It has the suspension from a Formula One car, the optional tires from the McLaren P1, and supercar-level next generation carbon ceramic brakes. But this isn't a million dollar supercar. This is a $75,000 Chevrolet. And it is one of the most amazing, odds-defying cars of the year.
(Full Disclosure: After our all too brief first encounter with the Camaro Z/28 this spring, I had been on the horn to get one back. No dice. Chevy said I had to have track time if I wanted to drive it again. Finally, an invite to the awesome Jeffapalooza track day at New Jersey Motorsports Park convinced Chevy to send us the Z/28. It's even better than I remember it being.)
The Camaro lineup has always had a very distinct separation between the models, with certain letter/number combinations representing what the car was intended for. The SS and RS were fast street models while the ZL1 was the big engined bad boy for the drag strip.
And then there was the Z/28. Let me tell you about the Z/28.
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was this series called Trans Am (yes, Trans Am still exists, but it was really good back then). Trans Am cars were street cars modified for track duty. Chevrolet's entrant was the Camaro Z/28, a Camaro with a 302 under the hood, beefed up suspension, and no frills. And in order to race the Z/28, they had to be built for the road as well.
Those original roadgoing Z/28s had no creature comforts, no frills. It was built simply so GM could take their car racing. It didn't prove to be that popular, other than with people who wanted to take them on the track. After that first Z/28, each successive generation got more little bits and pieces until Z/28 became just a badge and not a synonym for hardcore.
Then the Camaro died, and the Z/28 went away with it. And when the Camaro returned, it came back as a heavy beast of a car that you couldn't see out of. The long absent ZL1 variant returned with a huge supercharged V8, but there was no sign of the Z/28 anywhere.
Well, until the 2013 New York Auto Show.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, a brand new Z/28 appeared on the stage, a car that promised to bring back the track spec of the original in a high tech, no compromise formula. Chevy wasn't kidding.
This Z/28 shaves 300 pounds from the big daddy, 580 horsepower ZL1. The hood covers up the LS7 V8, a 427 cubic inch, 505 horsepower, 481 pound-foot engine that comes right out of the C6 Corvette Z06. The only transmission option is the Tremec TR6060, a six speed manual. It has aero updates to provide real downforce on the track (just look at that splitter!). Brakes are massive Brembo Carbon Ceramics, covered by lightweight 19 inch wheels. Those wheels are shod with the Pirelli Trofeo R, which is basically a DOT competition slick with a few grooves in it to trick the feds.
Then there was the suspension. Instead of GM's patented and trusted magnetic ride control, the Z/28 uses DSSV Monotube dampers, a technology patented by Multimatic in Canada and used on F1 cars. Lighter than magnetic ride, DSSV is infinitely tunable. As Mark Stielow, the Z/28's lead engineer, told us, the DSSV suspension allows them to separate the crosstalk between compression and rebound, which makes for a stiff, controlled ride, perfect for the track. This is the first production application of this suspension, unless you call the Aston Martin One-77 a production car.