It defies all expectations that the $75,000 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 is faster than the hyper-expensive Lexus LFA and Mercedes SLS AMG around the Nürburgring. The engineers at Chevrolet really dug deep to turn the Camaro Z/28, with its 505-hp, 7.0-liter V-8, into a track-ready instrument.
And yet there were some surprises along the way. The Chevrolet engineers realized that they’d created a monster. “The Z/28’s performance reached such elevated levels that the car started to have problems – racecar-type problems,” Chevrolet spokesman Monte Doran tells us.
To help the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 reach its full potential, Chevrolet engineers conjured up a few clever solutions to prepare this street car for adventures on the track.
It’s all about traction
The Pirelli Trofeo R tires under the fenders of the Camaro Z/28 are about as close to racing-spec as you’ll find on public roads, and they deliver phenomenal grip under acceleration, cornering and braking. Chevrolet’s engineers did, however, notice some vibration from the tires under acceleration and braking. As it turns out, the 505-hp V-8 and the carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes were overwhelming the rubber’s grip, and the wheels were actually slipping within the tires.
“We thought there was no way that it could possibly be true,” said Doran. “We mark the tire and wheel separately with chalk and then take the car out for a lap, and we see that the marks indicated that the wheels were rotating within the tires by 10 degrees. Then we realize that the wheels had actually rotated 370 degrees.”
Engineers ended up using an old racer’s trick, which involves blasting the machined forged-aluminum wheels with bead shot. The method, called media blasting, roughs up the surface of the metal enough so that there’s more friction between the tire and the wheel, holding the tire in place.
The wheels on the car go up and down
When it came to crafting a suspension for a track car, Chevrolet opted for pricey multi-adjustable dampers from Multimatic. The Canadian company has extensive experience in motorsports and also supplies suspension components for such exotic cars as the Aston Martin One-77.
For the Camaro Z/28, Multimatic provides its Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve dampers, which incorporates a design that simplifies internal tuning for different situations. Rather than offering an adaptive suspension with compromised settings, the Z/28 engineering team expended the time, money, and effort to create specific tuning for both street and track situations that could deliver both everyday comfort and carefully controlled high-speed handling.
“One of the reasons we were able to go to such lengths is that the Z/28 is built in relatively low numbers,” explains Chevrolet Camaro spokesman Monte Doran. “We have more leeway on such a focused project. This suspension technology gave the engineers the ability to tune the suspension’s behavior separately for both low- and high-speed wheel action, so we could have the best of both worlds.”
The science of aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is a crucial part of developing any car for track-focused performance. The 2014 Camaro Z/28’s vents, deflectors and spoilers might go a long way toward making the Z/28 look the part of a hardcore muscle car, but they also play a large role in optimizing the car’s aerodynamic downforce. Chevrolet says that the Z/28’s exceptional high-speed stability is attributable to five key aerodynamic elements that overall give the car 440 lbs more downforce at 150 mph than a standard Camaro SS.
The Z/28’s front aero splitter, hood air-extractor vent, and the underbody belly pan are fairly standard fare for high-performance cars. Other measures are unique. For instance, special slats on the wheel arches help direct air around the wheels, reducing speed-sapping aerodynamic drag. The rear spoiler is also available with an aluminum wicker-bill, so the driver can tune the handling balance of the car by adjusting the amount of rear aerodynamic downforce.
The good news is, even if you can’t quite pony up the money for the Camaro Z/28’s $75,000 price of entry, Chevrolet is likely to offer some of these aerodynamic parts as accessories for lesser models of the Camaro in the future.
Keeping cool for more power
It takes a lot of air to feed a 7.0-liter V-8, not only to create horsepower but also to help the engine keep its cool when it does so. During the development process for the Camaro Z/28, engineers removed the car’s grille to get more cooling air into the engine bay, but soon realized that this wouldn’t be a practical for a street car.
Then, powertrain cooling development engineer Richard Quinn decided to hack away at the gold center of GM’s well-known bowtie emblem. Even though it’s a small change to a small badge, cutting a hole in the bowtie allowed an extra 106 cubic feet of air to enter the engine compartment every minute. And this, GM says, helps make the power output of the Z/28’s 505-hp V-8 more consistent during repeated track runs, when temperatures in the engine bay could soar. In fact, the switch to the so-called “Flowtie” badge reduced engine oil and coolant temperatures during extended lapping sessions by 2 degrees F.
“We know our customers are going to take the Z/28 to the track,” says Chevrolet Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser. “An important thing for them is to get as much airflow as possible to cool this motor compartment.”
The logic of the flying car
As much as we might wish the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 could really fly, it would be a terrible waste of such great rubber. Instead, the Z/28’s so-called flying car logic ensures that when your Z/28 does get some serious air, you don’t lose power or traction upon returning to earth.
When an ordinary car with stability control goes airborne, the complete loss of traction tells the stability-control computer to reduce torque to the drive wheels in order to restore grip. By the time the car hits the pavement, the stability control would have slowed the engine, compromising the car’s speed.
The Camaro’s flying-car logic uses sensors to recognize a sudden change in ride height as an airborne moment. The ride-height sensors can then communicate with the performance traction-management system, essentially saying, “Don’t panic, we’re just flying. Keep the power on!”
Sound like a pointless change? The technology shaved a full five seconds off of the Z/28’s lap on the Nürburgring Nordscheife. Eat your heart out, Porsche.