1967 Camaro Z/28 History
Text and photos from Chapter 6 of
Michael Lamm's "The Great Camaro"; and also from Chapter 14 of
John Hooper's "The 1967-1968 Camaro Reference Book".
1967 RPO Z28 - Special Performance Package
includes 302-cid V8 engine, closed positive ventilation, dual exhaust with
deep tone mufflers, special front and rear suspension, heavy-duty radiator
and temperature controlled fan, quick ratio steering, 15x6 wheels, 7.35x15
nylon red stripe tires, 3.73:1 ratio axle and special paint stripes on
hood and rear deck (requires 4-speed close ratio transmission, power
brakes, front disc brakes or heavy-duty front disc brakes with metallic
rear brakes; positraction recommended; Sport Coupe V8 only).
Price - $358.10
Total 1967 Z28 production - 602.
If one man alone deserves credit for the Camaro Z-28, it's
Vincent W. Piggins. Vince not only thought up the Z-28 but convinced
Chevrolet management to put it into production so the car could be
homologated and raced in SCCA's (Sports Car Club of America's) then-new
Trans-Am sedan series.
Steve Kelly wrings out first 302-cid Z-28 at
Riverside introduction in Nov. 1966.
In fact, without Vince's prodding, the SCCA might never
have continued Trans-Am sedan competition at all. It was only after
Piggins assured SCCA officials that Chevrolet would lend its support that
a racing schedule materialized for 1967.
Vince, who's been a Chevrolet engineer since 1956 and who
was the man behind the Hudson Hornet's NASCAR championships in the early
1950's, explains the Z-28's creation with these words:
"After Ford released the Mustang, they had about two
years on us before Chevrolet could get the Camaro into the 1967 product
line. I felt in my activity, which deals with product promotion and how to
get the most promotional mileage from a car from the performance
standpoint, that we needed to develop a performance image for the Camaro
that would be superior to the Mustang's.
"Along comes SCCA in creating the Trans-Am sedan
racing class for professional drivers in 1966, aimed at the 1967 season. I
made it a point to have several discussions with SCCA officials-notably
Jim Kaser, John Bishop, and Tracy Byrd-and one thing led to another. I
suggested a vehicle that would fit this class and, I believe -- supported
by what Chevrolet might do with the Camaro -- it gave them heart to push
ahead and make up the rules, regulations, and so forth for the Trans-Am
series. I feel this was really the creation of the Trans-Am as we know
All this took place in mid-1966, several months before the
Camaro actually came out. The series was going to be open to all American
and European production sport sedans, FIA International Sporting Code,
Chapter IV, Touring Cars, Group II, Appendix J. Rules held competitors to
a 116-inch wheelbase maximum and 305 cid engine displacement, with only
limited modifications. The rule, then as now, required a 1000 production
minimum to be built by the end of any model year.
This was "sedan racing," mind you, and what
qualified the Camaro and all ponycars as "sedans" was the fact
that they had rear seats. And although Chevrolet sold only 602 Z-28's
during 1967, they met the 1000 production rule by homologating the 350-cid
Camaro under FIA Group I rules and then qualifying the same basic vehicle
with the Z-28 option under Group II.
Now on August 16, 177, " continues Piggins, "I
put together a memo to my boss, W.T. Barwell, that laid out the basic idea
of the Z-28, although, of course, it wasn't called that then. We didn't
name the car until several months later, but I'll get into that in a
"This memo went out to engineers Alex Mair and Don
McPherson, sales manager Bob Lund, Joe Pike in sale promotion, and C.C.
Jakust. 1 said, in effect, that SCCA sedan racing was becoming
increasingly popular and would blossom into even bigger things with the
advent of the short-wheelbase, Mustangtype ponycar.
"My proposal went on that since our projected engine
lineup for the 1967 Camaro had no V-8 smaller than the 327, and since we
were above the 5000cc (305-cid) SCCA displacement limit for Class A
sedans, we ought to take a high-performance version of the old 283 and
wrap an option package around it to make it competitive within SCCA.
You'll remember that the Barracuda was running a 273 V-8 at that time, and
the Mustang's competitive engine was the 289. So our high-performance 283
would certainly have been right in there."
