Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 | Spotted
Think American cars can't go round corners? This sort of-record setter proves otherwise…
By Cam Tait / Thursday, 16 February 2023 / Loading comments
We’ve all got a penchant for a bit of Americana here on PH. Dodgy plastics and wonky trim are easier overlooked when there’s a whopping V8 under the bonnet, especially when said motor has enough power on tap to light up snooty supercar owners and a set of tyres for good measure. And those that can’t – giant engine, tiny horsepower muscle cars of yesteryear – at least make a flippin’ good noise.
‘But what about corners?’ Ah, hoped you wouldn’t bring that up. America famously doesn’t have corners and fitting muscle cars with advanced chassis technology like independent suspension is expensive. But anyone who’s been to the US will know that, in reality, there are some mighty fine roads to experience the wail of a cross-plane crank V8. Most American carmakers have duly responded with a European level of complexity in their performance cars; some have even sent stuff around the Nurburgring to prove they mean business – with the car here actually setting a lap record in the process. Sort of.
Well, not this exact car, but we’ll get onto the details of the record run in a mo. This is the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, one of the nuttiest cars to come out of the US and, as per usual, one that never officially made it across the pond. Cutting straight to the chase, the ZL1 gets the same LT4, 6.2-litre supercharged V8 engine as the Corvette ZO6, developing a colossal 659hp and 650lb ft of torque. All of that gets diverted to the rear wheels through, in this car, a ten-speed automatic gearbox that’ll have you at 62mph from a standstill in just 3.5 seconds. In Fast and Furious speak, that’s good for a quarter mile time of 11.4 seconds and a top speed just shy of 200mph. Yum.
So far, so American. But how does it handle a bend in the road? Presumably, rather well. Chevrolet bolted on its trick Magnetic Ride dampers, which contain a fluid that can be manipulated when exposed to a magnetic field. This helps keep the near 1.8 tonne weight – this is still a muscle car, after all – in check when shown a set of corners. It’s also wider at the front over the SS model it’s based on for better stability and, as a by-product, more menacing looks. Meanwhile, a reworked grille helped improve cooling, while the carbon insert on the bonnet (sorry, hood) helps extract hot air from the engine bay. Apparently.
For the Nurburgring run, Chevrolet deployed the slightly meaner 1LE model. A name that means nothing to us Brits, but in the US those three characters are the sign of a track weapon. Here, it meant deep canards on the front bumper, stickier Goodyear F1 tyres, a slight weight saving and a bigger rear spoiler. With it, Chevrolet clocked a time of seven minutes and 16.4 seconds around the Nordschleife which, the company proudly claimed, was a new record for a Camaro around the 12.9-mile circuit. An impressive time, but it goes to show anything can be a record-setter in the right context.
For actually driving on the road, though, the ZL1 is all you need. And best of all, because it’s a muscle car, it’s freakishly inexpensive. This one’s up for sale at AP Performance for £68,997, which is pretty good value for the amount of performance you’re getting. It’s also received a supercharger pulley upgrade and K&N air intake kit, which has allegedly pushed the LT4 motor up to 700hp. Plenty of poke to obliterate everyone at a Castle Combe track day. Assuming you don’t fall fowl of the noise restrictions…
SPECIFICATION | CHEVROLET CAMARO ZL1
Engine: 6,162cc V8, supercharged
Transmission: 10-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],400rpm (tuned to 700hp+)
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],600rpm (stock)
MPG: 16 (US EPA)
Year registered: 2017
Recorded mileage: 13,000
Price new: $64,485
Yours for: £68,997
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