The new 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 is a lightened, track focused pony car with a 500 horsepower V8 and no radio. But its name has been around since 1966. Let's take a quick look at the family.
The original Z/28 was introduced in December 1966 for model year '67. It was the brainchild of Vince Piggins, who wanted to create a race-ready Camaro that was superior to the Mustang. So he took a a 327 block and put a 283 crankshaft in it so that it had a 4-inch bore and a 3-inch stroke, making it a 302.4 cubic inch, which fell just under the 305-cu.in. limit of the SCCA Trans-Am category. Its nameplate came straight from the RPO codes, RPO28 being the Special Performance Package. It wasn't mentioned in sales materials, so only 602 were made in the first year of production.
The small block was rated at 290 horsepower, but in reality, it produced around 360 hp with the single four-barrel carb and 400 hp with optional dual-four barrel carbs. It also had front disc brakes, 15-inch wheels, heavy-duty front coil springs, multi-leaf rear springs and suspension, an 11-inch clutch, a close-ratio four-speed with a 2.20:1 first gear ratio, a steering gear ratio with 24:1 overall ratio and a special hood with functional air intake. The 1969 edition also had a cowl induction hood as an option.
With the second generation Camaro, the Z/28 got a new engine as well. The 350 cubic inch LT-1 had 360 hp and 380 lb·ft. The greater torque and less-radical cam coupled with the Holley four-barrel carb permitted the Z-28 to be available with the 3-speed Turbo Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission as an option to the four-speed manual for the first time. In 1971, the power was down due to compression ratio decline. Despite selling more than 13,000 units in 1974, Chevy discontinued the Z28 (the "/" disappeared in 1972) due to tight emission regulations.
The Z28 was reintroduced in the spring of 1977 as a 1977½ model after Chevrolet have seen how many Trans Ams Pontiac could sell. The 350 V8 now only did 185 horsepower (or 175 if you lived in California), but since people were going for air-conditioning and the automatic box, this only bothered the most hardcore buyers. With various options, the new Z28 could be just as fast as its ten year-old relatives. No matter, Chevy set an output record, and outsold the Mustang for the first time.
In 1982, the third-generation Z28 Camaro was Motor Trend's Car of the Year. It came standard with the 5.0 L LG4 4bbl V8 or the optional LU5 twin TBI 'Cross Fire Injection' 5.0 L. The carbureted engine was available with either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission and produced 145 hp, while the optional Cross Fire Injection 305 was rated at 165 hp. All Z28s came with lightweight fiberglass SMC hoods with functional hood air induction flaps on RPO LU5 cars. They had a different nose, a three-piece rear spoiler and front, side, and rear lower body valances in silver or gold. The next year, a 5.0-liter L69 "High Output" V8 was introduced with 190 hp. In Europe, people started laughing, hard. The last third-generation Camaro produced was a red Z28 coupe on August 27, 1992.
In 1993, the Camaro Z28 was selected as the official pace car for the Indianapolis 500. 633 buyers felt the need to get an "Indy" Camaro for $995 extra cash. Fourth-generation Z28 Camaros with the LT1 V8 could reach 62 mph in 5.7 seconds and a quarter mile in a bit more than 14 seconds. The T-Top body style remained just as popular than in the previous decade when it was introduced.
In 1997, not only did you get a new interior and a tri-colored rear lamp, but could also go for the "30 Year Anniversary Edition" that included unique orange stripes on white base paint. Two years later, a Torsen differential was added for the ultimate hooning experience. Late Z28s came with 310 horses, but that wasn't enough as in 2001, Camaro sales hit a new low with 29,009 units sold.
The wait is over, the Z/28 is back just like the Stingray. It's got plenty of naturally aspirated power from the old Corvette's 7-liter V8, and it's 300 pounds lighter than the Camaro ZL1... but that has an 80 horsepower advantage at 580, so choose wisely!
We'll see what Ford will send against it. A Mustang GT won't do the trick and the Boss 302 is dead.