Build It Or Buy It? - Thunder Road

2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

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When we first heard about the all-new '14 Camaro Z/28, we were more than just a little put off by statements that the car was going to cost $100,000. The world needs a $100,000 Camaro like a fish needs a bicycle. Thankfully, when actual pricing was announced, it was significantly less—$75,000, including destination.

That's certainly an unprecedented amount for a new road-going Camaro, a number that continued to gnaw at me. Yes, it's the most track-capable F-body in history, with performance that exceeds that of German supercars costing twice as much. But it wears a Bow Tie in its grille. For its entire life, the Camaro has been a blue-collar superhero, and for much of that time, the Z/28 was its most aspirational model. After the price was announced, I had a hard time wrapping my head around that $75,000 number. It is more than double the base price of a 1SS ($34,350).

I discussed this with Camaro Chief Engineer Al Oppenheiser at the Z/28 launch at Barber Motorsports Park (see page 16 for our track test). You won't find a more dyed-in-the-wool enthusiast at a car company than Oppenheiser. He lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps Camaros, and the faithful are lucky to have a real car guy looking after their favorite machine. He gets it. His response to my query about the price was interesting: The Z/28 is the ultimate Camaro, a take-no-prisoners machine that can lay waste to most any new car, regardless of price. It sits at the top of the Camaro brand. Al proudly points out that there's a Camaro for any enthusiast, from the least expensive 323hp V-6 model at $24,500 (that's EPA-rated at 30 mpg), to the 426hp SS ($34,350), on up to the 580hp supercharged ZL1. Now there's the Z/28.

While there are detractors out there who are put off by the fifth-gen's size and weight, the bottom line is it has outsold all competitors since its introduction in the spring of 2009. Even the fabled '69 Camaro finished a distant second in the sales race to the '69 Mustang—despite being on sale for an extra half a model year. Were all of GM's offerings this successful, the company would have 50 percent market share again like it did in the late 1950s and early '60s. As for the prices, they are right in line with the competition. Is $34,350 a lot of money? Absolutely, but for better or worse, it's also about the same as the average price of a new car, which is $33,000.

During the first muscle car era, there was a lot of teeth gnashing for hard-core hot rodders. They complained too much fuss was being made over all the new "supercars." It was better to build performance cars, not buy them. For the majority of Super Chevy readers, this is still undoubtedly the case. Even as the price of vintage iron has skyrocketed, it's still easier to acquire and build as your budget allows—even if you sometimes end up spending more in the end for your antique.

The one benefit to a new car is you can drive it every day and it won't require the kind of tinkering a timeless classic will. And if someone runs into your new Camaro, the insurance company can help you rebuild it. With an old car, you essentially go back to square one, and that's a best-case scenario.

Whether you'd prefer to build your favorite Bow Tie from scratch or buy it new, you can always make it better—and Super Chevy will be there to show you how. Build it or buy it: What's your preference?

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