Chevrolet Reveals Camaro ZL1 1LE, Surely the Fastest-Lapping Muscle Car in History

Take the already-capable Camaro ZL1, add more track-spec goodies, and boom: the ultimate course Camaro.

Lawrence Ulrich

Talk about adding good things together. The Chevy Camaro SS 1LE is a performance knockout. The new 650-horsepower Camaro ZL1 is even better. Now, just in time for broiling summer track days, how about a Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE?

Jeff Gordon eased the ZL1 1LE from a Chevy garage at Daytona International Speedway Friday, and that may be the slowest you’ll ever see this Camaro go. From its Multimatic monotube adjustable dampers to Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar R3 tires that took three years to develop, the ZL1 ILE is an uncompromising track monster: Available only as a coupe, with a 6-speed Tremec manual transmission and no sunroof. On the gauntlet of GM’s 2.9-mile Milford Road Course, this 1LE—sold as a performance option on a basic ZL1 coupe—shaved three full seconds from the ZL1’s time. Considering that the ZL1 1LE doesn’t add a single horsepower or pound-foot to the ZL1’s 650 in either department, that three second gain is testimony to some serious engineering and development in suspension, aerodynamics and tires.

The ZL1 1LE introduces itself to the breeze with enlarged upper and lower grilles and dramatic black-satin splitters, including a set of sharply canted “dive planes” that bookend the front end like muttonchops. An aluminum hood adds a satin black wrap around the explosed carbon fiber heat extractor, a finish mimicked by a soaring carbon-fiber rear wing with hollow stanchions. Taillamps and Chevy bowties are rendered in black. Forged alloy wheels include 19 x 12 rear rims shod in 325/30/ZR20s, the fattest tires ever on a Camaro.

A Multimatic suspension makes an encore appearance from the track-focused Camaro Z/28, but this one is even more trick, including hard-mounted strut towers with no rubber bushings. Those strut towers feature widely adjustable camber plates. Throw in a hard-mounted rear cradle and adjustable springs and rear stabilizer bar, and owners get a Camaro that allows quick-and-painless trackside tweaks to variables including balance, understeer and oversteer. The Multimatic set-up is largely responsible for a 60-pound weight loss versus a standard ZL1 with magnetic ride control. Some foam is also stripped from rear seats to save mass, but that’s about the only change inside. GM engineers and executives suggested that 1LE components might also be offered as performance parts for DIY types to upgrade SS or ZL1 models.

Yes, it’s all brutally stiff, purpose-built and hardcore. Yet Al Oppenheiser, the Camaro’s chief engineer, figures the ZL1 ILE should be slightly more daily-drivable than the old Z/28. Slightly.