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My ZL1 Can Beat Up Your ZL1!

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On: Wed, Apr 20, 2011 at 3:01PM | By: Andrew W Davis

My ZL1 Can Beat Up Your ZL1!

This won’t earn me any fans at Chevy, but the upcoming 2012 Camaro ZL1 is a wussy. Though they call it everything from the “highest-performing Camaro and the most technically advanced car ever developed in its class” to the “fastest Camaro ever offered by Chevrolet,” it still isn’t stout enough in my mind to wear what is arguably the Camaro’s most hallowed performance badge.

The important bit in all of Chevy’s PR frippery is the one that reads “by Chevrolet,” as the ne plus ultra classic Camaro, the 1969 ZL1, wasn’t technically a Chevy. Sure, it was a Chevy Camaro with a Chevy all-aluminum racing 427 cu.-in. V8 (codename: ZL1), but if it was produced today GM would demand that dealers like Fred Gibb—who ordered the first 50 original ZL1 Camaros—remove all Chevy emblems because the General doesn’t need the headaches that would follow on the heels of unleashing a tactical nuclear weapon on wheels like the ZL1.

Or so you’d think.

Even in the anything-goes automotive market of 1969 Chevy didn’t list the ZL1 engine’s availability to anyone, ever. Still, other crafty dealers ordered 19 more of these engines in Camaros on the heels of Gibb’s, for a total of 69 ‘69s. [Two went into Corvettes, too, but I like the Camaros’ parity.]

What kept the orders down was the fact that the ZL1 engine setup alone was $4,200, or the MSRP of the car itself. Add to that Chevy’s downplaying of the engine’s power—listed as 430 hp but actually over 500—and you can see why they were a tough sell.

At an expected MSRP of around $50,000 the engine/car ratio isn’t that steep for the 2012 ZL1—a 2SS coupe with the 426 hp 6.2-liter V8 that’s without the supercharger starts at $34,295—but seeing as how the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 produces “just” 550 hp and lb.-ft. of torque, the money-to-hp ratio argument (each 2SS pony costs $80.50 v. a ZL1’s $90.90) isn’t as powerful.

[In case you're wondering, SLP owns the ZL1 name and is licensing it back to Chevrolet. Similar to—but more successful than—Ford's dealings to reclaim use of the "GT40" name.]

So when I tell you to pay $147.92 per instead it might seem a bit nuts. But if you want a ZL1—a real-deal, ’69-style ZL1—beg, borrow or steal $110,945 (or $80k if you already own a 2010-and-up Camaro SS) and visit New Jersey’s SLP Performance Parts. There you'll have your chance at one of just 69 427-equipped (750 hp/728 lb.-ft.) ZL1 Camaro coupes—yep, just like the original—that can show its tailpipes to any Corvette ZR1 zero-to-60 mph and match its two-seater sisters’ 11.1-sec. ¼-mile times.

[A convertible (!) is coming soon as well. More on that in an upcoming article.]

But any nutbar with the money, time, and tools can slap a supercharger on an LS7 (Chevy’s new all-aluminum 7.0-liter—or 427 cu.-in.—V8) and make all kinds of power. And they might be able to get that power to the ground and could possibly put in some pretty impressive runs. But will they offer a warranty on their work, knowing what you’re going to do with it? Probably not. And if they do, good luck making them follow through on it when your motor goes RPG on you.

SLP will because they’re the manufacturers of almost every bit of gear they use in their creations, with the only exceptions being made by the best in the business, like Michelin XL Sport PS2 tires and Brembo GT brakes. See, that’s another thing you can’t count on with most other car-modifiers: SLP essentially re-engineers everything underneath your Camaro, including SLP’s own exhaust and suspension systems, shifter, driveline, and wheels, so you have a cohesive performance package.

You get your money’s worth up top, too, with SLP- and ZL1-specific carbon creations covering each end, plus classic throw-back badges—like the blue grille "bowtie" identical to the originals (something even Chevy seems to have missed)—and classic styling cues. Inside the SLP folks resume their winning ways, re-skinning almost everything you touch with Katzkin-brand leather—in one of seven colors—plus they replace the seat inserts with cloth in the classic black-and-white “hounds tooth” pattern.

Will an SLP ZL1 be worth more in the long run than two ZL1s from Chevy? Can you get more than half of what an SLP offers from your local bowtie dealership? Do you really need a car as powerful as GM’s ZL1, let alone SLP’s? Yes, no and maybe, with the “maybe” being dependent on your ability to not be a wussy who would ask that question in the first place.

[And if you buy one and can’t handle it, there’s no shame in giving it to me. In fact, that’s what the super-cool kids would do. You want to be cool, right?...]

Download PDF Brochure [http://slpcamaro.com/docs/2011ZL1SIB.pdf]

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