Tuesday, 31 Mar 2020

Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Trans Am WS6

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Camaro Z28

The Camaro Z28 is the oldest living survivor of the musclecar era. It debuted as a special high-performance option package in 1967. If CM sticks to its current plan, the Z28 will be relegated to the history books after the 2002 model year. The 1967 Z28 performance package included a 290-horsepower, 302-ci V-8 engine; sport suspension; and 15-inch wheels and tires. It was Chevy’s way to meet the 5.0-liter production engine limit imposed by the regulations of the SCCA Trans-Am series. In 1970, the Z28 engine size was increased to 350 cubic inches.

The Camaro Z28 option was discontinued after the 1974 model year. In mid- 1977, the Camaro Z28 returned as a separate model in the Camaro lineup. Things stayed that way until 1988 when the Camaro Z28 was replaced by the IROC-Z model. This model was named to take full promotional advantage of Chevy’s involvement with the International Race of Champions (IROCf race series. Specially prepared Camaros were used in the series that pitted professional race drivers from all forms of racing against each other. In 1991, after Chevrolet no longer was associated with the IROC race series, the Z28 model resurfaced as the IROC-Z disappeared along with the rights to use the series name.

Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Trans Am WS6 - photo 1
Camaro Z28

Camaro Z28

The current Camaro Z28 model is built on the fourth generation Camaro platform that was introduced in the 1993 model year. This latest version hit the streets with more than a swoopy new body going for it. Under the hood was a version of the LTl small block V-8 that first appeared in the 1992 Corvette. In the Camaro Z28, the aluminum-head 5.7-liter V-8 put out 275 horsepower (opposed to the 300 horsepower rating in the Corvette) and was mated to a new sixspeed manual transmission. Also new was an unequal length A-arm front suspension. It was just what the Camaro Z28 needed to reclaim the pony car performance crown from the Mustang.

Motor Trend put the 1 993 275-horsepower Z28 head-to-head with a 1993 Mustang Cobra and got these results: 0 to 60 miles per hour, 5.6 s conds for the Camaro Z28  and 6.2 seconds for the Mustang; quarter-mile, 1 4.0 seconds (98 miles per hour) for the Camaro against the Mustang’s 14.4 seconds (97.4 miles per hour). In celebration of its racy new performance, the Z28 also served as the official 1993 Indy 500 Pace Car. Chevy made 633 pace car replicas that had the special twotone black over Arctic White exterior, white painted wheels, and Indy 500 graphics.

The cost to outfit a Z28 Coupe ($16,779 base price including LTl engine) as a pace car replica was $995. In 1996, the SS initials returned to the Camaro Z28 equipped with option R7T. These initials were accompanied by modifications that raised the performance bar for old and new Z28s. SLP Engineering carried out the R7T modifications with the approval of Chevrolet. They included a 305-horsepower version of the LTl with a functional hood scoop and forced induction, reworked suspension, special rear spoiler, and 17×9- inch ZR-1—type wheels with P275/40 ZR17 tires. Camaro fans knew a good deal when they saw one.

Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Trans Am WS6 - photo 2
Camaro Z28

Camaro Z28

Despite the additional $3,999, 2,420 SS models were sold in 1996, followed by 3,430 more in 1997. The underwent cosmetic surgery in 1998 with changes to the headlights, nose, grille, andrear taillights. Not everyone approved of the external changes, but the changes under the skin received a unanimous thumbs-up. The aluminum LSI V-8 introduced as part of the all-new 1 997 Corvette had filtered down to the Camaro. This new engine bumped the horsepower of a standard Z28 to 305 (later increased to 310 in 2001). Motor Trends test of a 1999 Z28 came up with a 0-to-60 time of 5.5 seconds. When they tested a 2000 model Z28 with the SS option, now rated at 320 horsepower, the time was brought down to 5.3 seconds.

On the drag strip, the SS turned in a quarter-mile elapsed time of 13.7 seconds—outstanding performance for a car priced around $30,000. The Camaro Z28 may be nearing the end of the trail, but it seems that Chevrolet has saved the best for last.


Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Trans Am WS6 - photo 3

Camaro Z28

Engine of Camaro Z28 5.7-liter aluminum OHV V-8 with forced-air induction

Power Ratings of Camaro Z28 335 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm

350 ft-lbs torque @ 4,000 rpm

Transmission of Camaro Z28 Six-speed manual

Suspension Front of Camaro Z28: Independent; upper and lower A-arms

Rear of Camaro Z28: Live axle on torque arm and trailing links

Wheels/Tires 17×9-inch; P275/40 ZR17

Brakes Four of Camaro Z28-wheels discs

Wheelbase of Camaro Z28 101.1 inches

Curb Weight of Camaro Z28 3,306 pounds

Length of Camaro Z28 193.5 inches

Pontiac Trans Am WS6

It is fitting that the Trans Am should remain a growling, menacing reminder ol the bad oh days when herds of musclecars prowled our streets and highways. Pontiac started the whole musclecar phenomenon in 1963 by stuffing a 326-ci V-8 inside a Tempest. The GTO followed in 1964, and the first Firebirds came out in February 1967. The Trans Am started out as the WS4 option package in March 1969 on 1969 model year Firebird hardtops and convertibles. It consisted of the 400-ci HO engine (335-horsepower Ram Air III), three-speed manual transmission, heavy-duty suspension with stabilizer bars, Safe-T-Track rear end, a rear spoiler, special hood scoops, and a Cameo White exterior with blue stripes.

Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Trans Am WS6 - photo 4
Pontiac Trans Am WS6

Pontiac Trans Am WS6

Pontiac built 689 of these cars, and 55 of them had the optional 345-horsepower Ram Air IV version of the 400-ci V-8. Since the beginning, Trans Ams have been heavy breathers. The latest WS6 iteration of the Trans Am is true to its “ram air” roots with two sets ol hood-mounted scoops that, when coated in sinister black paint, take on the scowling visage of Darth Vader, in addition to his respiratory characteristics. The Trans Am has built a reputation of being one bad dude over the years, and this can also be seen in the transformation from the “good guy” white-only exterior in 1969 to the preference by latter-day owners for an all-black paint scheme.

The WS6 option code dates back to 1978, when it was first offered as a Trans Am Special Performance Package that consisted primarily of larger wheels and tires and a larger rear stabilizer bar. Although its content has changed over the years to include items including four-wheel disc brakes, the WS6 remained more or less a handling package. The WS6 nomenclature rejuvenated the Trans Am’s performance image as well as its deep-breathing musclecar reputation in 1996.

The 1996 WS6 Performance and Handling Package, available on Formula and Trans Am Firebirds, used a twin-port hood scoop Ram Air system to bump horsepower of the Corvette-derived LTl 5.7-liter V-8 from 275 at 5,000 rpm to 305 at 5,400 rpm. The torque also increased from 325 footpounds at 2,400 rpm to 335 foot-pounds at 3,200 rpm. A Motor Trend road test of a WS6 recorded 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.7 seconds and a flat 14 seconds through the quarter-mile with a trap speed of 101.9 miles per hour.

Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Trans Am WS6 - photo 5
Pontiac Trans Am WS6

Pontiac Trans Am WS6

To put this in historical perspective, the Motor Trend archives show that the original 1969 Trans Am with a 335-horsepower engine turned in a 84 Taupe was one of only two interior color options in 1996. The other choice was Dark Pewter, which coordinated better with GM corporate gray on the dash and center console. Only 7,936 Trans Ams were sold in 1996. 0-to-60-mile-per-hour time of 6.5 seconds and a 14. 9-second quarter-mile. A 1971 455-HO (335 horsepower)—motored Trans Am was able to reach 60 miles per hour in 5.4 seconds while running down the quarter-mile in 13.8 seconds at 105.6 miles per hour.

Other goodies in the 1996 WS6 package included a stiffer suspension with larger front/rear stabilizer bars, firmer transmission mounts, and 17×8-inch five-spoke cast-aluminum wheels with P275/40 ZR17 tires. In 1998, the aluminum LSI 5.7-liter V-8 was installed in the Firebird to give it 305 horsepower as a starting point. The WS6 package built on that and used a new hood with two functional hood scoops placed directly over the Trans Am’s standard non functioning hood scoops for the Ram Air effect. Besides the firmer suspension parts, a free flowing exhaust was also part of the package, although the 1998 models had a single outlet as opposed to the dual outlets on 1999 and later cars.

Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Trans Am WS6 - photo 6
Pontiac Trans Am WS6

Pontiac Trans Am WS6

The power output for the 1998 WS6 Trans Am jumped to 320 horsepower and 343 foot-pounds of torque. This increase dropped the .0-to-60-mile-per hour time to an incredible 5.1 seconds. Much of the credit lor the improved performance of the WS6 package should be given to SLP Engineering of Troy, Michigan, whose president, Ed Hamburger, is a former drag racer who started modifying Firebirds in 1991. His original Firehawk impressed GM so much that his company has been allowed to work closely with Pontiac and Chevrolet in offering special performance and handling packages such as the Camaro SS and the Fire hawk through GM dealers.

In 1999, the Trans Am celebrated its 30th anniversary with a series ol 1,600 cars—1,065 coupes and 535 convertibles—that carried a special white exterior paint scheme with twin blue racing stripes. The interior included white leather seats with 30th Anniversary logos on the headrests. The convertibles had blue tops, and all of the cars had blue-tinted 17-inch wheels. This vehicle may have been the last hurrah for the Trans Am, which is scheduled to cease production after 2002.

«Modern American Muscle»

Patrick Paternie and Dan Lyons

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2 thoughts on “Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Trans Am WS6

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