The key portions of Piggins' Aug. 17 memo said, "A
new 283 high-performance engine plus other relative driveline and chassis
items will provide performance and handling characteristics superior to
either Mustang or Barracuda. To aid in the merchandising of this vehicle,
certain other embellishments have been included to make the overall
vehicle immediately identifiable and distinctive. The sales department
anticipates a volume of 10,000 such vehicles could be sold in 1967."
Piggins now resumes his narrative: "My initial
proposal suggested we use the 283 V-8 plus the F-41 optional suspension,
with heavy-duty front coils and multi-leaf rear springs. I also requested
the J-52 front disc brakes with J-65 metallic linings for the rear drums,
the 11-inch clutch from the 396 V-8, the close-ratio 4-speed with 2.20
low, a brand-new steering gear with a 24:1 overall ratio, Corvette 15 x 6
wheels with 7.75 tires, and a special reworked hood to provide functional
air intake. There were other modifications called for as well, and 1
suggested we make the package available only in the Camaro coupe, not the
convertible, and that the Z-22 Rally Sport option form part of the
equipment for this car. Now not all this equipment went into the
production Z-28 automobile, but those were the initial parts called
While hood and deck striping came standard with
Z-28, RS equipment and D-80 spoiler didn't. Both are visible here,
plus optional bumper guards and vinyl top. Early Z's didn't carry
302 front-fender emblems.
Piggins got permission to have a pre-production Z-28
prototype built to these initial specifications, and during a
"show-and-tell" session to top management at the GM Proving
Grounds on Oct. 4, 1966, he trotted out the car.
One of his first passengers in the as-yet-unnamed Z-28 was
Chevrolet's new general manager, Elliott M. (Pete) Estes. The ride didn't
come until just before noon. After some full-throttle acceleration runs
and a few dives through a slalom course, Piggins let Estes take the wheel.
"Estes was quite impressed with the performance of
this 283-engined vehicle," recalls Piggins, "and as I explained
to him what we planned to do to capture the Trans-Am championship and to
produce a good performance image for the Camaro, it didn't take much
convincing for Pete to see what I was aiming toward.
"The only thing. . ." continues Vince,
"while we were driving the car, I mentioned that we'd put the 283
into it because we'd built that size engine before. But I suggested when
we got back to the starting pad that it might be a lot better to take the
327 block and put the 283 crank into it, giving us a 4 x 3 bore and
stroke. That would put displacement at 302.4 cid, just under the SCCA's
"So Pete immediately agreed, especially being an
engineer and knowing the potential this car could have. Estes walked over
to engineers Alex Mair and Don McPherson and said, `Let's release this
package and develop a 302 engine to go with it.'
The actual Z28 work order was #19621-34 and read as
Remove engine and send to motor room
Install engine #196231 - A high performance 283
Engine weight dressout was 572
dated October 11, 1966
"That was really the start of the Z-28, and we
proceeded to homologate that vehicle with the FIA as of Jan. 1, 1967 as a
Group II car."
Mandatory front discs for '67 Z-28 complemented
15-in Rally wheels with "Disc Brakes" on spinners.
But even before that could happen, Chevrolet built up a
prototype 302-engined showcar and actually displayed it for the motoring
press at a special preview. This preview was held at Riverside
International Raceway in California in Nov. 1966 at the windup of the ARRC
Walt Mackenzie, who was Chevrolet's public relations
liaison at the time, set up a special trackside tent at Riverside, with a
technical news handout. This showed the Camaro coupe with what was called
simply Regular Production Option (RPO) Z-28. The magazine writers and
editors were allowed to drive this first Z-28. To a man, they loved the
car, and MOTOR TREND, SPORTS CAR GRAPHIC, HOT ROD, CAR & DRIVER, ROAD
& TRACK, and several others published rave reviews soon afterward.
Some people believed that the Z in Z-28 stood for Zora, as
in Zora Arkus-Duntov, the Corvette engineer. Not so. Piggins had put a
name on the original 283 prototype before he presented it at the October
show-and-tell. The name Piggins had chosen was Cheetah. But Vince took
that handmade decal off the car at the last moment, muttering, "Well,
a name is a name is a name," and the coupe Estes drove carried no
designation at all.
