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1972 Chevy Camaro Z28 - Classic Performance Products

This second-gen F-body shows you don’t have to break the bank for superb handling

By , Photography by Team Super Chevy

Some of our more veteran readers might recognize the name of John Barkley. John was a well-known and very successful Junior Stock racer back in the day, and has been working for Super Chevy's parent company for almost 25 years. Back in 1992, he came by a well-worn but running and complete '72 Camaro to build as a father and son project with his boy, Greg.

"We bought the Camaro as a clean running car for $1,400. It was sitting in a lot in Chino, California, with a For Sale sign. For the next year (I didn't get my license till I was 16) my dad and I took the whole car apart and rebuilt most everything. My dad's original goal was to build it to be equal or better than a third-gen IROC-Z. We were doing Pro Touring before there was Pro Touring," Greg explains.

The Camaro saw extensive duty cruising for about 15 years, with two long hauls on Power Tour, and other track-oriented events. At the beginning of 2012, the car's suspension and brakes were showing their age. So, it was time for an update. Since Greg didn't want to change the factory subframe, he went to Classic Performance Products (CPP) and threw its line of bolt-on suspension upgrades at the F-body.

Stock '70-'81 Camaros boast great suspension geometry, testified by how many aftermarket companies base their front suspensions of the second-gen F-body foundation. Improving upon the factory geometry, CPP's upper and lower tubular control arms provide further caster/camber improvements, along with sturdier construction and less flex than the factory control arms. This translates to a more stable and consistent suspension that can handle heavy G cornering and sudden load shifts as a car maneuvers through a given course.

Combined with the new control arms are CPP 1-inch drop springs and CPP-tuned Bilstein shocks. The stock sway bar was pitched for a CPP 1-3/8 diameter unit with billet mounting brackets. Baer 13-inch rotors and six-piston calipers hang from CPP 2-inch drop spindles, actuated by a special CPP master cylinder. Finishing things off are CPP's steering upgrades, including CPP's 500 series 14:1 ratio steering box and billet tie rod sleeves. In the back are Eaton 2-inch drop leaf springs relocated inside the stock spring perches, CPP 1-inch rear sway bar, Bilstein shocks with CPP spec'd valving, and CalTrac traction bars.

Motivation is courtesy a built 383 backed by a TCI 700-R4 trans with 2,500 stall converter, sending power to a factory 12-bolt rear with 3.73 gears and Eaton Positraction. The Camaro rolls on Weld RTS wheels wrapped in Nitto NT05 rubber.

On the Autocross
Three weeks later, I'm still blown away by how well this '72 Camaro performed. Of all the cars that I passed through my course, on paper this one would have been voted "least likely to succeed." No LS power, automatic trans, and sitting high atop the Nitto NT05s, the Camaro wasn't the fastest nor equipped with the widest Nitto rubber. Thankfully, it did have everything CPP offered as upgrades with the exception of two key suspension bits—the rear springs were definitely not CPP, and when I looked closely at the rear, a set of CalTrac bars peered back. I mean it in all sincerity when I say that this drag race and hard launch configuration isn't in any autocross suspension "How-To" manual. I drive what's given to me and still was feeling pretty optimistic I could get this car 'round well.

Predictably, the Camaro got off the line exceptionally well, and felt like it actually lifted itself up as it crossed the start timers. Entering the initial left-right transition before the crossover, I quickly found that this isn't a car you can lean on but rather one you pivot and slide to get it around a corner. There was absolutely no body movement felt nor the "sway delay" on directional changes that usually goes with it. This car is a rotating machine and under full throttle, proved itself very quick through the slalom. Traction was iffy at times as this car mandated a "toss and catch" type of driving and staying on top of brakes, throttle, and steering was a must at a 10/10ths driving effort. What I loved were the liberties the Camaro allowed me as there was a very fine line between being in control and very loose when pushed to the limits.

CPP brakes again hauled the car down for the end turnaround and using power for track-out, the Camaro moved over and launched itself towards the two-cone slalom before the hard left-hander. Trail braking hard again got the car rotated, and I loved that it came back quickly with rapid steering input. Hard right into the "Box" and then another 90-degree right got the Camaro through here quick … dancing quickly! Sweepers brought the rear around a little but easily controlled with steering. Hard braking for the first right hand wallom with a quick flick of steering input got the car rotated. A repeat produced identical results to the left and then a mad dash to the finish clocks sealed the deal.

