Only sixty-nine ZL-1 Camaros were built for the 1969 sales year, and aside from limited production numbers, many of these 427 cars were either destroyed or lost to time. The truth of the matter is that Chevy’s “ZL-1” option was mostly geared toward drag racing, but if there’s one place where you can still catch a glimpse of Chevy COPO history, it’s the Brothers’ car collection.
It’s fitting then, that the Brothers Collection is not only home to the very first ZL-1 Camaro built in 1969, but also the first pre-production, ZL1 (no hyphen) built for 2012, “Chevrolet claims that over 30% of the Camaro had been changed and modified to become the ZL1,” says Kevin Oeste of the 5th-Gen car.
Oeste comments on how the ZL1 became an overall “trim upgrade” for the 5th-Gen, “Prior to the ZL1’s release in 2012, Chevrolet released a special Camaro fleet, known as the ‘CTF,’ or ‘Controlled Test Fleet’ vehicles,” says Oeste of the car’s conception. “These cars were built to evaluate the build quality of what would become the Camaro ZL1.”
The new Millennium’s variant of the ZL1 race code doesn’t spare engine size either, as the 2012 Camaro features GM’s all-aluminum, supercharged LSA mill. The General’s high-tech V-8 is a 9.1:1 compression motor, with 376 cubic-inches of blown fury.
According to most media outlets, this was good for solid 12-second passes, but the ZL1 actually ran an 11.93-second pass at 116 miles per hour, according to General Motors. In NHRA, anything running 11.46 or faster must have a roll cage, placing the 5th-Gen ZL1 that much closer to race track status. Adding further to the race package for 2012 was an option between a 6L90E, 6-speed automatic and TR-6060 manual. Either way, the Camaro ZL1 quickly became a door-slammer for a new generation. Final gear ratios for the automatic cars were 3.23:1, while manual versions enjoyed a beefier, 3.73 final gear.
The 5th-gen Camaro made for better engine and suspension tech, but it also made for a platform much heavier than its F-Body ancestor. Even so, the 2012 ZL1 still maintains a 51 to 49%, front-to-rear weight distribution. Does that mean that it’s better than the original?! You decide!