In the 1960’s muscle cars were just starting to come into their own. The king of the road was the Mustang and had a two year head start on the Camaro. At first the Camaro was named “Panther” but was later renamed and was built for Chevrolet to have a muscle car answer for the Mustang which had already enjoyed some amazing success in sales and performance. The first generation was built on the F-platform and showed up with a base model that was powered by a 3.7-liter 140 horsepower engine and two performance models, the Super Sport (SS) and Rally Sport (RS) which were released later.
It wasn’t until 1968 that the Z28 actually appeared. The idea behind the Z28 was to be a trans-am racing contender which required it to have at least 1000 production units for the model year. Vincent W. Piggins came up with the concept of the Z28 and once he received the green light to go ahead with this version he ensured it would comply with the trans-am racing circuit, which further required engines to be no larger than 305 cubic inches. The first Z28 carried in a 302-cid small block V8 that showed up with 290 horsepower and 290 lb.-ft. of torque and a four speed manual transmission.
This Camaro employed an improved handing response and offered a F41 optional suspension package, making it one of the best performing and most easily controlled muscle cars of the time. The F41 package includes heavy duty cols in the front and a multi-leaf spring in the rear and the car rode on 15×6 wheels. Los Angeles Chevrolet tells us that the air intake was also redesigned to allow more air to cool the engine and allow this mean beast to breathe more easily. As a continued control feature the brakes and tires helped improve the car overall. The tires were larger than most and the power disc brakes were bigger than the other Camaros in the lineup. With all these upgrades the Z28 was much faster than the SS model in all regards.
The first year of production, 1966 the car only had 1006 units produced, barely making the cut for the trans-am circuit, but as popularity grew the total production numbers through 1969 was 28,503 as the market called for this awesome car to be more available than ever before. This amazing success carried over in 1970 and is still enjoyed today as the Z28 brings in the thoughts of some of the greatest in racing popularity for the Camaro.
Even though the Camaro has since transformed into several other models and has enjoyed many generations of change, the Z28 will always have a special place is American muscle car history. For those who have always loved a Z28, your Camaro could have come with a very different name and could have easily been the Panther Z28 and was built as a response to the success of the Mustang, which is how many cars are built and developed.