The 2012 Cheverolet Camaro ZL1 is one our favorite cars released this year, mostly because it’s the only new Camaro we’d like to own. It’s also proof that the best era of muscle cars is right here in the present, and that if you have about $55k lying around, you don’t have to look much further than your Chevrolet or Ford dealer for supercar rivaling performance. Not to mention that if have used Nissan GT-R money burning a hole in your pocket, you can go 200 mph via performance consultants John Hennessey or John Lingenfelter.
Impressive stuff, but what happens if you take Pro Touring legend and GM engineer behind the ZL1, Mike Stielow, and let him loose in his own garage tasked with building his ultimate Camaro? You get the 750-horsepower LS9 powered Red Devil. The name is no embellishment as it’s a potent mix of modern horsepower, big brakes, suspension wizardry, and timeless 1969 Camaro design. Which warrants the question, how well does the ZL1′s technology match up against the raw power of a hot-rodders imagination?
It’s closer than you’d think, and that’s no small feat when you consider how much work and tuning has gone into the Red Devil. The fact that you can walk into a Chevrolet dealer and basically drive off the lot with a cuddle friendly Trans-Am car is great. That’s all thanks to GM’s Magnetic Ride suspension and Performance Traction Management system. Together they work together so well that you think you’re driving a racecar. You can even flat up-shift it like a sequential gearbox, making the Camaro sound like a much angrier version of the double clutch setups from Porsche and Audi.
But the real race car here is the Red Devil. It looks like a Trans-Am, belches fire like a Trans-Am car, and with ridiculous supercharger whine akin to straight cut gears; it sounds like a Trans-Am car. Unlike a Trans-Am car, you can buy all the parts bolted to the body. The suspension is supplied by Detroit Speed, engine and transmission are right out of the GM parts catalog, while the big brake kit and sticky tires are pretty standard issue road racer stuff. The trick is in the tuning, but that’s also the fun of it. And judging by the looks of it, Mike Steilow knows how to have fun.
You can see both of Mike Steilow’s badass Camaros, as well as his on track abiliites in the video below. David Freiburger hosts the showdown at Gingerman Raceway: