2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

2017 Chevy Camaro ZL1

Ever since I sold the 928, I've often said how I really wanted to get back into a rear wheel drive V8. Even the glory that was the Evo couldn't make me forget the burbly rumble of a large, torquey, 8 cylinder mill or the easy thrills of power-on oversteer. And I've come to grips with the possibility that this could be the last gas engined hot-rod I will ever have. So why not go big?

This is my 2017 ZL1, a supercharged 6th generation Camaro. In contrast to it's live-axle ancestors, the 5th and 6th gen Camaros have a world class independent rear suspension with the capability to apply its enormous power to the ground, turning incredible times not only at the drag strip, but on a road course as well. It's definitely far and away a better chassis than my 4th generation Pontiac Firehawk ever was.

Now, I've long been a fan of '60s and even '70s Pontiacs: the GTO, Grand Prix, Firebirds and Trans Ams and the first generation Grand Am, but even the ordinary Tempest / Le Mans (especially the '61-'63 Tempest), 2+2, Bonneville, Safari, Chieftan and the rest hold a special place in my heart. So I was disappointed when GM eliminated the brand in 2010. Of course, this meant no 5th or 6th gen Firebirds. Maybe it just needs a vinyl wrap? I like a little hue in my paint and could that ZL1 hood insert make a good shaker scoop replacement with a commensureate increase in stripe width? Or maybe I just embrace its Camaro-ness and go with a classic Hugger orange with white Rallye stripes. Some modern reproduction Pontiac honeycombs or Kelsey Hayes Rallye wheels would complete the classic theme.

The whole front-V8, rear drive thing rekindled to flame when a friend at the office bought himself a 2023 Camaro SS 1LE. Even though Chevy retired the Camaro at the end of 2024, prices weren't entirely out of line with the rest of the post-Covid car market and there was usually one 1LE available in my area. I knew already I wanted more, but ZL1 prices were so high and unavailable closer than Houston, Dallas or even Oklahoma City, complicating shopping. I began interviewing local tuner shops who advised me that, indeed, by the time one performed the modifications of the SS's LT1 motor, you were already well into the cost of a ZL1, so their advice was simply to start there. And I considered the benefits of keeping the tested factory-built bottom end together. Besides, you're pretty much guaranteed to get all the toys in any ZL1.

So there I was, interviewing the owner of Exodous Performance, describing my goals: a wide, flat torque curve starting in the low RPMs and we'll let horsepower fall where it may. The absolute numbers aren't critical, just wheverver that falls out given a cost-effective and reliable base of modifications. I loved the lumpy cams in the Evo and other cars I've experienced, so that was key. The owner turned to his front end business guy and says, "Hey, are you still thinking about selling your ZL1?" It was exactly the specs I was looking for. Over the course of a week, we agreed on a few small mechanical changes and a price. Settling the existing lien, obtaining the title and the rest of the paperwork took an unsettlingly long time, but I managed to get it inspected and registered in my home county and now it's truly mine.

I was so happy with my good fortune of not having to drive hundreds of miles to see each individual prospect, getting a modified car that was already well-sorted and all for a price I could afford.

The Fleet 2024

Now I'm back to the problem of garage space like when I made the mistake of selling the Evo. I'm not excited to chance another rat-infested storage unit tearing up wires and vacuum lines. We have a few years of school left in this house. Maybe we'll start looking for a ≥4-car garage with attached kitchen and bedroom in a few years.