-production 1969 Camaros. Only 69 were built with the engine, but they’ve achieved mythical status among enthusiasts, as they represented the pinnacle in Camaro performance – until now. The 2012 ZL1 model is designed to be a major leap forward for the Camaro, bringing a new level of performance capability to the segment.
The central goal of the car’s development was creating something new – a Camaro intended to reach optimal lap times on top road-racing circuits and excellent driving dynamics on the street. To achieve that goal, engineers evolved many of the existing Camaro’s systems, as well as incorporated new technologies such as electric power steering and Magnetic Ride Control, the world’s fastest-reacting suspension system.
Camaro ZL1’s design communicates and supports its performance mission. Rather than using decorative elements, ZL1 is visually differentiated from other current Camaro models with elements vital to the car’s elevated capabilities.
“Everything about the ZL1’s design is directly related to its technology and serious performance, especially aerodynamics,” said Ed Welburn, vice president, Global Design. “Our designers’ goal was to execute that function-oriented design with beautifully sculpted forms, creating an imposing, powerful persona. Function becomes the aesthetic. The intent is a car that delivers on the attitude it projects.”
Major elements of the ZL1’s design are a new front fascia and hood with air extractors, designed in tandem to create aerodynamic downforce to aid handling. The car’s hood includes a signature center section constructed of carbon fiber and rendered in satin black finish. New rocker panels, wide tires, 20-inch wheels and exhaust tips portray the car’s handling and power.
The ZL1 badge appears on the grille, hood and the brake calipers, all key areas portraying the technology within.
Supporting the dynamic track and street performance of the ZL1 is the LSA 6.2L supercharged engine, which will produce an estimated 550 horsepower (410kW) and 550 lb.-ft. of torque (677 Nm), with specific features for the Camaro. Built on GM’s legendary all-aluminum, small-block V-8 architecture, the LSA features an intercooled supercharger system, premium heat-resistant aluminum-alloy cylinder heads and other details designed to ensure its exceptional performance is delivered with smoothness and refinement. Components and design elements that contribute to the LSA’s performance include:
* Balanced, lightweight reciprocating assembly
* High-strength hypereutectic pistons
* Sixth-generation Eaton supercharger with four-lobe rotors
* Piston oil squirters.
Because the Camaro ZL1 uses electric power steering, the engine does not incorporate a conventional hydraulic power steering pump on its accessory drive system. This enhances performance, because no engine power is used to turn a steering pump pulley.
Camaro ZL1 is a complete high-performance car, not just a Camaro with more power. Key technical highlights include:
Transmission – The high-performance Tremec TR-6060 six-speed manual is matched with the LSA engine. It is the “MG9” version of the transmission, with a higher torque capacity. It is used with a dual-mass flywheel and twin-disc clutch for easy operation and shift smoothness. A new, shorter-throw shifter actuates the gear changes.
Exhaust – ZL1 is equipped with a dual-mode exhaust system, which alters the sound level and character in response to engine rpm. First used on the legendary Corvette, and specifically tuned for Camaro ZL1, the dual-mode exhaust will give the car a signature sound.
Drivetrain – It is revised with a stronger driveshaft and rear axle system, featuring a larger and stronger cast iron differential housing, stronger axles and heavy-duty limited-slip differential. This patent-pending system is designed to ensure that ZL1’s tremendous power is delivered smoothly to the ground.
Suspension – The suspension features completely revised tuning and the inclusion of segment-exclusive Magnetic Ride Control. ZL1’s Magnetic Ride system will include driver selectable modes (Tour and Sport) tailored for the preferred style of driving. It uses advanced magneto-rheological science to produce shock damping with the highest level of precision, enabling body control optimized for excellent performance in everyday driving as well as track situations. This technology appears on only a small roster of some of the world’s finest performance cars. Other chassis elements are redesigned to support the car’s high-performance limits. Rear stabilizer bars have drop links repositioned outboard of the control arms. This makes the bars more effective in controlling body roll in turns, with crisp response to driver commands.
Brakes and Steering – Camaro ZL1 features an advanced track-capable braking system, developed in conjunction with experts from Brembo. The large 14.6-inch (370 mm) two-piece front rotors have six-piston calipers; the 14.4-inch (365 mm) rear rotors have four-piston calipers. ZL1 marks the entry of a new electric power steering system to Camaro. It is being developed to ensure precise control and feedback to the driver, with greater variability of effort for high-performance driving.
