Motoring | Features

Camaro never dies

Chevrolet's Camaro ZL1 is a beast that needs taming and Dejan Jovanovic took great pleasure in reigning it in – spinning tyres and all

  • By Dejan Jovanovic
  • Published: 12:27 December 5, 2012
  • alpha

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 convertible
  • Image Credit: Dennis B. Mallari/ANM
  • The design is almost offensively glaring... with a cartoonishly aggressive face.
Image 1 of 2

English poet William Blake once wrote a book called The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. I don’t know what the pages are on about, because I’m only interested in the title, and a couple of lines. “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

Boy, right about now I must be wiser than a whole parliament of owls. (It is perhaps ironically inappropriate that owls are wise, yet a bunch of them make up a parliament). I have just been excessively overdosing on excess, just hogging that road, gate-crashing the palace of wisdom in a slithering display of smoking rubber and belching fuel, announced by the shrill of manic supercharger rotor lobes.

Blake also wrote that “Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.” Well, he forgot to mention that excess of horsepower shreds 305/35 R20 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar G:2 tyres developed specifically for the ZL1 with hysterical ease. Hmm, so much for his poetic philosophising…

But in this marriage of heaven and hell, who is the heaven, and who is the hell? We could argue endlessly when it comes to the 2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible. I’m thinking hell is a Camaro chassis and heaven is a Corvette 6.2-litre V8. Or perhaps it’s the other way around, if the thought of 580 horsepower conjures frightening images of a ZL1 careening through all nine of Dante’s gates. Sideways.

The ZL1 gets from 0-100kph in less than five seconds, if you only start counting once the tyres stop spinning senselessly and finally grab some pavement. Use the launch control, and you’ll see 3.9 seconds. Everything about the ZL1 is over the top, except one thing (the price).

The ZL1 name comes from the 1969 Camaro ZL1 all-aluminium 427-cubic-inch motor, or 7.0 litres to you and me. The design is almost offensively glaring, with Victory Red paintwork and contrasting matte black stripe, a cartoonishly aggressive face with deeply set headlights, a black air dam hovering above an effective splitter, and a rear spoiler with a hint of Nascar in it. There are also ZL1 badges all over the car – I counted 13.

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Thinking back to my first encounter with a Camaro SS back in 2009, the most startling aspect of the ZL1 is the chassis. GM claims that the fifth-gen Camaro platform was designed from the get-go with a Convertible in mind, so the body structure and stiffness suffers very little while delivering Coupé-like dynamics.

In the base car that’s hardly true, but in the ZL1 the Convertible leaves little to be desired. There is no scuttle shake, yet plenty of vibrations from the brawny drivetrain. GM’s clever suspension is also a huge highlight of the ZL1, balancing the duties of cornering ability, even power delivery, and then going on to feel perfectly supple if you’re just pottering along.

The ZL1’s magnetic ride control also features a unique Performance Traction Management system incorporating launch control, traction control, electronic stability control and power-steering response.

Like all its look-at-me features, the ZL1 Convertible is just as shouty inside, with a cabin strewn with ZL1 logos, black leather, suede, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, aluminium pedals, and a head-up display. But you’ll buy this car not for its improved interior, but for its excessive nature, beastly looks, and approachable handling.

Fact file

The first Camaro went on sale in the US on September 29, 1966 for the 1967 model year and was designed to rival the Ford Mustang. The car shared its platform and major components with the Pontiac Firebird, which was launched the same year.

A modified fifth-generation Camaro appears in the movies Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Dark of the Moon. One also appears in the 2012 Bollywood spy film Agent Vinod. Australian racing driver Bob Jane won both the 1971 and 1972 Australian Touring Car Championships at the wheel of a Camaro.

Camaro ZL1

6.2-litre LSA V-8.
Horsepower: 580bhp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic


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