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REAL WORLD ROAD TEST: Z28 CAMARO Page 2

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Wally Booth’s Rat Pack 1 Camaro drag racer was a popular 1968 door-slammer. This 1:24 model is from RSC.

The 1970 Z28
Z28s were built in Norwood, OH, and Van Nuys, CA. The exterior differences between the cars that came out of the two plants caused a great misconception about the Z28. It is commonly believed that all Z28s were optioned with the RS appearance package (small front bumpers and a polyurethane nose). In fact, the Z28s from the Ohio plant had the full front bumper. This was also how the Trans Am cars looked as they were shipped from the Norwood plant in early 1970. Another interesting note about the Norwood Zs is that the VIN begins with “Z28.”

First-generation Camaros became instant stars in all classes of drag racing. Many were saved from the scrap yard simply by their crowd appeal. Here, Mike Adams uses a ’67 SS as a base for his national competitor D-Class Modified racer.

The Z28’s Pace Car was there until the end, but these unique models have yet to hit their stride as collectibles.
CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE

When you run the ’69 and ’70 performance numbers side by side, the second generation’s superiority becomes more obvious. Its superior torque moves the ’70 off the line much faster: tests of the day consistently clocked it at nearly a second quicker to 60mph than the ’69, even though it’s slightly heavier. The more powerful ’70 holds its lead through the quartermile, posting low 14s to the 69’s 14.9.

The ’70 gained its biggest advantage on winding roads. A more sophisticated suspension with quicker steering, bigger anti-sway bars and better shock damping combined with its lower center of gravity to give it a quicker transitional response. The seat position also enhances the driver-to-car connection. Although the ’70’s hood is longer than that of its older brother, visibility is no worse. The absence of a raised cowl hood may help here.

Throwing the Z28 through the curves was somewhat enjoyable. The stiffer progressive spring rate and thicker anti-roll bars played a part. The modern Yokohama Z-rated tires were certainly a big step up from the bias-ply Goodyears the car came with. That said, any car approaching 40 years old is going to feel primitive when compared with a modern vehicle, but in its day, the Z28 represented the cutting edge of affordable performance.

There’s no denying that the 1969 Camaro Z28 is the line’s superstar. And although some consider the ’70 to ’72 Z28 more handsome, the halo that surrounds the ’67 to ’69 models is so strong that second-generation cars almost become invisible in their presence. More 1969 Z/28s were sold than all those from 1970 to 1972 combined. Prices of the second generation are more reasonable even though fewer were built. Buyers must be cautious, however, as Z/28s and Z28s from 1967 to ’72 are subject to being cloned.

After 1970, the Z28 began a steady decline in horsepower and prowess, and in 1975, Chevy dropped the Z28 name. It returned in 1977 as a pale imitation of its former self. Chevy created a Z28 that was little more than a trim option. Sure, it had several special handling components, but horsepower was down to 185—less than a current Honda Civic Si. Between 1975 and 2002, when Chevy closed the Camaro plant, the Z28 never regained the image it enjoyed in 1970. It was lightning in a bottle and a machine that, by comparison, is still an affordable all-out performer among classic pony cars.

Year Overall Z28 % cid hp
’67 220,917 602 0.02 302 290
’68 235,115 7,199 3 302 290
’69 245,095 19,014 7 302 290
’70 124,889 8,733 7 350 36
’71 114,630 4,862 4 350 330/275
’72** 68,656 2,575 4 350 255 (net)

From 1970 to ’73 the Camaro’s appearance was altered slightly. The ’72 RS optio
n’s grille featured a subtle split. The integrated driving lamps first showed up on the ’71 models.
This three-piece rear-deck wing arrived late in 1970 and stayed on the options list for 12 years. It was available on Z28, IROC and SS versions.
The Penske/Donahue team catapulted the Camaro Z/28 to fame in 1967. GMP offers highly detailed versions of this ’68 and the ’69 Sunoco cars. Chevy produced a few hundred Z/28s in 1967. RC2’s version is one of the best links to the beginnings of the nameplate.
The disco era brought a sloped nose and a rapid decrease in horsepower. Although they were popular, in time, these low-performance models hurt the powerful Z28’s earlier image. By the time Camaro production ceased, the SS version was clearly the most popular. Its style had evolved, but it was a shadow of its former glorious self.
*Chevy provided gross and net power ratings for 1971. The lower net figure is the more realistic and can be compared with modern power figures. For a rough comparison, the 55hp differential can be subtracted from engines made in 1970 and earlier.

**Low production because of a 174-day strike that closed the Norwood plant.

GMP—Georgia Marketing & Promotions (800) 536-1637; gmpdiecast.com
RC2 Corp. (800) 704-8697; rcertl.com
RSC (877) 914-3030; rsc-collectibles.com

Updated: June 30, 2011 — 11:22 AM

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