There's been more hype with the new Camaro over the last 24 months than there probably was back in 1967. And that's not entirely bad. The faithful wept when GM pulled the plug on the F-body back in 2002. The response from customers, car lovers and the media alike has been overwhelmingly positive since the '10 Camaro reappeared in the Spring of 2009. In the midst of the worst recession since Carter was in the White House, Camaro sales are robust-without the aid of rebates or other Band Aids. For the first time in over a decade, the Camaro is outselling its archrival from Dearborn.
As good as the Camaro is, Chevy left a lot of room for improvement. Sure, it's got 400-plus horsepower in SS trim, but it's also about 400 pounds too heavy. That means it needs a lot more snot underhood, bigger brakes, and better handling to perform like a real thoroughbred. The aftermarket has gone haywire, introducing everything from slightly different steering wheels to body parts to blower and turbo kits, all in the name of making the new F-body the best it can be.
Enter the RPO Series of Camaros from Mr. Norm's Garage and Kenne Bell Superchargers. Kenne Bell first hooked up with Mr. Norm's to supply the blowers for its line of 2009-up Dodge Challengers. These were such a hit that getting an all-out Camaro in the hands of customers and like-minded Chevy dealers was a natural. Horsepower levels are 650 with the 2.8L blower on a stock 6.2-liter engine, 825 hp with the 3.6L supercharger bolted to a built LS3 and-get this-1,000 hp with the 3.6 huffer on a custom-built 7-liter LS engine.
Any of these options will make your '10 Camaro feel about 800 pounds lighter-this we can tell you from first-hand experience. We flew to Southern California recently for a full-bore drag test of the 650- and 825-horse models at California Speedway in Fontana, California, and nearly sucked the scoreboards out of the ground. OK, maybe they weren't that fast, but considering they are tuned to run on 93 octane pump gas, and 50 state emissions compliance is pending (even for the 1,000-horse version), we'd rate their performance as outstanding.
What Do You Get?
Those well-versed in GM lore know that RPO stood for Regular Production Option back in the day. Most famous of which was probably Z28, which became an actual Camaro model designation, and L88, for the Corvette's race engine option from '67-69. There are tons of others, from JL8 to M22 to ZL1, but for these cars Mr. Norm's Garage pulled a few beauties from the archives. There's L78 for the 650-horse variant, L72 for the 825hp cars, and L88 for the 1,000-ponies machine.
But just what do you get with this alpha-numeric mumbo jumbo over the standard Camaro? All the RPO cars come with custom Mr. Norm's wheels, see-through carbon fiber hood (a'la ZR1 Corvette), plus special graphics and interior trimmings.
The red car you see was the 650-horse model. It had a T56 manual gearbox and a Centerforce clutch, standard on the RPO cars. The rear wheels measure 20x10 with 315/35R20 Nitto NT05 drag radials. While these wheels are a $3,599 option on the RPO cars (we recommend them), the tires that come with them are the stock Pirelli PZeros. The factory summer rubber was deemed more than capable for the street or road course. By doing this, it eliminates passing on the cost of expensive aftermarket tires to the customer. The Nittos were strictly for drag testing purposes.
The aggressive appearance blew us away, and the red interior with custom L72 stitching is not for the bashful. (When this prototype was built, this 650hp model was going to be called L72.) You are still stuck with the factory steering wheel and gauges, which win no awards for style or function, but there was a shift light-especially useful for older drag testers like the author.