1. Now – on to the Z/28……..
I’ve said many times: “Wanna get a good fight going? Ask Camaro enthusiasts which is the ‘top’ Camaro – Z28 or SS………..”
-- and then put on a crash helmet and watch the fur fly……..
Everyone has their opinion and 90 percent have an opinion that THEY are correct in their beliefs and that those with a different opinion are completely wrong and perhaps motivated by the Devil himself……………….
The new Z/28 has blown some people away and we’re getting emails and letters and phone calls saying “THANK YOU! You FINALLY understand what a Z/28 really is after all these years of ruining the nameplate!.....”
It also has some people saying:
“You RUINED it! I can’t get *insert favorite option here* and so you are a bunch of…..*insert foul words here*….”
“ ……what do you MEAN it’s not a drag car???......”
“…..this car should come in at 40K!...” (even though we’ve not discussed price as of yet—and frankly, 40K is as attainable as me being elected as President of the United States……….)
(and for those who think the Z/28 should be 40K – take a 1LE and start counting the costs of all the awesomeness we’ve added to the Camaro in order to make it a true Z/28 – and then take into consideration the costs for engineering and validating – and then consider we have to ensure we don’t lose money on the program….)
Let’s take a walk down memory lane, shall we?
The ONLY reason for the original Z/28…
(note I once again used ‘Z/28’ and not ‘Z28)
….. was to go road racing. SCCA Trans Am racing had a rule that no competing car in the series could have an engine displacement larger than 305 cubic inches.
Our Camaro SS-396 was FAST…..but it wasn’t really a ‘track’ car. So the purpose of the Z/28 was to compete in Trans Am Racing – meaning it had to stick to the road like Velcro. Tidbit: None of the 602 1967 model year Camaros with option code Z28 had a nameplate that said Z/28 on them. It really wasn’t meant to be a main-stream entry.
As we moved into the 2nd gen years, the SCCA engine rule went by the wayside…….. And with increasingly stringent fuel and emissions standards, performance was on the wane……at a startling rate. Fast-rising insurance rates certainly didn’t help things…… And by the early 70s, there really wasn’t room for both a Camaro SS and a Z/28 as we knew them. By 1974, performance was so diminished that the Z/28 was dropped at the end of the model year because it had become to many of us a ‘caricature’ of what it once had been. The SS had been taken from the line up at the end of 1972…….
When the Z28 came back in 1977 (note the difference in the name…..there was no “/”….) it was definitely a road hugger – and it DID offer more performance than any other From then on – whether right or wrong, the Z28 was the ‘performance’ Camaro….until the IROC came along. The Z28 was then relegated to ‘2nd fiddle’ and that didn’t set well with Z/28 purists. But – on the other hand, the Camaro was the “International Race Of Champions” chosen brand – and one could go down to their Chevy Dealer and buy a new Camaro – an IROC Camaro – that sure looked a lot like the real race car.
…….And then Chevy pulled out of IROC racing -- and the Z28 was once again the ‘ultimate’ Camaro…that is, unless you ordered one with 1LE.
Fast forward once again to the advent of the 4th gen. We offered a Camaro Sport Coupe with a V6 engine – or a V-8 Camaro Z28 with an LT1 small-block with a ‘blistering’ 275 horsepower.
(to some of you young-uns – that was a LOT of horsepower in 1993….)
Yes – the Z28 was the ‘ultimate’ Camaro back then………and then Ed Hamburger at SLP Engineering came to us and said something along the lines of: “….Chevy -You’ve done a magnificent job with the Z28 – but I’ve got plans to take it to the next level…”
and we said “Sure!” …and the Camaro SS roared back to life. That also put the Z28 as ‘second-in-line’ and again, Camaro Z/28 purists were not happy! I very much remember getting several phone calls, letters, and emails that weren’t –shall we say – ‘charitable’ in their content…..
It all became moot when the Camaro went onto Hiatus in the late summer of 2002……..and I continued to say to you, our Camaro Enthuiasts – to “keep the faith…” - -that GM understood the importance of the Camaro nameplate. Yes, there were a few people within the corporation that proposed moving the name to the J-car platform.
(….they were last seen being shoved into a fleet of black suburbans – never to be seen again…….)
As John Heinricy said in a meeting that I attended: “The ugliest sight I can imagine would be tire smoke coming from the FRONT tires of a Camaro!..”)
