The gearbox is in Fourth, the throttle is buried to the firewall, and I’m rocketing uphill toward a blind right-hander. The thrust is unreal, and all I can see ahead is a windshield full of gray sky. Then you remember: The new 2014 Chevy Camaro Z/28 is equipped with “Flying Car Mode.” Really. For a moment I wonder: Will I get frequent flyer miles for this?
Somewhere in the Performance Traction Management system of the new Camaro Z/28 is Flying Car Mode. This way, if you’re on a track somewhere and you get airborne, the car will keep accelerating when you land. This is the first time it’s been used in an application without magnetic ride. On a 30-degree February day at Barber Motorsports Park, it’s not the flying part I’m concerned about, but the landing.
As you get closer to the top of the hill, you see part of the track’s timing tower. “Just aim the car at that,” instructed Mark Dickens, Chevrolet’s director of Performance Variants, Performance Parts and Motorsports Engineering—he’s also an accomplished race driver with an extensive SCCA background. If he has that much faith in the Camaro Z/28 with me behind the wheel, well, the gas pedal will remain pressed to the floor. After you crest the hill, you can feel your stomach bottom out. As long as you remain pointed toward the tower, you’re golden. The new Z/28 lands perfectly, and I let it drift out to the edge of the track. No muss, no fuss, just pure adrenaline rush.
That’s what the newest, most expensive street Chevy Camaro ever is about. It’ll do whatever you want, whatever you’re capable of on a racetrack, and then some. With the new Z/28, Chevrolet fears nothing. When we got the invitation to drive it at the Birmingham, Alabama, track, the email said, “Bring whatever you want for comparison.” Anything? Yes, anything. Some of the motoring scribes brought Porsche 911 turbos, another a Nissan GTR—that all-wheel-drive, twice-turbo’d beast with a reputation for spanking Ferraris. While those are serious rides, whom the heck do we know that owns something like this? Instead, we made an inquiry to the American Street Car Series, and got hooked up with Brian Finch and his 1971 Chevy Camaro g-machine. Like the Camaro Z/28, Brian’s second-gen employs LS7 power, but one that exhibits severe ’roid rage. Not content with a mere 505 hp, the Kurt Urban Performance–built plant churns out an asphalt-torturing 660 horses at 7,200 rpm and 605 lb-ft at 5,800.
Underneath the white machine are the best parts from Detroit Speed, JRI remote reservoir four-way adjustable coilover shocks, a Viper six-speed gearbox, and six-piston, 14-inch Baer brakes at each corner. This car is no joke—and Brian’s raced and autocrossed it all over the country. He finished Fourth in the ’13 Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge in Las Vegas, yet the car’s so docile and reliable, Brian had no qualms about driving it three hours from his home in Tennessee to Barber. No trailer, no tire swaps, no problem.
As for the new Chevy Camaro Z/28, Chevrolet’s thrown everything it’s ever learned about track performance into it, and then some. For dampers, it went to Formula 1 supplier Multimatic. When testing at Germany’s Nürburgring, the Multimatic people could get feedback from the drivers and laser-drill new shocks on the spot for installation and further evaluation. The Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve system in the shocks regulates the oil flow for more control. They’re lighter than the magnetic ride shocks used in the ZL1 (and Corvette), and gave the engineers more tuning capabilities at the limit.
It marks the first time Multimatic’s high-performance DSSV damper technology has been made available in a “volume” production road car application. All DSSV dampers employ a pair of proprietary self-piloted spool valves to provide highly accurate suspension control. Fluid flow through the spool valve’s ports can be mathematically modeled, and their shape fine-tuned, to achieve a desired damper Force/Velocity (F/V) characteristic. Various motorsports tuning techniques were utilized in combination with the analytically driven damper characterization to fully optimize the Z/28 suspension, including multi-post shaker rig testing, driver-in-the-loop simulation, as well as road and track evaluation.
For brakes, they stepped up to Brembo carbon ceramic rotors for the ultimate in repeatable stopping power. These things are preposterously large—15.5 x 1.4 inches front and 15.3 x 1.3 inches back—and provide enough stopping force to launch your sunglasses off your face. And they’ll do that time and time again without fading. Compared with conventional brake discs, drivers experience a 10 percent increase in friction coefficient, and system operating temperatures 5 percent below the average of cast-iron brake discs. The carbon ceramic discs are paired with monobloc aluminum calipers (six-piston fronts and four-piston rears), designed specifically for weight savings and drag reduction. The first time I braked for Turn 1, they slowed the Z/28 so hard I had to accelerate again to reach my turn-in point.
Even the legendary LS7 engine in the ’14 was not immune to tinkering. The bottom end was fortified with Pankl forged connecting rods and Mahle forged pistons. For the first time in a Chevy Camaro, there’s a dry-sump oiling system to keep everything lubricated in the high-g-load environment the engine will live under (max rpm is 7,100).
The engineers so sweat the details that even the Bow Tie emblem in the grille was altered. Using a Dremel, it was hollowed out to provide 2.5 more cubic feet per minute air to the radiator at speed. It is known within the engineering group now as the Flow Tie.
The wheel bead seats are mediablasted to keep the tires from slipping on the rims during braking and cornering—it’s a racing trick necessitated by the car’s outlandish grip and stopping power. (It’ll pull 1.08 g on the skidpad, and 1.5 g during braking.) Speaking of the tires, they’re 305/35R19 Pirelli Trofeo R models all around. The treadwear is 60, so it’s pretty much a DOT-legal race tire. They definitely like a lot of heat to perform at their peak, which took a couple of laps on this subfreezing track. But once they came up to temp, hang on.
As for Finch’s rollers, they’re gorgeous Forgeline CF3C Concave rims (18x11, 18x12) wrapped in BFG Rival tires (315/30 front, 335/30 rear). The treadware rating is 200, giving the new Z an advantage, but this is what Brian competes on, and they’re excellent tires. After our track day, he simply drove three hours home back to Tennessee with no concerns about the weather. Brakes are 14-inch Baers, with six-piston calipers behind each wheel.