Not all front-ends are created equal. This fact has been painfully obvious, dating all the way back to the first- and second-generation Camaro. Some like four headlights, some like two, some like none. Some like a split bumper, some like one that goes all the way across, and some like one wrapped in carbon fiber. The fifth-generation is no different, thanks to the creation of the 2012 Camaro ZL1, which is by far the most aggressive factory offering yet. Though the chassis itself is identical to the V-6 and V-8, bolting up the ZL1 bumper is not without complication. For starters, the body lines do not line up with the hood. And ordering a ZL1 hood can be cost prohibitive (the carbon insert alone is $4,500), clearly GM’s intent to ward off would be clones. Some talented body shops have been known to correct this issue with quite a bit of work, but in this story we wanted to show the easiest way around it. For that we turned to ACS Composite who designed a fiberglass version of GM’s carbon insert that retails for around $550. Meanwhile we had to source the actual hood from our favorite GM parts dealer, Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center, for around $800. Factor in the bumper cover itself as well as the hardware, and you are out another $1,200 (not including the side skirts and a few other parts shown here). So, yeah, this is no budget mod.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle with adding a ZL1 front-end is finding a quality paint shop to do the work. For our installation we would be following along with Greg Lovell of AntiVenom, who has completed a number of great projects with the help of painter Rudy Gonzalez at Stingray Chevrolet with whom he will be entrusting his beloved Inferno Orange Metallic ‘10 SS. Past dealership experience may make you a little skeptical, but Rudy’s work is spot-on and Stingray’s state-of-the-art facilities are a large reason why. Rudy does custom jobs such as this in his off-hours, much to the delight of AntiVenom, which happily sends many Camaros and Corvettes his way. Sikkens water-based (aka waterborne) paint is the material of choice at Stingray. It may be eco-friendly, but many, including Rudy, say that it provides a significant advantage for color matching. Since we’ll only be painting the hood and bumper, this is of particular importance on this job–especially when you consider how difficult Inferno Orange can be to match (though, always humble, Rudy said otherwise). Follow along as we walk you through the process of building your very own version of the ZL1.
Required Parts List for ZL1 Bumper
|GM Part Number||Part Description|
|20957334||DRL Retainer (2)|
|22895340||R side flare|
|22895341||L side flare|
|22876562||1 duct, radiator air inlet|
|20972779||1 baffle, radiator air side|
|22876561||1 baffle, radiator air side|
|20952837||L inner wheel wells|
|20952838||R inner wheel wells|
|22757643||Wheel attach kit, 2 per box|
|11610157||Nuts, pkg of 10|
|11570637||Bolts, pkg of 20|
|92231490||Rivets, pkg of 10|
|11562364||Retainer, 2 for the front grill and 14 for the rear diffuser|
1. Even brand new body parts do not arrive in perfect condition, at least not if you want it to look picture perfect. Painter Rudy Gonzalez got started by blowing off the bumper to remove any loose dirt or dust, and using caulking putty on the scratches.
2. The next step is buffing the plastic with the DA using a cleaner to remove any dirt. Removing any dirt, dust, and foreign particles is essential. Otherwise they will become trapped under the paint, and lead to a bad paint job.
3. Rudy then takes some Scotchbrite to the bumper as the last step before taking it into the paint booth.
4. The bumper is sprayed with a degreaser once in the booth as the final step of cleaning, and then Rudy masks off the edges that will not only keep paint out of the joints, but also serve as the test area.
5. One coat of primer/sealer is used, and Rudy sands the rough areas smooth (since you can’t sand bare plastic).
6. The bumper is wiped down with a “tach rag” to get any of the loose dust or debris prior to laying down the base coat.
7a-b. While Rudy was prepping his gun, I spied these two pieces. As you can see, the hood had already been painted, but some work was left to go on the ACS insert. Once smoothed out, it will be painted white to match the factory stripes.
8. Greg had just delivered the lower bumper/splitter as well as the ZL1 side skirts and Heritage grille. A factory SS or ZL1 grille will also work. Rudy will be applying some IOM along the edges of the grille as well as to the splitter and side skirts. These pieces are textured since they are unpainted on the ZL1, so it takes extra work to get them smooth and glassy.
