The Yenko family started a Chevrolet dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1949. In the late ’50s, when Don Yenko started managing the business, the company slowly turned to the performance car market, first with a series of race-prepared Corvettes. Don himself raced with complete conversion jobs based on various Chevrolet models (via American Muscle Car Museum).
Very soon, with the introduction of the Camaro in 1967, Yenko started converting it to 427 V8 power and selling them as Yenko Super Cars. In addition to more power, wild graphics, and a long list of optional extras, Yenko even offered a factory warranty and heavily promoted his models. That is why Yenko Camaros were the most popular choice if you wanted a custom 427 V8 conversion on your regular SS.
The incredible chassis, powerful engine, and driving dynamics of the latest Camaro model made it the perfect basis for a race car. So, in 2018, the famous Pratt & Miller racing outfit designed and manufactured the state-of-the-art racing Camaro designed to compete in the GT4 class. The FIA-sanctioned GT4 class requires that the car is based on a regular production model but with purposefully-made aerodynamic packages, safety components, and a suspension change (via GT3 European Series).
In the case of the Camaro GT4, the power comes from a 6.2-liter V8 engine but is restricted to 480 HP. The body is made out of light composite materials; there are full race-spec dashboards and spoilers. Interestingly, the car has been offered for sale to private race teams for $260,000.
Although the 1967 Z/28 wasn’t the most powerful Camaro on offer, it was the best choice in handling, braking, and overall driving dynamics. If the SS 350 and SS 396 were pure muscle cars with big engines and loads of tire smoke, the Z/28 was the driver’s machine and a road racing model which could handle most challenges (via Hemmings).
The Z/28 package included front disc brakes, close-ratio four-speed manual transmission, a revised suspension and steering, exterior trim details like racing stripes, vinyl roof, and headlight covers. Still, the real treat was under the hood. The power came from a 5.0-liter V8 with 290 HP. This engine proved to be ideal for the Z/28 and gave the car thrilling performance while retaining low weight and agile handling. The Mustang didn’t have such a version so this Z/28 was a pretty unique offering.
The third-generation Camaro was most definitely a well-received and popular car. Still, after a while, buyers wanted more performance and power. So Chevrolet delivered it in the form of the legendary IROC-Z version. Introduced in 1985, the IROC-Z was kind of a tribute model to the Chevrolet-sponsored International Race of Champions (IROC) racing series. However, it was more than just an appearance package and a cool name (via Motor Trend).
Under the hood was a 350 V8 with 225 HP in early versions and 245 HP in later versions. Buyers could opt for manual or automatic, and the suspension was tuned as well as steering. Chevrolet even offered a cool-looking convertible, the first Camaro ragtop in 18 years. The IROC-Z proved to be a very popular and influential muscle car that finally brought some actual performance to Chevrolet buyers.
The ZL1 Camaro is what the Shelby GT500 is to the Mustang. A top-of-the-line model that perfectly combines performance, speed, handling, and the legendary nameplate that means so much to automotive fans. The 2019 model continued that tradition, further refining the formula and improving every aspect of the machine (via Chevrolet).
With 650 HP under the hood and a 10-speed automatic, the 2019 ZL1 is capable of insane 0 to 60 mph times. If you hit the accelerator pedal hard enough, you’ll hit 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds which is supercar territory. The top speed is an astonishing 198 mph, something Camaros of old could only dream about.
The base Camaro SS is one of the best muscle cars around with its 6.2-liter, 450 HP V8 engine, loads of torque, and a perfectly balanced chassis. That said, the 2019 1LE is even better. The engine is the same one as you get in a Corvette, which means it has 460 HP. The suspension is even more focused and slightly revised to give the driver better driving feel and sharper response. Imagine driving this perfectly-tuned machine on a long road trip, spending every mile soaking up the road (via Chevrolet).
Also, the aero package is slightly improved, and the 1LE is the best car if you want an all-around sports machine. It is a capable road car, comfortable enough to be used every day and for long drives, and sharp enough to be a track car on the race track. Besides the SS V8 1LE, for $10,000 less, you can get the V6 1LE, which is less powerful but still a very good sports car.
Not a lot of people know about the 1LE third-generation Camaro produced from 1988 to 1992. However, you should blame Chevrolet for that. The 1LE was a very rare option based on the IROC-Z model of the same vintage. It looked like any other Camaro from the outside but its drivetrain options revealed something special (via Hemmings).
The 1LE had a special, shorter differential, which provided better acceleration, bigger brakes, revised suspension, and a lack of options like air conditioning. This resulted in a lighter, faster, and more agile Camaro that was a true enthusiast’s choice. However, not many customers knew about this package since Chevrolet didn’t promote it. In the end, only about a few thousand examples were made.
The legendary Z/28 version returned for the 2014 model year in an exciting and extremely capable package. Once again, the Z/28 was a road racing-oriented Camaro with brakes, suspension, and steering dedicated to precision driving dynamics (via Car and Driver).