Exterior – ZL1’s signature from the front is the redesigned fascia and aluminum hood with a raised, carbon fiber insert. The fascia includes a front splitter and new vertical fog lamps. The fog lamp area includes air intakes designed for brake cooling. The hood features front-mounted air extractors that direct air precisely over the car. Visually, this center section, in satin black carbon fiber, communicates the car’s high-performance intent as a visual contrast to the car’s exterior color. Functionally, the air extractor is a key in connecting airflow closely to the bodywork, creating aerodynamic downforce. The carbon fiber center section reduces the mass of the hood. High-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps and fog lamps are standard. The rear of the car includes a diffuser and spoiler, also functional elements that enhance the car’s aerodynamics.
Wheels and Tires – New-design, 20-inch forged aluminum wheels, which are lighter than the 20-inch wheels used on the Camaro SS, are used with new Goodyear Supercar F2 ties developed specifically for the ZL1.
Interior – ZL1 is tailored for high-performance driving. The front seats feature microfiber suede inserts. Other enhancements include a redesigned steering wheel, alloy pedals, Head-Up Display with unique performance readouts and the “four-pack” auxiliary gauge system featuring a boost readout.
All of the Camaro exterior colors will be offered with the ZL1, but black is the only interior color. The unique exterior features are complemented with a black center section on the hood. Inside, the Camaro ZL1 has heated leather seats with microfiber inserts and ZL1 logos embroidered on the front headrests. Microfiber suede is repeated as an accent on the instrument panel, adding a richer look to the interior. The ZL1 will include the same content as the current 2SS package and include the following new or unique features:
* Six-way power driver and passenger seats
* Unique instrument panel and door panel inserts; and ZL1-logo sill plates
* Steering wheel audio controls with Bluetooth capability
* Wireless PDIM and USB-port
* Boston Acoustics premium audio system
* Rear parking assist
* Rear camera system (displayed in the inside rearview mirror).
Engineers have already driven Camaro ZL1 prototypes extensively at demanding road courses in the U.S. and Germany, with final testing being completed through the balance of 2011.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Body style / driveline:
four-passenger, front-engine, rear-drive coupe
unitized body frame, one- and two-sided galvanized steel
EPA vehicle class:
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
LSA 6.2L Supercharged V-8
Displacement (cu in / cc):
376 / 6162
Bore & stroke (in / mm):
4.06 / 103.25 x 3.62 / 92 mm
Cylinder head material:
overhead valve, two valves per cylinder
1.9L supercharger with intercooler; sequential fuel injection
Horsepower (hp / kW @ rpm):
550 / 410 @ 6100 (estimated)
Torque (lb-ft / Nm @ rpm):
550 / 745 @ 3800 (estimated)
Maximum engine speed (rpm):
Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual
Gear ratios (:1):
Final drive ratio:
Chassis / Suspension
double-ball-joint, multi-link strut; direct-acting stabilizer bar; progressive-rate coil springs; with Magnetic Ride Control
4.5-link independent; progressive-rate coil springs over shocks; stabilizer bar; with Magnetic Ride Control
electric power steering with variable-ratio, variable-effort rack-and-pinion
Steering wheel turns, lock-to-lock:
Turning circle, curb-to-curb (ft / m):
four-wheel disc w/ ABS; ventilated two-piece front and one-piece rear rotors; six-piston fixed Brembo aluminum front and four-piston rear calipers
Rotor diameter, front (in / mm):
14.6 / 370
Rotor diameter, rear (in / mm):
14.4 / 365
Rotor thickness, front (in / mm):
1.26 / 32
Rotor thickness, rear (in / mm):
1.1 / 28
Wheels / Tires
Wheel size and type:
20 x 10-inch aluminum (front)
20 x 11-inch aluminum (rear)
P285/35ZR20 summer (front)
P305/35ZR20 summer (rear)
Wheelbase (in / mm):
112.3 / 2852
Overall length (in / mm):
190.4 / 4836
Overall width (in / mm):
75.5 / 1918
Overall height (in / mm):
54.2 / 1376
Track, front (in / mm):
63.7 / 1618
Track, rear (in / mm):
63.7 / 1618
Curb weight (lb / kg):
Weight balance (% front / rear):
Coefficient of drag:
Seating capacity (front / rear):
2 / 2
Headroom (in / mm):
front: 37.4 / 950
rear: 35.3 / 897
Legroom (in / mm):
front: 42.4 / 1077
rear: 29.9 / 757
Shoulder room (in / mm):
front: 56.9 / 1444
rear: 42.5 / 1080
Cargo volume (cu ft / L):
11.3 / 320
Fuel tank (gal / L):
19 / 71.9
Engine oil (qt / L):
8.9 / 8.5