9. The first coat of IOM is a medium-wet coat, which is not intended to give full coverage. The second coat, however, does and is more wet, but he is careful to avoid runs, tiger-striping, and orange peel by paying attention to the proximity to the surface and giving a 50% overlap. In between coats he touches the tape on the end of the bumper to know when it is tacky and ready for the next coat.
10. After spraying primer, color, and clear Rudy methodically cleans out his guns. He has a dedicated gun for each to ensure no mixing or foreign particles ruin the paint job. Each one is a SATA 3000 RP, a pressure fed high performance gun that is extremely efficient and works well with the new eco-friendly paint standards. Speaking of eco-friendly, Stingray Chevrolet carries only waterborne Sikkens paint that Rudy says is easy to color match.
11. The Sikkens base and clear dries surprisingly fast in Stingray’s top-of-the-line paint booth, currently set at 98-degrees. After applying two coats of clear, the bumper is baked at 165-degrees for 35 minutes. After that, he’ll wet sand with 1500 and 3000-grit before the 3-step buffing procedure–compound, polish, and swirl remover.
12. Fast forward to AntiVenom’s skunkworks facility, where we’ll be mocking up the new bumper with the factory SS hood and then swapping over to the ZL1 hood. Greg Lovell gets started by unbolting the factory SS bumper.
13. This also requires removing the plastic pins that secure the inner fenders.
14. There are plastic dowels that help line up and hold the bumper in place. Since we are just mocking this up, Greg gets the bumper fairly tight and uses just a few bolts to secure it.
15. The bodylines on the SS hood go right along the center bulge, which is about 2-3 inches to the left of the bodylines on the ZL1 bumper. Obviously this mismatch is reversed when using the ZL1 hood and the SS bumper.
16. The stock SS hood is unbolted and carefully placed aside.
17. Meanwhile the finished ZL1 hood was waiting to be plucked and slid onto the Camaro. In painting the insert white, Greg was obviously attempting to mimic the factory white stripe, which he also had painted onto the ZL1 spoiler.
19. Back at Camaro Now headquarters, Greg removed the SS bumper again as well as the bottom radiator shroud. The top piece is a new ZL1 piece, and the bottom is the factory SS. This is one of several support pieces needed to convert the nose. See the parts list for a full rundown.
20. Greg starts assembling the ZL1 bumper by snapping the freshly painted lower grille into the fascia.
21. The fog lights carry over from the SS, though new bezels are needed to retain them in the bumper.
22. This lower light (DRL) as well as the retainer is unique to the ZL1, and they install together.
23. Greg picked up this adapter harness from Gen5DIY that allows the SS to run the ZL1 Daytime Running Lights (DRL). He thinks it might be possible to run a factory ZL1 bumper harness, however, it would require some tweaking to the Body Control Module.
24. Next the Heritage grille is snapped into the fascia. Again, you can use any fifth-gen grille you want–Greg is partial to this one.
25. The trim ring was scavenged from the SS bumper, which has to be riveted into the new one with plastic GM rivets. After installing the Bowtie, the front bumper is complete and ready to install.
26. Greg lifts the bumper into place and slides it onto the front-end.
27. Brake cooling ducts were a must for Greg when doing the conversion, and we are happy to report zero clearance issues–even with the Fastlane air intake.
28. The ZL1 wheel wells are essential to pulling off the conversion, and thankfully they snap into place easily and look very slippery when installed. Notice the port for the brake cooling ducts. We also spotted “Z/28” curiously cast into them.
29. Like the brake cooling ducts, some may not consider the belly pan essential, however, Greg was not the sort to let it go. He wanted all the functional elements that go along with the ZL1 conversion. He later trimmed it to clear the ARH long-tube headers.
30. Again, rockers are not essential to the conversion, but Greg was going all out. Thankfully the installation was quick and painless. The new ones snapped into place in minutes.
31. Perhaps the hardest part was finishing the side stripe, which had been partially deleted in the bumper swap. Our deadline was pretty tight, so we went with the quickest solution. Greg cut this piece of vinyl by hand, and fellow SIM Editor Steve Baur used his surgical precision to install them.
32. All in all, the results were impressive and Greg couldn’t be happier. The paint matched perfectly and really popped in the sunlight. While borrowing several ZL1 elements, he has managed to create something unique that contributes to his overall goal and vision for the build. Now it’s your turn.