Chevy’s Track Weapon

Balls-out Camaro ZL1 1LE a taste of things to come for Oz

by DANIEL DEGASPERI

MERE weeks after Australia revealed its final tribute to local muscle in the form of the HSV GTSR W1, The General is throwing its weight around with this Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.

No hard feelings, though, because this is one small (block) Trans-Pacific Partnership we want signed off right away. Chevy’s mental muscle coupe may be a mouthful – and sadly left-hook only for now (see breakout) – but the ZL1 1LE promises not to be a handful on a racetrack.

Since 1969 the ZL1 badge has been affixed to track-ready models, but the 1LE pack steps cal V owing lock) y’s ) the focus up another notch. Enter its huge name for “the most trackcapable Camaro ever” developed, which drops weight, increases grip, adopts trick adjustable dampers and even adds aero, all primed to tear into the Mustang Shelby GT350R.

The 6.2-litre supercharged V8 engine from the previously announced Camaro ZL1 is kept with the 1LE extension, and this decent wedge of Detroit Iron – or these days, aluminium – continues to produce a mighty 485kW at 6400rpm and a hefty 881Nm at 3600rpm.

The Corvette Z06-shared LT4 luminium remains a pushrod unit, but it now gets direct injection, forgedaluminium pistons, and variable valve timing and oil displacement, plus a 1.7-litre Eaton supercharger between its aluminium cylinder heads. It may be smaller than the 2.3-litre unit in the GTSR W1’s older LS9, but it can spin to 20,000rpm – or 5000rpm faster.

While the underbonnet figures are unchanged, 30kg has been stripped for a now 1733kg kerb weight, a relative featherweight compared with our HSV’s circa- 1900kg physique.

It’ll crush a similarly sized Mercedes-AMG C63 S or BMW pared

RIGHT-HAND DRIVE COMES AT A COST

CROSSOVER Conversions will swap the steering wheel of any Camaro you like – for a price. The US$60,000 ZL1 – note, the ZL1 1LE’s pricetag is yet to be announced – translates to $79,000 in our coin. Shipping adds $5000 to the price while five per cent duty adds another $3000, Luxury Car Tax a further $6209 and GST an additional $8200. Suddenly the price totals $101,409 and that’s before the local conversion cost of $44,000 is applied.

The Melbourne-based company will import you a car, or you can BYO and the conversion process itself takes eight to 10 weeks of the entire sixmonth import process. – DD k six

M4 Competition, too, with Chevy claiming 0-60mph (0-97km/h) in 3.5 seconds and an 11.4sec quarter at 127mph (204km/h) on the way to a seriously honking 199mph (318km/h) top speed.

The 1LE may be six-speed manual-only, but the rear-drive coupe gains extra traction thanks to widened rubber, from 285mm to 305mm up front and 305mm to 325mm at the rear.

Specially designed GoodYear Eagle F1 Supercar SR tyres – rivals to a Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 – also team with added downforce and enhanced aerodynamics via a carbon fibre wing, air deflectors and dive planes on the front fascia, which increase its cornering limits from 1.03 to 1.1g.

The 20-inch rims move down to 19s, but the new forged alloy variety also sheds 3.3kg at each corner or 13.2kg all up – almost half the total, with reduced rear glass thickness, a fixed rear seat and lighter wheels and dampers bringing home the remaining weight reductions.

If weight shedding and aero tweaking sounds un-American, then at least there aren’t any centre console buttons to tweak the multi-mode suspension.

Gone is the Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) used in the regular ZL1 (and also some HSVs) and in its place are Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve (DSSV) units from Multimatic, the same Canadian brand that produces dampers for the Ford GT. With adjustable front ride height, moveable rear camber plates and even a three-way antiroll bar, it’s serious track-day stuff.

According to Chevy, “all of the components are designed for quick changes at the track for optimal performance and a quick return to street settings when the track day ends”.

The Camaro ZL1 1LE needs to quickly maul the more popular Mustang on its home turf. The 5.2-litre flat-plane V8 Ford misses forced induction, yet makes 392kW/582Nm and sheds 60kg over a regular GT350. Unlike the Chevy, it even flicks climate control and stereo.

There will be some time lag between the closure of Australian manufacturing and the next chapter in the GM-versus-Ford war that we’ll now borrow from our Stateside cousins. It hurts knowing that the last Camaro was a VE underneath and engineered in

3 important Camaros

Game Changers

1969: ZL1 (first gen)

Engine: 7.0-litre V8 Power: 321kW/610Nm Why it is special?

Original ZL1, only 69 made, mega grunt for the era.

1985: IROC-Z (third gen)

Engine: 5.7-litre V8 Power: 164kW/434Nm Why it is special?

International Race of Champions edition with 5.7L, Bilsteins and bracing.

2010: Transformers (fifth gen)

Engine: 6.2-litre V8 Power: 318kW/569Nm Why it is special? Aussieengineered ‘bumblebee’ star of Transformers put Camaro back on world map.

Australia, yet this sixth-gen model sits on Cadillac’s Alpha platform, developed only for left-hand drive.

Local Lion dealerships are pining for this car, and thankfully Holden still promises a sports car will enter its line-up by 2020 (see breakout). What Australians need right now is a model exactly like the ZL1 1LE that can stick it to the fancy Germans for less. Or, exactly what the Commodore did for decades. Thankfully all signs point to it being a case of when – not if – a right-hook Camaro emerges within the next half-decade. M

CORVETTE FIRMS AS POTENTIAL BASE

IT WAS January 2015 and GM international vice president of international operations Stefan Jacoby announced that a sports car with “most likely” a V8 engine will be in Holden dealerships following the closure of Australian operations. At the time he said the two-door coupe model had not yet been seen, but it would be a global product not based on the Opel Monza concept – thought at the time to be a rebodied Chevrolet Camaro – and would be tuned in Australia. Since then, nothing. But Holden maintains it is part of its bid to bring 24 new models to the market by 2020.

Insiders have since confirmed that there is a plan for the nextgeneration Camaro to have a steering wheel on its right side, but that vehicle is unlikely to appear before around 2022. With Opel now sold to Peugeot-Citroen, a rebodied Camaro is off the cards, leaving the Corvette as a front runner for right-hook potential as a new model switch is expected by the turn of the decade. Prototypes of the rumoured Ferrari-fighting, mid-engined Corvette have been spotted – even with a Holden ute body and then with bespoke sheetmetal. It’s also an all-new platform with a 2019 on-sale.

But what about HSV? A spokesperson for the brand has said it “would expect to be in a position to provide comment in a few months’ time” about its future, but it has said it must branch out from the V8 crowd. We also know Holden has supplied NG Commodore/Opel Insignia prototypes to the Walkinshawowned offshoot. Holden insists the 370Nm 3.6-litre V6-engined, all-wheel drive new Commodore flagship doesn’t have the space for a turbo under its bonnet, but we know from experience how handy HSV is with squeezing something new into an older platform. – DD