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BBC Autos

Chevrolet Camaro Z/28: Air conditioning optional

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Albeit in parody, the Philadelphia-based punk band the Dead Milkmen pretty well captured the adolescent appeal of the Chevrolet Camaro with its most popular song, 1985’s aptly titled Bitchin' Camaro.

But adolescents largely can no longer afford Chevy’s pony car, and with the introduction at the 2013 New York auto show of a facelifted 2014 model — in purist-baiting Z/28 guise with 500 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque — parents must regard this as a good thing.

The 2014 Camaro Z28 harks back to the racing roots of the nameplate, specifically to the Sunoco-blue Penske Racing Z/28 campaigned in the Sports Car Club of America's Trans-American sedan racing series of the late 1960s. "It is the defining performance point for the gen-five Camaro, and it's straight out of the legend of Mark Donohue 302 engines, acid-dipped panels and all the Trans-Am racers," said Mark Reuss, president of General Motors, North America.

That means the Z28 has been stripped of amenities in the name of conserving weight. Goodbye trunk liner and radio speakers, hello optional air conditioning. This car might not reap the weight-saving benefits of thin sheetmetal, like the Donohue racecars it evokes, but it does have thinner rear window glass. Chevy even eliminated wires from the harness that would have anchored the climate control unit and stereo speakers. It all serves to bring the Z/28’s curb weight down 300lbs below that of Camaro’s halo specification, the supercharged ZL1.

What they took away, however, is only part of the story. The Z/28 also has a Tremec six-speed manual transmission, Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, 19-inch forged aluminium wheels and Pirelli PZero Trofeo R tires. Twenty-inch "dub" wheels may look the part, but the 19-inchers trim 42 pounds and lower the car's centre of gravity by 33mm compared to the fashionably bigger rims.

Every 2014 Camaro wears a revised front fascia with an enlarged lower air intake for improved cooling and reduced drag, along with a resculpted roof-to-trunk area and new taillights. The Z/28 adds to these a splitter under the fascia, as well as a rear spoiler, which help hold the car on the track where most cars would generate unwanted, destabilising lift.

Ackknowledging that a vehicle with no sound deadening and optional air conditioning has limited appeal to regular drivers, Reuss said the Z/28 was just the thing for gearheads like himself. "I know it's the car for me, and I think a lot of other people are going to love it too, once they drive it," he said. "It's the real deal."

Chevrolet would only say that the Z/28 will be available later this year. And the lack of a price tag or EPA fuel economy numbers suggest that the Z/28 will not be trolling the New Jersey shore in time for the Dead Milkmen to mock it anew this summer.