The year was 1969 and the muscle car and pony wars were going full tilt. To squash the competition, GM built 69 all-aluminum 427ci, big-block-powered Camaros dubbed the ZL1. These beasts were built for dragstrip brawlin,’ and were pretty spendy in 1969 dollars. For the next 30 years they held the title as the most powerful Camaro ever fielded by The General. Then the ’10 SS Camaro was introduced, and at 426 hp, it became the new holder of “the-most-powerful-Camaro” title. But it wasn’t by much, and it didn’t seem to have the over-the-top pseudo race car vibe the ’69 ZL1 had. That was when GM tied up the accountants and untethered the right team of engineers to come up with a new Camaro worthy of the ZL1 moniker.
The GM gearheads started out by stealing the supercharged 6.2L LSA V-8 from the Cadillac CTS-V program, and then stuffed in every wiz-bang technological go-fast widget in the GM arsenal. This wouldn’t be a Camaro with a blower, some fake scoops, and a sticker package, either. This would be a new animal designed to rule road courses and highways instead of just the dragstrip. When the dust cleared, over 30 percent of the SS was changed during the creation of the ZL1.
In addition to being the most powerful Camaro ever produced, it’s also the highest tech. Performance Traction Management and Gen III Magnetic Ride Suspension keeps the Camaro firmly mated to the asphalt under full throttle, while huge Brembo brakes reels it all down from speed. Other trinkets and extra-cost options available on a select number of other makes and models, like brake cooling ducts and a differential cooler are standard fare on the ZL1. In fact, the option list on a ZL1 is pretty short. Extra fuel pickups were added to the fuel tank for high-g maneuvers; weight balance is 52 percent front, 48 percent rear; and the list of refinements goes on.
The ZL1 is the first Camaro to feature electric power steering, which adjusts steering effort to match the driving conditions. GM also performed a plethora of aerodynamic tweaks to get the car pushed down to the pavement at speed. On its standard Goodyear Supercar F2 tires, it rips from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds, has a top speed of 184 mph, and one full g of lateral grip. Together, it all makes for a Camaro like none before it. MSRP is right at $55,000, and that’s a lot of proverbial bang for the buck. After all, a well-optioned SS will set you back $35,000, and trust us, dumping $20K into an SS won’t bring it close to the performance of a ZL1. It’s a track-ready production car, and if that’s not worthy of wearing the ZL1 badge, then we’re not sure what is.