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Camaro SS 1LE Set To Devour Boss 302

New model for '13 adds ZL1-type suspension goodies.

By , Photography by GM, GM Media Services

Chevy has announced a new model for 2013. It's designed to be an open track monster and it's not called Z28. The Bow Tie division has pulled another option code from the past, this time out of the third- and fourth-gen files. It's called Camaro 1LE and it is set to take on Ford's Boss 302 Mustang.

The road-racing inspired Camaro 1LE performance package returns for 2013 with unique gearing, suspension tuning, and tires that makes the model capable of more than 1g of lateral acceleration and a sub-three minute lap time at Virginia International Raceway's Grand Course, according to Chevy. It is offered on Camaro SS coupes with manual transmissions.

Camaro-philes will remember that the 1LE was a a "Special Performance Components Package" introduced in the 1989 model year to make the F-body an all-out handler and was (according to Chevy) inspired by Camaro's involvement in Pro-Am road racing.

The latest 1LE will bridge the performance gap between the standard SS and the expensive ZL1. There are certain differences in the hardware, naturally--Magnetic Ride is not available on the 1LE--but it is tuned to be a much better performing car than the SS.

"The Camaro 1LE combines the best elements of the SS and ZL1 to take road-racing performance to a whole new level," said Al Oppenheiser, Camaro chief engineer. "That the 1LE breaks the three-minute lap at VIR puts it in the upper echelon of performance cars. That it starts under $40,000 makes the Camaro 1LE one of the most affordable, most capable track-day cars offered by any manufacturer."

In anticipation of consumers entering the 1LE in amateur-racing events, Chevrolet is pursuing SCCA approval of the 1LE package for Touring Class competition.

For 2013, all Camaro SS models (including the 1LE) will feature standard variable-effort electric power steering and an available dual-mode exhaust system. Both features were introduced on the ZL1. The 1LE package goes on sale this fall with the 2013 Camaro line. Pricing will be released later this year.

For 2013, the 1LE package is offered only on 1SS and 2SS coupe models, featuring a 6.2L LS3 V-8, which is rated at 426 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. In addition, 1LE is only available with a six-speed manual transmission.

While the Camaro SS features a Tremec TR6060-M10 for all-around performance, the Camaro 1LE features an exclusive Tremec TR6060-MM6. Paired with a numerically higher 3.91 final-drive ratio, the close-ratio gearing of the transmission is tuned for road-racing performance. As with the ZL1, the 1LE transmission features a standard air-to-liquid cooling system for track use.

The 1LE also features exclusive, monotube rear dampers instead of the twin-tube dampers on SS models. The new hardware allowed engineers to tune the 1LE suspension to focus on optimal body-motion control while preserving much of the ride quality and wheel-motion control of the Camaro SS. As we noted above, the ZL1's MR shocks are not available, however, they will be tuned for improved handling.

Other changes to optimize the 1LE for track-day use include:

  • Larger, 27-mm solid front stabilizer bar, and 28-mm solid rear stabilizer bar for improved body control
  • Higher-capacity rear-axle half shafts to cope with increased levels of traction
  • Strut tower brace for improved steering feel and response
  • ZL1-based 20 x 10-inch front and 20 x 11-inch aluminum wheels
  • 285/35ZR20 Goodyear Eagle Supercar G:2 tires front and rear (identical to the front tires for ZL1)
  • ZL1 wheel bearings, toe links and rear shock mounts for improved on-track performance
  • ZL1 high-capacity fuel pump and additional fuel pickups for improved fuel delivery during high-cornering

Visually, the 1LE package for 2013 is distinguished by its matte-black hood, front splitter and rear spoiler--as well as the 10-spoke ZL1-based wheels, which are finished in black. The functional front splitter and rear spoiler contribute to the car's on-track performance by helping to reduce aerodynamic lift at high speeds.

Inside, the 1LE package incorporates the ZL1's flat-bottom steering wheel, trimmed in sueded-microfiber. The 1LE also gets the ZL1's short-throw shifter trimmed in suede-like microfiber.

Perhaps the best news is that all 2013 Camaro SS models, including the 1LE, will get the ZL1's electric power steering, which light-years better than what's on the current SS. The variable ratio, variable effort system provides light efforts for easy maneuverability at parking-lot speeds as well as increased resistance at higher speeds. This provides more feedback, and a more direct steering feel, to the driver.

Also new for 2013 is an available dual-mode exhaust system, available on Camaro SS models with the LS3 V8 engine and six-speed manual transmissions. Similar to the systems found on the ZL1 and Corvette models, this vacuum-actuated system provides a quieter driving experience at low engine speeds and a more aggressive sound at high engine speeds.

We can't wait to get our hands on a 1LE-equipped Camaro. We especially like the ability to get 3.91 gears. This will really help get the portly F-body out of the hole. The ZL1 is an amazing handler and the 1LE package will hopefully put its capabilities in the hands of those unable to afford the might ZL1.

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