Under the hood was a 7.0-liter V8 from the Corvette Z06, which delivered 505 HP and provided more than enough power and grunt, but the rest of the car was all highly engineered for precision. Stiffer shocks, thicker anti-roll bars, unique wheels and brakes, and a 300-pound lighter body all helped the Z/28 to achieve better numbers at the race track. The Camaro ZL-1 was faster in a straight line with its supercharged engine, but the Z/28 was a better all-around performer and a perfect track day vehicle.
The 2001 Camaro is considered to be the last of the breed. Called the “Catfish Camaro” due to the large front duct used for cooling the engine, this model was the last of live axle cars and was a classic muscle car in a modern package. It was also the lowest production year with less than 30,000 made (via Cars).
The engine options included the venerable 3.8-liter V6 with 205 HP and the famous 5.7-liter L.S. V8 with up to 310 HP. Even today, early 2000s Camaros are considered the best bang for the buck in terms of power and performance for an affordable price. Their drivetrains are rugged and can withstand drag racing and track days.
The 1993 model year marked the return of the Camaro and Z/28 model in a brand-new body mated with an improved, modified F-Body platform retaining the live rear axle setup. The fourth-generation Camaro was a modern-looking and capable muscle car that came in two body styles – coupe and convertible (via Old Car Memories).
The engine lineup consisted of V6 and V8 units, and in the Z/28 version, Camaro got Chevrolet’s LT1 engine with 275 HP. It doesn’t sound like much today, but for the early ’90s it was a good number that translated to lively performance. The Z/28 package also received improved brakes and six-speed manual transmission.
Camaro fans were terribly disappointed when Chevrolet decided to retire the nameplate for the 2003 model year. It looked like Mustang had finally won the muscle car battle. The Firebird was also discontinued and the Mustang was the only domestic pony/muscle car still on the market at the moment. However, it turned out that Chevrolet was just waiting for the right moment to return the Camaro to the market in a totally redesigned, restyled, and re-engineered form. That moment came in late 2009 when a brand new, fifth-generation Camaro was introduced to an eager market (via Cnet).
The 2010 Camaro was a triumph of retro-futuristic design and engineering. The GM’s Zeta platform was highly sophisticated and allowed the new model to have sports-car-like road holding and driving dynamics. The base engine was a V6. But right from the start, fifth-generation Camaro buyers had the option of the SS model with a 6.2-liter V8 engine and 426 HP, which made the 2010 Camaro SS one of the fastest domestic cars at the moment. With an advanced chassis and brutal performance, the Camaro SS was far superior to the Mustang G.T. of the same vintage, which helped Chevy beat Ford in the sales war.
As one of the most popular American muscle cars, the Camaro appeared in numerous movies in the last 52 years. However, the most popular of all movie Camaros is the Bumblebee – the yellow and black Camaro from the Transformers movies (via Motor Authority).
As such, it deserves a place on this list, both in a classic and modern interpretation. The Mustang might be featured in more movies, but the Camaro is equally recognizable and famous.
The 1970 Camaro was strangely a mid-year release due to a strike of G.M. workers that delayed the introduction of 1970 models. However, when it finally arrived on the burning muscle car scene, the 1970 Camaro SS set the new standards in the pony car segment. The first-generation SS models, the 350 and 396, were immensely popular with the buyers. 1970 brought improvements in suspension geometry, aerodynamics, and appearance (via Mecum).
The SS package included 350 V8 with 350 HP and 396 V8 with 375 HP. The engines were a carryover from the last year. However, more than capable of propelling the new Camaro to pretty respectable 0 to 60 mph times and helping it beat the competitors, including the new-for-1970 Dodge Challenger.
Chevy knew that the Camaro platform could handle much more than 426 HP. It was already capable of delivering fantastic cornering speeds and world-class handling. So it was only natural that as soon as the new generation hit the streets in 2010, engineers started developing performance versions. The first of those was the great Camaro ZL-1 introduced in 2012 and sold throughout 2015 (via Evo).
The ZL-1, as you know, was a special 427 V8 powered drag beast from 1969 and its 2012 counterpart followed the same formula. Chevrolet took the biggest and most powerful engine G.M. had – a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 and stuffed it into the Camaro. The result was a 580 HP street terror. It boasted a highly advanced Magnetic Ride suspension, performance Goodyear tires, Brembo brakes, and more. The 2012 Camaro ZL-1 wasn’t the one-trick pony like its 1969 predecessor was. It was rather a pure sports car that could put Porsche 911 to shame and outrun much more expensive and exotic cars. It was not cheap at $57,000 MSRP, but it was well worth it.
Like all muscle cars in the ’70s, the Camaro faced tightening emission and safety regulations and loss of power and performance. The early second-generation models looked promising, but just a few years after, the Z/28 was gone. The most powerful V8 model had something like 165 HP. A pale shadow of its former glory (via Auto Evolution).
