We'd already tested both cars individually and came away impressed by each of them. But we wanted to see how they stacked up in a more competitive environment--on the racetrack. To wring them out, who better than the race-proven sons of the drivers who'd campaigned the cars so famously back in the day? So we lined up some track time at New Jersey Motorsports Park. And then we drove the cars east from Ann Arbor.
That was a long haul, admittedly, but there was method to our madness. Rather than tricking out the cars with aftermarket goodies, we decided to make this a run-what-you-brung affair. And to make sure we had an apples-to-apples comparison, we limited ourselves to go-fast parts available as factory-installed options.
For the Mustang, we started with the GT model, built around a 315-hp, 4.6-liter twin-cam V-8 mated to a five-speed manual transmission. To this, we added the $1495 Track Pack, which features a limited-slip differential with a 3.73:1 final-drive ratio, nineteen-inch wheels shod with Pirelli PZeros, more aggressive brake pads, carbon-fiber clutch plates, a strut tower brace, and upgraded suspension components.
For the Camaro, we opted for the SS. This is slightly more expensive than the Mustang GT, but it offers more bang--a 6.2-liter pushrod V-8 pumping out 426 hp, a six-speed transmission, a limited-slip diff, Brembo brakes, and a performance suspension. All Camaros have an independent rear suspension rather than the Mustang's live axle. We also checked the box for the $1200 RS package, which added twenty-inch PZeros to the mix.
Both cars performed so admirably on the 600-mile slog to New Jersey that our racetrack prep consisted of nothing more than washing them, filling the fuel tanks, and airing up the tires (a few psi over the factory-recommended pressures to avoid chunking the tires' outer tread ribs). Under threatening skies and braving lots of pesky little insects, Jones and Donohue met us at the so-called Thunderbolt Raceway with helmet bags in hand.
Gentlemen, start your engines!
Each driver gets one session to familiarize himself with the cars and the circuit, and being pros, they're up to speed almost immediately. Then, they each do a series of timed hot laps. After Donohue finishes his session in the Camaro, his feedback begins with an eternal verity: a street car--even a really hot street car--isn't a race car. Not even close. There's just too much compliance in the Chevy's suspension; otherwise, the car wouldn't be livable in the real world.