As I’d said before, as Custodians of the Brand, it was crucial that we ensure that the 5th gen Camaro build upon it’s rich 35 year heritage. And yet, as I mentioned earlier in this article, we were questioned at every step of the way. And that’s not a bad thing, I suppose.
We felt so strongly about the heritage of Camaro and ensuring that the new Camaro would “check all the boxes” that were important to Camaro Enthusiasts - that we drafted the 15 members of the Camaro Enthusiast Advisory Board (better known as ‘The 12 Disciples of which there are 15’)
So—after all that: The 5th gen Camaro hit the streets and blew people away…..it’s still #1 in the segment – so I think the team did a pretty good job, don’t you agree?
At the same time, we’d been working on a Camaro that took performance way past our SS. It had been in the product plan for some time – but with the Housing Melt-down of the mid to late 2000s – and the resultant Bankruptcy of GM (and Chrysler and many vendors) the “HP” Camaro was put on ice. That the “HP” car was put back into the program was a miracle in and of itself. Interestingly, it was internally called the “HP” and kept top secret….. but the intended name was to be Z28. Talk about controversy. There were emails, letters, threats, banging-on-desks – and perhaps some thinly veiled threats made……and it was finally decided that the original Z/28 had a naturally aspirated V8 engine. The “HP” Camaro was to have a supercharged engine…….so perhaps the Z/28 moniker wasn’t really appropriate. Our President, Mr. Mark Reuss – himself a Camaro Enthusiast since the time he was able to recognize a Camaro – made the final call…..the “HP” would be christened “ZL1.” What you DON’T know is that he had another plan in mind for the Z/28.
(Note the “/”…..)
Volumes will be written about the 2014 Z/28 – but what’s important to understand is that while we made “Z28” enthusiasts happy over the years with 275hp – and then 285hp – and then an LS1 based Z28………we continually disappointed the “Z/28” purist.
The 2014 is dedicated to the “Z/28” purist. This is a track car that makes no excuses. That this car is a full three seconds faster on a track than the mighty ZL1 speaks volumes to its intent. Make no mistake – this isn’t a slap at the mightly ZL1. Far from it. If you want a car that blows other cars off a road course on Saturday and Sunday – and yet will get you to the office in comfort on Monday morning – the ZL1 is the car for you. If you want blistering track performance at a reasonable cost – the 1LE is prescribed. And – if you want to shame exotics on a road course – with an automobile that’s not meant for daily driving, then the Z/28 makes no apologies and may grab you by the collar – shake you silly -- and shout “LET’S GO MAKE HISTORY!”
So—that’s been a lot of words.
And that’s my take on why we’ve done what we’ve done.
Many already understood before I started typing away.
Some others now have a better understanding.
Yet others will say “Scott – go take a long walk on a short dock…..” Some of those are true Camaro enthusiasts and just are upset that what we’ve done isn’t in keeping with what they’d like or prefer.
And then there are the trolls………….who like nothing more than to start something……….
As I said at the very beginning…..we at Team Camaro are ‘The Custodians of the Brand” – and we take our jobs very seriously. Every decision is in many ways, agonizing. But – we have to make hard and fast decisions.
And yes – it hurts when we’re constantly ‘called on the carpet’ – and yet rarely if ever get an apology afterward. We have broad shoulders and our skin is tough…but it IS discouraging and a bit frustrating to be constantly insulted. And for an old codger like me (I’m quite certain I’m the oldest in the group…..) I tend to lose my temper more than I used to when people become ‘surly’…..
So – in the final analysis…………
……….we hope you’ll go check out the family of 2014 Camaros when they become available. We hope that the family Camaros will offer you a great spread of choices
Let me introduce the family……….
>323 horsepower LS and LT
>400 horsepower SS
>426 horsepower SS
>426 horsepower SS/1LE
>580 horsepower ZL1
And the new Camaro Z/28…….
…every one of them designed, engineered, and built to instill “Perma-Grin.”
What’s not to love?
Thanks for taking the time to read my ruminations and I hope you’ve got a better understanding of ‘why’………..
It’s the best time EVER to be a Camaro Enthusiast.
Note: The opinions shared in this email are the opinions of ME….and not necessarily those of the company for whom I work.....