Earlier this month, we reported that General Motors has indeed canceled the development of the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. In that vein, we’ve decided to pay tribute to the fifth-gen model.
With its 505-horsepower, all-aluminum, 7.0-liter LS7 V8 under the hood and a Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) damper at each corner, which made it one of the first production vehicles to feature the technology, there’s no questioning the purpose of the Camaro Z/28: to be the most track-capable Camaro ever. To put it more objectively, this muscle car was capable of up to 1.08 g in cornering acceleration and 1.5 g in deceleration.
The Camaro Z/28’s LS7 engine is rated at an SAE-certified 505 horsepower (376 kW) and 481 pound-feet of torque (652 Nm), complementing the lightweight vehicle components to give the car its enviable 7.6:1 power-to-weight ratio, while delivering the power and stability to accelerate strongly out of corners and achieve high straightaway speeds.
The robust powertrain and Formula 1-derived suspension are just two of the several characteristics that made the fifth-gen Camaro Z/28 such a potent track weapon. Its aerodynamically-optimized exterior was developed to generate just the right amount of downforce at speed. As a result, the Z/28 produces 410 pounds more downforce than the Camaro SS at 150 mph. In addition to downforce, engineers and designers of the Camaro Z/28 looked for every opportunity to improve cooling of the powertrain and the brake system.
The primary aerodynamic components included:
- Rear spoiler with ‘wickerbill’, which is a small, vertical tab at the edge of the spoiler. Although an aesthetically minor change, it adds approximately 28 counts of drag, improving rear lift performance by 70 counts. This allows the Z/28 to handle turns at higher speeds and delivers greater overall high-speed stability.
- Unique front fascia features an airflow-optimized grille – including an open bowtie logo unofficially called Flowtie – for enhanced cooling and a modified fascia bottom that incorporates provisions for the brake cooling ducts.
- Front splitter that provides downforce at the front of the car, enhancing cornering capability and high-speed stability. It is designed to withstand 250 pounds of downforce at its tip and is matched with an aero closeout panel under the front of the engine compartment that also enhances aero characteristics.
- Functional carbon fiber hood extractor that provides increased engine cooling by allowing hot air an exit route. The design is similar to the extractor featured on the Camaro ZL1.
- Rocker moldings that provide aggressive styling and improved aerodynamic performance.
- Unique wheel flare moldings cover the Z/28’s wide tires. Meanwhile, deflectors at the bottom-front corners of the front wheel flares contribute to the car’s downforce-producing aerodynamics.
- Front wheelhouse liners with closeouts work with the vehicle underbody for optimal airflow.
- Belly pan that helps reduce front lift. Along with the aero benefit, it also contributes to drivetrain cooling, with modified NACA duct profiles designed to draw air into the underbody tunnel area, where the highly energized air provides extra cooling for underbody components.
Other notable features of the fifth-gen Camaro Z28 include Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, which provide consistent brake feel, lap after lap, along with a notably reduced curb weight. What’s more, the naturally aspirated Z/28 weighs 300 pounds less than the supercharged Camaro ZL1. A whopping nine pounds were saved by eliminating the folding portion of the rear seat and then using high-density foam in place of the rigid structure of the seat back and steel mesh of the seat bottom.
Other forms of weight savings included:
- Removal of some interior sound deadener, as well as trunk carpet
- Use of a smaller, lighter battery
- Thinner rear-window glass – 3.2 mm vs. the standard 3.5 mm
- Elimination of high-intensity discharge, or HID, headlamps and fog lights
- No air conditioning except as part of the car’s only option package
- Elimination of tire-inflator kit in all states except for Rhode Island and Maryland, where it is required by law
In fact, 100 percent of the un-sprung mass (suspension, wheels, tires and brake system) has been changed from the Camaro SS, dramatically enhancing the balance and overall driving feel of the Z/28.
All that made this car, if we may call it that, an absolute beast on the track, especially at the hands of a skilled pilot. But what all the specs can’t communicate is how the Z/28 feels to drive. In a sentence, everything in the car feels perfect during bouts of the most challenging track situations. And as we remember the fifth-gen Camaro Z/28 for what it was, we should also recognize what it is, because it is almost certainly the last naturally-aspirated, analog, track-dedicated vehicles that GM will build.