2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 vs 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 - At The Strip

A. J. Mueller

The 2013 Ford Shelby GT5000

Sorry, Ford, but your precious 200 mph boast couldn't matter less when the GT500 has only 1320 feet to make a statement. Which is not to say that it can't.

The scene begins in the water box. Turn off stability and traction control, and roll the car over recently hosed-down pavement until the rear tires are sitting in a shallow puddle of water. Right foot revving the engine, left foot comes off the clutch and touches the brakes. The rear tires break loose, spin and smoke, but the GT500 sits still, like a dragster with a front-brake line lock. There's only billowing white smoke and a perfectly poised, immobile car.

The scene continues, rear tires roasted, when the car creeps forward so quietly you'd think you were driving a hybrid. Pre-staged, it's time to enable the Shelby's launch control system, which is extremely simple. Turn stability and traction control back on, then press the little button to the left of the steering wheel marked "LC", and presto. Then just choose launch rpm and crawl forward to stage. Both feet are flat to the floor until you're ready to take off.

Up to this point, the GT500 has been as easy and as uneventful to drive as its tame competitor. The mise en scene is quite similar, but something feels much different. The green light pops on, the GT500 has a sudden mood change and is no longer as sane as it first seemed, and the scene completely morphs.

The 662-hp, 5.8-liter V-8 with a 2.3-liter supercharger on top screams and whines like a demonic toddler having a meltdown. The rear end starts to kick out, quelled by slight steering adjustments to keep the car's nose pointed dead ahead. The needle on the tach climbs as the car claws against the strip and begins its charge towards the finish line. And just when you've stopped worrying about getting the 3852-lb behemoth under control, you start worrying about shifting to second.

Unlike the ZL1, the GT500 can be had only with a six-speed manual transmission. It's a Tremec TR6060 as well, but the transmission in the Ford couldn't feel more different from the Chevy's. Shift action is shorter and tighter, and the gates are so close they feel like they're sitting on top of each other. Then there are the gear ratios. You can run an all-out quarter-mile in the GT500 using only three gears, but it takes four in the ZL1. The less shifting you have to do in the Ford, the better. The clutch pedal is very heavy, has a lot of travel, and is difficult to push all the way to the firewall. And if you tried the ZL1's "no-lift shift" technique in the Ford, you'd rip the body-mounted linkage right out of the transmission tunnel.

Quickly and successfully choose second gear with an old-fashioned yank, though, and the GT500 rewards you with terrifying straight-line speed. It's so fast that you start thinking the six-piston front brake calipers won't slow the car enough for it to exit the strip. Then comes third gear, which feels like it's in the same position as first, and you stay in it for the rest of the run. You cross the finish line -- in less time than it takes to tie your shoes -- and immediately get on the brakes. If you're brave, you can look down at the speedometer to see the needle start its descent from well over 100 mph.

The car slows down in plenty of time to avoid powersliding through the strip's exit, and it's a calm drive back to the staging lanes. And all the way back, you can't help but wonder how a driving experience so visceral and entertaining could come from this car, now as poised and sane as it was before the run. The scene ends. The Shelby has made its statement.

Hoods up, back in the pits

The ZL1 did its best pass in 12.38 seconds at 114.5 mph, while the GT500 turned the quarter-mile in 11.78 seconds at 125 mph. So there you have it, Ford beats Chevy. But like we said, drag racing is about more than time slips.

Chevrolet made a modern-in-every-way pony car, and Ford built something with the character of an old-school muscle car, overlaid with track-focused technology. The two have very distinct, individual ways of making it down the strip, but the common thread between the two is gratification. Every single pass in the GT500 and ZL1 was a ball, and was so involving that we couldn't care less about our time slips. Sure, we were happy to be turning times less than a second off those that require a full roll cage, but we cared more about soaking up every second we could with these two.

Everyone at Milan Dragway felt the attraction as well. Ford guys loved the look of the ZL1, the GT500's sub-12 second runs blew Chevy guys away, and everyone agreed that both cars are sensational. And since both cars have a base price of $54,995, there was much debate over which car was more of a steal. What surprised us was the ease with which Chevy and Ford guys admitted that. Warring factions of people finally fessing up to the fact that the other side can do something right -- that's pretty cool.