However, the 1977 model is essential for two reasons. First, it marked the return of the Z/28 option after a few years of absence. The ’77 Z/28 had just 185 horses but it looked wild with a unique body kit, wild graphics package, and spoiler. However, the second reason is much more interesting. In 1977, Chevrolet Camaro finally outsold the Ford Mustang for the first time since 1967. The mid-’70s Mustang was a really slow and ugly car. While the Camaro at least looked much better with proper muscle car styling and stance. That is why Camaro sold over 200,000 examples that year alone, while the Mustang only managed to sell 153,000 copies.
You’re mistaken if you think Camaros are only about big blocks and massive V8s. Of course, like any good muscle car, Camaros are defined by V8 engines, but there’s more to this model than that. The proof is the 2016 Camaro RS powered by a 355 HP, 3.5-liter V6, as this model is a BMW-killer more than Mustang GT competitor (via Motor Trend).
It’s capable of going 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, which is not extremely fast. It’s fast enough to keep things interesting. However, its most significant advantage is that this car weighs less than the V8 model. It is also significantly more affordable, making it one of the cheapest ways to become a member of the Camaro family.
Think again if you believe Yenko was the only classic Camaro tuner. There were several well-known names in the business, but the most extreme was the Baldwin Motion (via Motor Trend).
Their 427 conversions for the early 1970s models were simply the best. Baldwin Motion installed numerous exceptional performance parts and dyno-tuned the cars. They delivered them with a written warranty that the vehicle could achieve 10-second quarter-mile times and produce 500 HP. Today, Baldwin Motion Camaros are highly sought-after and valuable pieces of muscle car history.
Before we get into explaining the 2018 ILE Turbo, let’s talk numbers. A 0 to 60 mph sprint takes 5.3 seconds, the top speed is 150 mph, and the power output is 275 hp. Is this a high-priced classic model from the early 70s? No. It’s a four-cylinder turbocharged Camaro from the current lineup (via Car and Driver).
Although Camaro fans are V8 fans and love a proper V8 machine, we have to give credit to this little Camaro. It’s a modern-day sports car with a modern engine and loads of performance but in a small, fuel-efficient, and affordable package. It just shows that you don’t need a big engine to have fun. However, you still need a V8 for a great soundtrack since this four-cylinder just doesn’t sound as good.
Even though California Highway Patrol used the Camaro even before the appearance of the Mustang S.S.P. model, Chevrolet didn’t release the full “cop spec” model until 1991. Called B4C (factory code), it was a special Camaro designed for law enforcement work and high-speed pursuits.
The B4C was basically a Z/28 Camaro with a 350 V8 engine and 5-speed manual transmission. However, a lot of exterior details were gone, and the car looked as stock as possible. The suspension and brakes were beefed up, and several heavy-duty parts were added as part of the package. The Chevrolet offered Camaro B4C until 2002 and less than 3000 were made (via Code 3 Garage).
The fourth-generation Camaro, along with its twin brother the Pontiac Firebird, lasted until 2002 and then went on an eight-year hiatus. During nine 9-year lifespan, Chevrolet improved the Camaro, not only esthetically. The introduction of various mechanical improvements, and newer and more powerful engines, added to the performance and style of the late ’90s and early ’00s Camaros (via American Muscle Car Museum).
Arguably the best Camaro from that period is the 2001/2 SS version which featured a 5.7-liter V8 with 325 HP. The combination of a powerful engine, sturdy chassis, and six-speed manual made the fourth-generation Camaro SS the classic muscle car in every aspect with the same feel, noise, and performance as the legendary models from the ’60s but with better comfort and ride quality. The early 2000s Camaro SS is remembered as one of the best and most affordable muscle cars from the period. An excellent basis for modifications since the venerable V8 has significant potential. Achieving 400 to 500 HP from the LS1 V8 is relatively easy to do.
You all know about the legendary C.O.P.O. Camaro ZL1 cars of the late ’60s and their incredible drag strip performance. Well, for the 2012 model year, Chevrolet introduced a special-edition C.O.P.O. Camaro which was made for N.H.R.A.’s Stock Eliminator Championship (via Top Speed).
Under the hood was a naturally aspirated 427 V8 engine with over 600 HP. Plus all racing technology to be the fastest car on the drag strip. Chevrolet wanted to pay a little homage to the original C.O.P.O. Camaros, producing only 69 examples for 2012.
The ZL1 might steal the headlines when it comes to horsepower and insane 0 to 60 numbers. However, the standard Camaro SS is still the best choice. If you want an exciting muscle car but have a budget, keep your eye on. With incredibly composed chassis, precision steering, and excellent suspension, this Camaro is arguably the driver’s muscle car (via Chevrolet).
Under the hood is the venerable 6.2-liter V8 with 455 HP. It’s capable of getting the 2022 Camaro SS to 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds. The top speed is a pretty respectable 183 mph. Unfortunately, you will need the German de-restricted Autobahn to prove Chevrolet’s claims.