Ever since my wife decided that I wanted a new Camaro, I have been trolling and trying to find out what is available and what I want. Honestly, even going through the Chevy car builder wasn't clear enough. Since then, I've gotten everything straightened out.
But I wondered why everyone was waiting around specifically for a Z/28. To me, everything seemed to be covered. So, I did a little poking around on the Internet and this is what I found out.
(I don't claim to be an expert - this is just what I've picked up, which may be way off. And I am paraphrasing a lot. Please correct if you know better.)
Here's what we know historically:
The COPO started out in 1969 as a specialty order. It came with the ZL1 427 engine intended for NHRA and IHRA competition. It produced about 550hp, though I don't know if that's using modern methods of measurment. There was also a 1969 Corvette ZL1.
The ZL1 was originally an option package for the COPO as previously mentioned. To get a ZL1, you had to order RPO L78 375hp Camaro with the COPO 9560 code. There were 2 Camaro production prototypes badged ZL1.
IROC - International Race of Champions upgrades.
The 1LE started as a brake upgrade RPO and eventually added a fuel tank redesign to avoid starving the fuel-injection pump, better gear ratio for more torque at higher gears to reverse fuel economy considerations, and wound up with shock and suspension upgrades in the 4th-gen Camaro 1LE. The fuel tank redesign became standard on all Camaros. GM discontinued the 1LE in '99, but could be obtained on Camaro SS and Firebird Firehawks via SLP in 2001. The 1LE package could also be added to the Z/28. As I recall, all of these 1LE features appear in the current 5th-gen Camaro 1LE package. Hell, the current 1LE looks like it includes most of the IROC upgrades.
The RS package has always been cosmetic featuring a deluxe interior and hidden headlights when originally introduced. (Which I think looks bitchin' and should have been included in the 5th-gen RS package.)
As near as I can tell, the Super Sport was a model that came with a big block engine, upgraded suspension and larger tires at around 295 horsepower, placing it below the Z/28 package in the hierarchy.
Now, the Z/28 was created for Trans/Am racing. It was an RPO code with the 302 small block rated at about 390hp, (again, I don't know what measurment meathods are used to get that number). It was considered a "special performance package". It lacked bottom-end power and could have the 1LE package added to it. The suspension was upgraded, it had rally wheels, and power front disc brakes. It also included "broad" racing stripes for improved torque at lower gears.
So, the modern COPO release makes sense.
The Gen-5 ZL1 does not, as the ZL1 was an engine package upgrade to the COPO and never went into production originally. Perhaps the current ZL1 was what Chevy originally had in mind for production. I think I can accept that.
The Gen-5 Camaro Super Sport kinda makes sense as the base 8-cylinder. It's in the middle of the performance and power range.
The modern 1LE package makes sense as it can be added to, (in theory), any Camaro that needs it.
There is no reason to believe Chevy will release an IROC Z28 because IROC no longer exists for lack of sponsorship since 2007.
I've seen people mention that ZL1 + 1LE = Z/28. This doesn't make sense either, as a lot of what goes into the 1LE package reflects the existing ZL1, if not an inferior version. I don't think a 1LE plus ANYTHING will make a Z/28. The Z/28 must stand on its own and must take a back seat to the ZL1, and stay ahead of the stock LS3/SS.
I'm starting to think an LS7 is too much for the Z/28 because with that engine, it's basically a naturally aspirated ZL1. Frankly, I think the ZL1 should have been the Z/28 with a ZL1 engine. But that's not what happened.
Where does that leave the Z/28? If we accept the ZL1 as the spiritual successor to the original ZL1 that never got produced, then a Z/28 would be a gimped ZL1. I see it as having close to 500hp stock, with the 1LE available to it. It would also have to hit about the $45K price point. I don't see Chevy actually competing directly with each of Ford's Mustang models. They haven't really yet - I don't see them starting any time soon.