Legends abound at Chevrolet Motor Division. And that’s quite understandable considering they all started with General Motors Corp. founder Billy Durant and race driver/car builder Louis Chevrolet.
Thus it is fitting in this, the 25th-anniversary year of the Chevrolet Camaro Z28, that the sporting four- passenger car has left its mark on both road and track.
Only 602 Z28s were built in that first year, 1967. They were offered in a choice of coupe or convertible, with base prices starting at $2,466. You have to throw in a few extra bucks today. But then there is a lot more automobile in Chevy’s 25th-anniversary Z28.
The division is running with the throttle to the floorboard for its current Z28 convertible.
Drivers of the softtop can start with a wild purple-haze metallic paint job and go on to V-8 power, manual or automatic transmission, special-performance suspension, 16-inch wheels, quicker steering, speed-rated tires and a host of comfort and convenience items that are found in expensive sedans.
Lots to like
If you can’t find something you like in this automobile, you’re just not ready for a Z28.
Finding things we liked in the anniversary softtop that GM’s Tom Beaman provided for a test car was no effort. The open-air convertible possessed the suggestive lure of motorized excitement just standing still. In motion, the car delivered a full measure of excitement.
The anniversary car has a lot of pure sports-car feel to it. You sit low in custom leather bucket seats. The wheel drops right into your hands. A full complement of instrumentation is directly ahead of the driver. And it is one of those that has arrows sweeping across the dial faces for instant reading.
Possibly the only thing that performance-convertible enthusiasts would prefer would be Chevy’s five-speed manual transmission instead transmission instead of the test car’s four-speed automatic.
A five-speed is capable of a little better acceleration. However, the four- speed’s shift points were high enough so it really didn’t give away all that much to the manual gearbox.
Something else that performance enthusiasts would prefer is a 350 V-8 (5.7 liters) instead of the 305-cubic-inch (5.0- liter) engine that powered the test car. The bigger motor is available only in the Z28 coupe, but only with an automatic transmission.
More torque in 350 engine
There actually isn’t that much horsepower difference between the two V-8s, 230 horsepower for the 305 vs. 245 horses for the 350. But the 350 cubic inches of displacement develop considerably more torque, and that shows up in 0-60-mile-per-hour runs.
The 305 V-8 is rated at 300 foot-pounds of torque and the 350 V-8 at 345 foot-pounds of torque. That translated into 8.1 seconds for the convertible’s 0-60 mph runs vs. the rated 6.5 seconds for the 350 coupe’s 0-60 mph runs. It brings into clarity the old adage in the racing business, “You can’t beat inches.”
Drivers of the anniversary convertible will fi nd, though, that when they push on the button the back wheels on this thing begin going around in a muscular manner, and the car digs in and goes.
There really was not a great deal of difference between the actual operation of the softtop and a luxury sedan. The sights and sounds were different, but overall the power was smooth, the ride actually pretty easy for this type of an automobile, and wheel effort at speed fairly close to the fingertip variety.
One of the very interesting body construction features is the excellent job Chevrolet has done in minimizing convertible body shake. It took some fairly hard thumps over rough road surfaces to induce movement of the windshield cowling.
305 emits unique sound
In operation, the 305 has its own rumble, courtesy of a tuned exhaust system. And while the car’s performance suspension called for larger front/rear stabilizer bars and higher rear springrates, Chevy’s engineering people have gotten away from the jarri ng ride that w as rather pronounced in past performance models.
There is a pretty good degree of supple wheel movement, yet the car lies flat in high-speed, sharp turns. The faster steering ratio (2.14 turns of the wheel full right to left or vice versa) provides instant feedback to minute movement of the steering wheel.
There is none of this wind-your-watch motion with the wheel to keep the front end on a given line through the turns.
The spartan variety of performance car has gone the way of high-button shoes, so the anniversary convertible is an all-season automobile that gives the same protection from the elements as does one with a steel roof. Cool even on muggy days
On these hot, muggy summer days the air conditioner kept cabin temperature completely comfortable. A range of electronic genies did most of the work. And while the top is manually operated, a new assist spring made it easy to lower and raise it.
Not surprisingly, the Z28’s low-slung sports design made getting into and out of the front seats less convenient than entering and exiting a sedan. Likewise, the back seats took a degree of acrobatics, a problem aggravated by the fact the front seat belts were anchored to the center-located body pillar. And with the top up, visibility was a bit limited.
But the 25th-anniversary Camaro Z28 convertible has that touch for light-hearted motoring, and still can offer a choice of life in the fast lane or life in the slow lane.
1992 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Base Price: $21,500. As tested: $24,962. Type: Front-engine, rear-drive, four-passenger convertible. Engine: V-8, 5.0 liters, 16 valves, fuel-injected, 230 horsepower, 300 foot-pounds of torque. Mileage: 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway. Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds. Length: l92.6 inches. Wheelbase: 101 inches. Curb weight: 3,377 pounds. Options: Air conditioning, custom leather seats; automatic transmission; AM/FM stereo with disc player, Heritage appearance package, convertible power-assist package, carpeted floor mats.