02-29-2012, 08:04 PM
I used to be Dragoneye...
Drives: 2014 Camaro 1LE
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Buffalo, NY
Dinner with Chevy
The dinner bell rang (not really, but you’d think there would be one in this very woodsy-looking area), and Chevy invited us to “the Gallery”….which is actually a Barn in the center of the circuit. They had four ZL1 in there (five if you count the black one parked…sideways), along with a couple dozen plush couches and stools placed in front of a screen they used to present some impressive data points to us. At this point, it’s nothing new – the ZL1 lapped the grand course at VIR in a blistering 2:52.4 – a full 6 seconds faster than the quickest recorded time for a GT500 SVT. Together with the Corvette, these two cars help Chevy claim that one in three sports cars sold in the United States are Chevrolets. How awesome is that?! At the end of the presentation…Al told us, with what I thought was a gleam in his eye: “And we’re not done.” I’m looking forward to that…whatever “that” is!
After dinner we had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the ZL1 engineers…Aaron Link graciously took me through the basics of tire-tread design: these aren’t your off-the-shelf Eagle F1s…they are tailored specifically to the ZL1. And he briefly explained the ins and outs of the MR system. Note to users: Performance Traction Management is aware that the car was designed with Eagle F1:G2 supercar tires. These means it expects a certain contact patch, deformation under load, and traction values (among other things) to be present when it adjusts power delivery and MR stiffness. Replacing these tires with a different brand won’t hurt anything, and may increase available traction for skilled drivers with the nannies off – but PTM won’t work as effectively as it does with the Goodyears.
Tom Peters gave us an overview of the ZL1’s aesthetics; highlighting the aggressive, menacing appearance of the front end and how the splitter was similar in height to the Corvette Z cars. He explained that the ZL1 was originally conceived with the highly recognizable Bumblebee hood scoop: it was to be functional, too! It was decided, however, that the engine did not benefit enough from this enhanced induction method – so the idea was scrapped in favor of the extractors you see today. They claim to have touched every part of this car during ZL1 development…if the change/replacement didn’t help further the goal of building the ultimate Camaro – it wasn’t put on the car. The only possible exception to this rule could be the suede on the dashboard. Tom also made sure to mention that the stance and width of the wheels, as they extend ever so slightly out from under the fender flares is a “designers dream”. Not only does a wide tire serve a functional purpose – but it looks awesome!!
The convertible he was using as a demo was equipped with the exposed carbon fiber hood, and let me tell you – it is GORGEOUS. It shifts hue in the light…reminding me of snakeskin, below the same UV-blocking clear coat as the Corvette ZR1 uses. I was also shown the level of perfection they’re looking for in these inserts…On this particular car, there is a single strand of carbon fibers that came loose from the fabric. It appears as a crack in the composite, until you touch it and realize it’s below the surface – structurally, there is no effect. But a single thread like this will be rejected for use – and the pieces are notoriously hard to make as it is.
Tony Roma walked me through the undercarriage of the black ZL1 I thought it’d be fun to tease you guys with…From front to back, everything you can see has some ZL1-specific intent. The front splitter feeds to the belly pans that seal off the engine compartment – normally manufacturers shy away from this, they prefer to at least put an air dam down there to release some drag. But Camaro engineers thought differently, and they wanted complete control of airflow under the car. By sealing off the engine bay, they eliminated most of the front-end lift that occurs when air exits below the engine. Further use of brake cooling and NACA ducting all help direct airflow to where it needs to be, rather than where it wants to go.
You can clearly see how the exhaust is straight-through, enhancing that thunderous exhaust note, and the bright too-thick-to-be-brake lines that travel down the center of the underbody are the differential cooling lines. These use the transmission pumps to feed fluid from a heat-exchanger in the bottom of the differential to the radiators up front.
In order to achieve the superior levels of control that they have with the ZL1, that meant restricting movement as much as they could from the rear sub frame and linkages. They’ve replaced the cradle bushings with solid rubber pieces, what Tony referred to as “hockey pucks”. These trade off a little noise/vibration/harshness for control of the rear wheels as you go over bumps. They’ve also revised the stabilizer bars to keep the car impressively flat and swapped relatively compliant bushings out for ball joints on the toe links. What this all adds up to is a very stable Independent Rear suspension assembly that they then applied Magnetic Ride Control to achieve the ultimate in control and active handling.
Fun fact: The rear half-shafts of the ZL1 has more torque capacity (yet are lighter and smaller) than the front half-shafts of a GM 3500 HD truck!!
Besides being very well-fed and having a chronic case of perma-grin, I walked away from this presentation/dinner with two very distinct impressions:
1) The Camaro team is VERY proud of their creation; every single one of them oozed confidence with regards to the car’s capabilities in general and versus the competition. They have built the ZL1 with a comprehensive strategy to produce something that is track-capable from the factory, where every part is fully integrated and works seamlessly together. This is in contrast to building a “base car” where options and parts need to be added later – the ability for everything to work optimally in this manner is greatly reduced. Camaro team made no compromises over performance with the ZL1.
2) They know what they’ve built – and they’re serious about backing that up. They WILL honor the warranty of ZL1s that have been to the track and back – as long as it’s been unmodified. The honest opinion is that the car’s foundations are so strong; it’s unlikely anything will break in OEM form. There is a common-sense caveat: don’t go ‘round a turn and downshift into first at 65mph…if you spin a bearing or throw a rod: This is not a defect in workmanship or materials – it is abuse. Obviously, they know this car very well…so I would (personally) not advise anyone to try to slip something by…there are few ZL1s produced next to other Camaros…a claim on a robust part will be a bright red flag at the team’s warranty meetings…
Please take a moment to look at the silver picture they had hung up on the wall...the team said they had that picture blown up to gargantuan scale on the wall of the design studio - and told their people: "Make me this".