Full potential of this Camaro? We'll never know as I'm absolutely positive with those CalTrac's and rear drag race leafs ditched in favor of the known goodness of the CPP replacement parts, this car would have been extremely compliant and even faster through the clocks. I loved the steering response, and it's evident that CPP has done its homework with good geometry for their control arms. The CPP proprietary-valved Bilsteins kept the tires grounded as well. As it stands, CPP should be very happy, as the times this car turned were the quickest of the day in the autocross. What stood out the most was at no time did the car feel like it was going to swap ends. It responded to my rough and tumble driving methods and while I don't endorse these gyrations on the street, they sure worked well here.

The Classic Performance Parts Camaro made looking ahead a must as driving this car never had me thinking I was ever going straight. In fact, due to the CalTrac-fitted rear leafs the only time I felt in control was going straight! Looking back, it was a dance atop concrete and one I was ever glad to be a willing partner of. There's no way this particular car could be driven any other way on this type of course; no other car let me get away with the "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" antics I put that Camaro through that day. Each run had me thinking I'd left some on the table and pushing harder on the next one got me chunks of time. This, dear readers, is rare.—Mary Pozz

On the Street
This car was a little stiffer on the street than the rest of our entries. While the suspension was tight and responsive, you definitely felt more from the road than some of our other entries. The steering was superb, with great feel, control, and responsiveness. CPP's 500-series steering box was obviously designed well, and I'd recommend it to anyone with a second-gen Camaro, even if you're not performing other suspension mods.

Maneuvering through traffic the Camaro was nimble and true. While the CPP master cylinder required a little more pedal effort than its competition, it still felt good and wasn't an issue. Bumps, ruts, and potholes didn't faze the car, the CPP-spec'd Bilstein shocks keeping everything nice and stable while cushioning most road irregularities from the cockpit. Even on a rough railroad crossing the suspension held true along with the steering. The Summit racing seats were a little stiff for long-distance cruising, but on short drives would be just fine.

CPP's got a good history of making great parts that won't break the bank, and this was a good demonstrator. Total cost of everything bolted (note that term, bolted) to the factory subframe was well under $3,000 (sans brakes) and the handling prowess gained far outweighed the cost. The agility this Camaro had was superb, and made for a fun driving experience.

Specs
Car: 1972 Camaro
Color: Red
Owner: Greg Barkley
Engine
Type: Gen 1 small-block
Block: '70 four-bolt iron opened up to a 383 by Speed-O-Motive
Fuel Delivery:870 CFM Holley carb and Holley Blue electric pump
Drivetrain
Transmission: TCI 700-R4
Converter: TCI with 2,500 stall
Rear End: Factory 12-bolt with 3:73 gears and Eaton Posi
Chassis/ Front Suspension
Chassis: Stock GM with Chris Alston Chassisworks subframe connectors
Front Suspension: CPP tubular control arms
Steering: CPP 500 series box 14:1 ratio
Springs: CPP 1.5-inch drop
Spindles: CPP 2-inch drop
Shocks: Bilstein with CPP spec'd valving
Sway Bar: CPP 1-1/4-inch
Brakes: Baer six-piston calipers with 13-inch rotors
Rear Suspension:
Springs: 2-inch wide Detroit Eaton with a 2-inch drop 126 pounds per spring
Shocks: Bilstein with CPP spec'd valving
Sway Bar: CPP 1-inch
Brakes: Baer six-piston calipers with 13-inch rotors
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Weld RTS, Front-18x9.5 Rear-18x11
Tires: Nitto NT05, Front-275/35R18 Rear-295/35R18
Cost of Suspension:
$2,155 (total without brakes)
Weight
Total: 3,466 pounds
LF: 959 | LR: 783
RF: 961 | RR: 762
Percentage
F: 55.4
R: 44.6
Results
Skid Pad: CW 0.91g, CCW 0.88g; Average 0.89g
Slalom: Best 47.7 mph; Average of 5 runs 47.7mph
Autocross: Best 50.85; Average of 5 runs 51.64
Baseline 1
2013 Corvette Grand Sport
Skid Pad: CW 0.98g, CCW 0.99g, Average 0.99g
Slalom: Best 48.5 mph; Average of five runs 46.9 mph
Autocross: Best 51.10; Average of five runs 51.58
Baseline 2
1972 Chevelle SS 396
Skid Pad: CW 0.69g, CCW 0.76g, Average 0.74g
Slalom: Best 38.7 mph; Average of three runs, 38.2 mph
Autocross: Best 1.03.87; Average of three runs 1.08.64

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