Bcoles1
I get tired of Ford lovers that are never happy with the credit they get. If you gave me 5000.00 dollars more on the Camaro I would blow the Ford out the door. Price as tested!!!! Ford needed a performance package and an Svt track package to win.
blkthomas
I agree there seemed to be some bias in this story.. off the bat Im a FORD fan, and I can agree the Camaro has a more advanced suspension.. but drag racing IS all about who get across the line first (no matter how you do it)!! we all have our favorites but really.. lets be fair and give credit where its due. Fast is fast, and the yard stick is the same..
shaker281
HMMM, no bias, eh? In part 1 the first author was so giddy he almost peed his pants over a .7 second edge , now the second author starts part 2 by saying "timeslips aren't everything"! If I planned to make a living writing for auto enthusiasts, I wouldn't have been so quick to destroy my credibility and that of my employer.
redbloodedxy
redvette77:Yeah, ok redlips -- "least biased" according to who?GM = Government Morons
redvette77
@redbloodedxyAutomobile Magazine are the least biased publication in the business. Fact. Now simmer down.
redbloodedxy
More slanted writing from professionals! Automobile: How much is Gov't. Motors paying you? The article never mentions the Camaro's horrible gas mileage, cartoonish styling, bad ergonomics, or that cheesy plastic piece of crap covering the motor in Freudian fashion. Instead, you guys write about the Mustang's brute force off the line as if it were some kind of problem. Really ?? The GT500 is a marvel of engineering at a bargain price -- a terrific package! Real race cars have manual transmissions! Anybody can drive the girl-a-matic Camaro and look good -- big deal.
spitball
I still want a Shelby but I'm glad our money did some good for Government Motors!
redvette77
@ RFloritThere is no Japanese or European car that you can buy for less than 60k, and will beat these two vehicles. Even if there were, it still wouldn't matter. They are pony cars. And pony cars are something you either understand, or you don't. They are something special.
tulsvt
@redvett, That does make me feel a little better, there is a Dodge one on my screen now. The fact is that these are both great cars. Who would have thought that we would have 2 American Pony cars for sale with 580+ HP. I can say that unless they made the cluch extra heavy in the 13's, his gripes about the cluch are unfounded. The cluch in my 2012 Shelby is no heavier than it was in my BMW 328 although the shift feel of the TR6060 does suck. @RFlorit, I would love to know what Japanese car you can buy for less than $60K that will whip either of these cars.
Cbad
Hey Florit, do everyone a favor and let us know where one can find a 3 year old 911 Turbo for $60K! Before posting such garbage you might consider doing a minutes worth of research...
garbargc
ummm.. drag racing IS about trap times. There are no two other cars that are more so marketed and built to appeal to fans and owners who care about exactly that -- bragging rights as to which gets down the quarter faster. I have convinced myself the authors of these comparisons render opinions independent of sponsor $, but as others have written, this case looks suspect... Declare the Ford the winner.
RFlorit
12.3/11.7 quarters? 1:44 laps at Gingerman? Sounds great for pony car standards but these are $60K plus sports cars with $20K car interior plastic, $25K car chassis. Do the research, for that dough you can buy european, japanese (or corvette) and whip these two, buy a Cayman S and shave 8 seconds at Ginger with half the ponies of these two, buy a three year old 911 turbo and whip them at the quarter by 1.5 seconds, drooling at these two is fool's gold.
redvette77
@ tulsvtTry not to read too much into it. When I read the same story, there was a Lincoln advertisement on one of the pages. The simple fact is that the authors of these articles are paid to give us their opinions of the cars. They are doing just that, take it or leave it.
32V-SVT
Where are the Videos?!?!?!
Ry_Trapp0
"One, drag racing isn't all about quarter-mile times."...that's funny, you had this to say in part 1..."This test is about which car can turn a lap fastest."so numbers only matter when the course that's being timed has turns, huh?"Every single pass in the GT500 and ZL1 was a ball, and was so involving that we couldn't care less about our time slips."wow, you guys sure did care about those lap times at gingerman though, involvement and 'having a ball' be damned!wow, i can't wait to see the 3rd part! i wonder who is gonna win?![/sarcasm]
pointby
Just wow. I love both cars for what they are. It is a great time to be a muscle car enthusiast. But please, "1/4 mile race is not just about the time slip". Really? So following that logic I am guessing if the GT500 was 2 seconds faster yesterday it still would have lost. Let me guess who will win the next segment about every day driveability... Clearly it will be the car with MRC but also the lower gas mileage, the tiny windshield and the big blind spots. Oh and useless gauges behind the shifter. After all, its not just about ergonomics, or speed, or exhaust sound or....
tulsvt
Funny, when the ZL1 wins a 2+ mile track test by 7/10ths of a second, it is declared the obvious winner. When the Shelby wins a 1/4 mile drag by 5/10ths of a second and 11 MPH, all the "objective" auther has to say is they are both good cars... Wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that it is a Chevy ad on this page instead of a Ford ad?

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