Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser and his crew started with an empty shell 24 months ago, built the baddest roadracing Camaro in history, and gave it the name we’ve all been waiting for: Z/28. This is the full story of the car built to "beat the $@%# out of anything Ford can put on the road."
As you may already know, the 2014 Camaro Z/28 is built around an aluminum LS7 427 cubic-inch naturally aspirated V-8 making 505 horsepower at 6100rpm and 481 foot-pounds at 4800rpm. It’s stuffed with Mahle pistons, Pankl titanium connecting rods and premium GM parts, including Camaro’s first-ever dry-sump oiling system, fitted with a one-of-a-kind K&N air filtration system, and stuffed in a Camaro body unlike any other. The Z/28 carries a total of 190 new and unique parts compared to an SS.
It gets power to the ground with a close-ratio Tremec TR6060 six-speed transmission with double-cone and triple-cone synchros on each gear for lightning shifts, feeding into a Torsen limited-slip differential with helical gears in it that allow individual ABS braking, no preload in corners and rapid acceleration off the corners. Final drive ratio is 3.91:1. The engine, transmission and diff each have race-quality cooling systems.
The Z/28 body has been fitted with a new upper and lower grille assembly for air management, a very deep and very elaborate front spoiler with Gurney lips and an under tray that goes back beyond the engine, an air-extractor hood, wheel flares, side skirts, and a moveable rear spoiler. You won’t mistake it for anything else. Chevrolet says the body generated 440 pounds of additional downforce at 150mph when compared to an SS.
Most of the magic in the Z/28 comes from its suspension, brakes, and tires. Front springs are 85 percent stiffer, and rear springs are 65 percent stiffer, with 25 percent stiffer lower trailing-link bushings for lateral stiffness. The lower arm link bushings are 50 percent stiffer up front, with 400 percent stiffer rear upper control arm bushings, with smaller, not larger stabilizer bars, down from 28 mm in front to 25 mm, and 27 mm to 2 mm at the rear. The Z/28 sits lower to the ground than an SS by 33 mm.
For the first time ever, a Chevrolet production car will be fitted with Multimatic DSSVshock units that use patented spool-valve technology instead of shim stacks for wheel control, the same Multimatic technology used by the Infiniti Red Bull Formula 1 team, the Acura LMP1 team in ALMS, every car in the German DTM series and every car in the Ferrari Challenge series. The Z/28 uses struts up front and aluminum coil/shock units at the rear. Each corner will have five-spoke black alloy wheels shod with gigantic Pirelli Trofeo S 305/30ZR-19. Yes, that’s right, 305 FRONT tires.
Inside each wheel is a Brembo carbon ceramic brake system, with two-piece rotors, 394 x 36 mm front and 390 x 32 mm rear, with 6-piston calipers front and 4-piston calipers in the rear for consistent, hour-after-hour braking performance at the track and lifetime durability of the rotors.
While the new Z/28 is completely street legal and meets all federal requirements, it is as simple as an anvil and light as they could make it. There’s no noise insulation anywhere. It comes with lightweight rear seats because no one will ever sit in them. The front seats are Recaro lightweight racing seats. There is an AM radio with one speaker in the driver’s door, and A/C is a stand-alone option. There are no floor or trunk mats. The 427 engine is 64 pounds lighter than an LSA V-8. The car comes in at 3,837 pounds ready to race.
What will it do? For starters, it will generate at least 1.08g on the skidpad, maybe more in final trim. It now holds the lap record at GM’s own race track at the Milford Proving Grounds, some .7 seconds quicker than the ZL1 version. And substantially quicker than the Mustang Shelby GT 500, the Boss 302 Laguna Seca, and the Camaro 1LE package.
It ran a best lap 7:37.40 at the Nurburgring in Germany, the world’s toughest road course, a time that is four seconds quicker than the ZL1, and quicker than the official times posted by the Porsche 911 Carrera S and the Lamborghini Murcielago. In development, the Camaro team ran the prototype Z/28s for a thousand miles at the ‘Ring, with every lap under eight minutes, daytime, nighttime, sunshine and rain, a remarkable accomplishment.
We won’t see the final production car until the end of the first quarter of 2014. It will be readily available in a build of 3,000-4,000 units over the next couple of years, and will be priced well above $100,000, so save your money and get in line. Behind us.
We’d love to tell you what the new Z/28 is like to drive, but we can’t. This time around, for lots of legal reasons, we were only passengers. In our case, we were driven around in the passenger Recaro by young Joe Wise, one of the engineers who developed the ride, handling and braking of the Z/28 on the Milford Road Course at the GM Proving Grounds.
The course has six major corners and some high-speed esses, some of which are duplicates of corners at the Spring Mountain track in Nevada, a 37-degree banked section, (for reference, Daytona is 31 degrees, Talladega 33 degrees), esses copied from the Nurburgring, substantial elevation changes, and not much straightaway, so that a test driver is turning, braking and acceleration constantly.
In testing, the engineers would run 22 laps, fill the car up with gas, check the tires, and go back out again until 24 hours of full-throttle driving had been accumulated, the equivalent of many racetrack sessions for the amateur racer.
In our case, we were given one hot lap in the right seat, and one cooldown lap, and the maneuvers that the new Z/28 can generate in terms of acceleration, braking force and cornering are so violent that Joe had us on the brink of barfing, and our neck hurt for two days after the event from the forces generated inside the car.
The most noticeable difference for us was that Joe was able to wait until a point well past the last braking marker (4-3-2-1) to apply the brakes, the Brembos are so powerful and repeatable. Chevrolet says the braking point has been extended by whopping 238 feet going down into Turn One.
It was a short ride, a scary ride, and a close-to-hurling-chunks ride, but very educational in terms of what this car can do. Next time, we’ll be behind the wheel.