Contrary to popular belief, the Chevrolet Camaro was designed from the outset as a more conventional replacement for the rear-engine Corvair and not a belated General Motors response to Ford’s wildly successful Mustang. From its debut in late 1966, the Camaro was value-priced from just $2,466 for the basic 6-cylinder hardtop coupe and available with a wide range of option packages. Best of all for performance fans, the Camaro’s engine bay was able to accommodate virtually the entire Chevrolet passenger-car engine range from thrifty sixes and lightweight small-blocks all the way up to the fire-breathing Mark IV big-blocks.
- 302 cid V-8 engine
- 290 HP
- 4-speed manual transmission
- independent front suspension with unequal-length A-arms
- coil springs
- anti-roll bar
- live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs
- front disc and rear drum hydraulic brakes
- 108” wheelbase
The Camaro proved to be an extremely successful gamble for Chevrolet, with total production for the 1967 model year reaching nearly 221,000 vehicles. Meanwhile, Ford Mustang sales began to stall, reflecting the greater variety of competitors in an increasingly crowded market for sporty personal cars in America. Both would take their showroom battle to the track and their duels would quickly become the stuff of racing legends.
Conceived and built with development spearheaded by Chevrolet’s Vince Piggins as the GM Division’s new SCCA Trans-Am racing contender, the thoroughly engineered RPO (Regular Production Option) Z/28 option package was quietly introduced for the Camaro in 1967 to homologate the car for racing. At its heart, the Z/28 featured a high-winding and tough small-block V-8 engine, combining the basic dimensions of the 327-cylinder block and 283 crankshaft to yield 302 cubic inches. Highly developed underpinnings and other race-bred tweaks maximized the Z/28’s power output, and many generations of race car drivers know how well balanced the 302 equipped Z/28s have always been.
All-out racing versions were most successfully campaigned by Penske Racing and piloted by star driver Mark Donohue to back-to-back SCCA Trans-Am championships in 1968 and 1969 against ferocious competition from the Bud Moore and Shelby-prepped Mustangs. Despite its road-racing intent, the Z/28 was also quite formidable on the drag strip. According to period magazine road tests, the Z/28 was a solid 14-second car in stock trim with low-13s easily achieved with narrow slicks, lower rear-end gears (3.73:1 standard), open headers, and expert tuning. Dave Strickler’s famous Bill Jenkins-prepped “Old Reliable” Z/28 ran 11.70s in full-on Super Stock trim, capturing the 1968 NHRA Super Stock World Championship and confirming the vast potential of the Z/28’s small but mighty 302.
For many, the rare first-year 1967 Z/28 represents the pinnacle of the first-generation Camaro series, with features, styling cues, and race-inspired performance that makes it one of the most desirable Camaro models ever.