The Very Best Camaro Trim Levels

the Chevrolet Camaro emblem
Camaro Emblem – photo by inkknife_2000 (7.5 million views +)

A while back I took a look at some of the Best Mustang Trim Levels. On these lists I try to focus on trim levels available from the factory. If they are aftermarket trim levels that have to maintain the factory warranty. I have to admit some bias in this one. Although I have owned a Mustang, I’m a Chevy guy. My family has worked for a combined 100 years at General Motors. My father has a 1968 Camaro, my aunt has a 1969 and 1979 Camaro. The Camaro was introduced in 1967, a few years after the Mustang. While the Camaro never really had as many trim levels as the Mustang, there are a few noteworthy ones.

Camaro SS

a light blue 1969 Camaro SS
1969 Camaro SS – photo by Tony Hisgett

The SS model is the lowest trim level you should get. Anything less than that isn’t really a Camaro. Yes there was the RS or Rally Sport trim level but that is really just an appearance package. In the first generation Camaro, the SS, or Super Sport, trim level featured the iconic 350 and enhanced chassis upgrades to better put the power down. Today, the SS is the only model featuring the naturally aspirated V8. They’ve added a 1SS and 2SS but the 2SS just includes parking assist and some speakers. I’d rather save the five grand and buy a supercharger. The first generation SS made 285 hp and an impressive 380 lb ft of torque. Today, the 6.2L makes 455 horsepower and 455 lb ft of torque. Not bad at all!

Indy Pace Car Camaro

1969 Camaro Indy Pace Car, white with orange stripes
1969 Camaro Indy Pace Car

The Camaro has been the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 9 times. In those years, Chevy would release special edition pace car trim levels for the Camaro. These trim levels don’t really have any performance enhancements. Most of them are just special decals, paint, and sometimes interior colors. What is special about these cars are their rarity. In the first generation, Chevy produced 602 Z/28’s (more on those in a bit) in 1967. That same year, they only produced 100 pace car editions. That number would balloon to six thousand in the third generation but would drop back down in 1993. One of the rarest is actually more current. Chevy produced less than 300 2010 Camaro pace car editions. If you ever find yourself in possession of one of these please do not ruin it, they are some of the rarest Camaros around.

IROC-Z Camaro

a red IROC-Z Camaro
IROC-Z Camaro – photo by M62

I’m not sure why I am such a fan of the IROC-Z Camaros. Maybe because I am a child of the 1980’s. The IROC-Z was named after the International Race of Champions and became the flagship Camaro starting in 1985. They featured upgraded suspension, a lower ride height, bigger sway bars, Bilstein shocks, an engine from the Corvette, and special decals and wheels. The performance numbers weren’t exactly great. Hell, they were fifty horsepower below the first generation Camaros! Of course this was the 80’s, performance was dismal all around. 1989 was the best year for the IROC-Z with special package that added larger brakes, an aluminum driveshaft, a special gas tank for racing, and stiffer bushings. I always have my eye out for one of these in good shape. I would love to clean up the body and drop in a LS7. 

Camaro Z/28

a red Camaro Z/28 with white stripes
1969 Camaro Z/28 – photo by Jack Snell

The Camaro Z/28 has always been designed to be the most extreme version of the Camaro. It was a race-ready car build to take on the SCCA Trans Am series. The first year it was offered, Chevy didn’t even advertise it. It only featured a 302 cu in engine they say made 290 hp but the number was closer to 400. In 1972 Chevy changed Z/28 to Z28. Wow. That’s about the only thing of interest for the 2nd generation Z28’s. They were pretty dreadful. Thanks OPEC! A Camaro Z28 was Motor Trends Car of the Year in 1982 but was surpassed that generation by the IROC-Z as we mentioned above. The fourth generation Z28’s were starting to increase in power but they were actually under the SS trim level for a few years. So why is this trim level higher? Because the 5th Generation Z/28 was that good! 

You read that right, Chevy went back to the original Z/28 and create a track monster. The car was so good it won Motor Trend’s Best Driver’s Car award in 2014. The Z/28 featured the 505 hp LS7 engine an insane suspension, massive carbon-ceramic brakes and massive 305mm tires all around. The car bested such giants as the Ferrari 430 Scuderia and Lexus LFA around the Nurburgring and it did it in the wet. All the while costing around $75,000. I have been toying with buying a used one for awhile and I really should. Soon they will shoot up in price as they become collector cars. They only made a little over 1,800 of these magnificent cars. Let’s hope that Chevy brings back another one for the sixth generation.

Camaro ZL-1

a yellow Camaro ZL-1 with black accents
Camaro ZL1 – photo by Ominae

It is really hard to beat the 5th generation Z/28 Camaro. In fact, I would say the ZL-1 and 5th gen Z/28 are tied in their awesomeness. The only reason I would give the ZL-1 the nod is that they were the 1st generation beast. They are also the top dog in Camaro horsepower today. At the end of the day, the Camaro exists to put massive amounts of horsepower down in a 2+2.The 1st generation ZL-1’s were COPO cars featuring a massive hand-assembled 427 cu in engine. The engine, code-named 9560/ZL-1 made anywhere from 430 to 500 hp depending on the setup. There were only ever 69 of these bad boys ever made. Good luck finding one! 

Chevy brought back the ZL-1 name in 2012 and it did not disappoint! Like the original, the car is an absolute beast. It came out of the gate with the supercharged LSA engine making over 580 hp. The car had massive 305 mm rear tires, big brembo brakes, and a beefed up six-speed transmission. It also has coolers for damn near everything and features an upgraded fuel system. The car rockets to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and hits the quarter mile in under 12. The power would increase to 650 hp. The jaunt to 60 mph would decrease to 3.5 seconds and the quarter mile times would drop to 11.4 seconds. The car would also hit 198 mph! These cars are absolutely insane! You’re getting supercar levels of performance in a car that costs 75 grand! We are living in the automotive golden age, enjoy it!

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