by Don Sikora II
Note: The following story was excerpted from the December 2017 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine.
Chevrolet celebrated the Camaro’s 50th anniversary in 2017. There was a commemorative model with special trim, but here we’re more interested in the latest high-performance ZL1 as a possible future collectible.
The original Camaro ZL1 dates to 1969. Available by special order through Chevy’s Central Office Production Order system, the first ZL1 was a dragstrip terror powered by a shockingly expensive all-aluminum 427-cid “big-block” V-8. Only 69 were produced. Modern-day ZL1 history began in 2012, when the name was revived for an all-around performance Camaro powered by a supercharged 580-hp 6.2-liter V-8.
Camaro was redesigned for 2016. The sixth-generation model closely followed the appearance of the well-received fifth-gen car, and was based on the General Motors “Alpha” rear-drive platform shared with Cadillac’s ATS and CTS. Perhaps most significantly, the new Camaro was lighter and marginally smaller than the car it replaced.
The latest ZL1 debuted for 2017 in coupe and convertible forms. Unique exterior styling touches included wider front fenders, a vented hood, larger front splitter, and a rear wing. Power came from the LT4 supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 good for 650 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. It could be backed by a six-speed manual transmission with an active rev-matching function or a new Hydra-Matic 10-speed automatic. Other upgrades included a specifically tuned “Magnetic Ride” adaptable suspension, Brembo-brand brakes, 20-inch forged aluminum wheels, and ZL1-specific Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar rubber. Weight was down 200 pounds compared to the previous ZL1.
Chevy-supplied performance numbers were a 0-60-mph time of 3.5 seconds, a quarter-mile sprint of 11.4 seconds at 127 mph, and a cornering limit of 1.02g. Motor Trend duplicated Chevy’s 0-60 mark, but the best it could do in the quarter was 11.5 seconds at 125 mph. Still, that’s .2 quicker than MT coaxed out of a Dodge Challenger Hellcat. Car and Driver said “it’s a car you can live with every day and hustle across any piece of pavement, and we wouldn’t change a thing.”
For 2018, the ZL1 adds a new coupe-only 1LE variant focused on racetrack performance. It adds specific aerodynamic features to increase downforce, including air deflectors and dive planes up front and a carbon-fiber rear wing. The suspension is upgraded with what Chevrolet calls “Multimatic DSSV“ (Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve) dampers, adjustable front ride height and camber, and a three-way-adjustable rear stabilizer bar. The 1LE also wears wider, and lighter, 19-inch forged wheels and specially designed Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R tires. Chevy says the 3820-pound curb weight is about 60 pounds lighter than a base ZL1 coupe thanks to the suspension and wheel changes, thinner rear glass, and a fixed rear seat back.
Visual cues marking the 1LE include a satin-black hood, black side mirrors and wheels, and darkened taillamps. The LT4 engine is unchanged, but 1LE only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox running a model-specific top-gear ratio. Chevy asserts the ZL1 1LE was three seconds a lap faster than a standard ZL1 coupe when tested at GM’s Milford Road Course test track.
The 2017 ZL1 coupe priced from $62,135, with the convertible starting at $69,135. The 2018s are up to $63,795 and $69,795, respectively. The 1LE package adds $7500 to the coupe’s bottom line.
- Not just a one-trick pony.
- Choice of coupe or ragtop, manual or automatic.
- Lighter and more powerful than the last ZL1.
- The optional 1LE package is almost certainly overkill for the street.
- Traditional “ponycar” attributes like a tight back seat and small trunk are intact.
- If a new Z28 is in the works it could prove even more desirable.
Camaro is 50 years old, and arguably Chevy’s best present to Camaro fans is the new ZL1. It’s crazy fast in a straight line or on a road course, while still impressing the buff books on the street. Down the road we think the 1LE package will be very desirable, even if the racetrack prowess it adds is rarely deployed.