"There wasn't any suggestion of what we were going to
call this car," notes Piggins. "When it came down to having to
decide, somebody just said, `Hey, it's option RPO Z-28; let's call it
Z-28!' So the name just grew from there. The graphics people did things
with the Z, and that's how the designation stuck. The car got its name
from the actual option number."
Ironically, Z-27 is the RPO number for the early Camaro
Super Sport package, and Z-28 simply followed it sequentially. RPO Z-29
apparently hasn't been taken yet, but perhaps Chevrolet is keeping it in
reserve for some future Z-28 successor.
You're aware, of course, that Camaro Z-28's won the
Trans-Am championship two years running -- 1968 and 1969. The resulting
publicity helped Camaro sales immeasurably.
Racing also transformed the early Camaro from a me-too car
that followed the Mustang into an image car that consistently came in
ahead of Mustangs on the track. So the Z-28 made a big difference in the
Camaro's early sales record.
Not that the Z-28 you could buy over the counter in
1967-68-69 was anywhere near the same car that won SCCA championships,
because the Z-28's that Roger Penske, Mark Donohue, Smokey Yunick, Ronny
Bucknum, Jerry Thompson, Tony DeLorenzo, and other professionals ran were
honed to an incredibly fine edge.
But RPO Z-28 did at least form the basis of their cars,
and as people like Penske and Donohue learned more about what they needed
to win races, Chevrolet began making and cataloguing the parts. These
parts immediately became available to everyone.
Horsepower was listed at 290 at 5800 rpm nominal. It's
important to keep that word nominal in mind, because it means the 290
figure was just something somebody plugged into Chevy's spec sheets. It
might just as well have been 300 or 350 or 400 bhp. Most, if not all, Z-28
302's put out more than 290 bhp and 290 foot-pounds of torque at 4200 rpm.
Actual horsepower depended a lot on which intake and
exhaust manifolds you chose, which carburetor(s), and what internal mods
you pursued. No actual dyno figures were ever released by Chevrolet for
the 302-cid Z-28 engine, but the auto magazines didn't hesitate to
speculate. Their estimates ranged from a realistic 350 bhp in ROAD &
TRACK to 370-plus in SPORTS CAR GRAPHIC to 400 bhp in CAR LIFE. All-out,
blueprinted racing versions, like those built by Traco and Yunick,
probably delivered in the neighborhood of 450 bhp, which took some heavy
tinkering to pull from 302 cid and still expect reliability.
One of the amazing facets of the first-generation Z-28 was
its warranty. Chevrolet didn't flinch and applied the same
2year/24,000-mile warranty to the Z-28 automobile as a whole and its
5-year/50,000-mile warranty to the powertrain. That went beyond
expectation and contrary to the practice of warranties for most high
Cowl plenum chamber let cold air into air cleaner
via big rubber duct. Headers cost $200-$300 additional, came in
trunk for dealer or customer installations.
Chevrolet didn't especially encourage the purchase of
Z-28's by private individuals at advertising the Camaro Z-28 until
The first 25 Z-28's were built between Dec. 29, 1966 and
Jan. 12, 1967. These went strictly to favored dealers, mostly for
reworking as all-out competition cars. Z-28 #1 was shipped to Aero
Chevrolet in Alexandria, Va., where it was groomed as Johnny Moore's entry
in the Daytona 24-hour Continental. Cars #2, #3, and #4 went to Yenko
Chevrolet, Canonsburg, Pa., for driver Ben Poster, also for Daytona.
Seattle dealer Alan Green received Z-28's #5 through #7,
reselling one to a Daytona, Fla., dealer, one to a local Northwest dealer,
and the third to a local customer. That means that Z-28 #7 was probably
the first to fall into private hands. Many people believe that the 1967
Z-28 didn't debut until late in the model year, but that simply isn't
true. A few were in private hands by Feb. 1, 1967.
Ron Tonkin, a Chevrolet dealer in Portland, Ore., ordered
Z-28 #8 and placed it on his Beaver Racing Team, which ran mostly West
Coast events. After careful preparation, it was involved in an accident
while being trailered to its first race. That ended its competition
Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago, which went into racing in a
big way (e.g. putting 427's into Camaros for the dragstrip), took delivery
of Z-28's #9-#10-#11. Two of these ran at Daytona along with the Aero and
Roger Penske acquired the 12th Z-28, his friend George
Wintersteen picking it up at the factory on Jan. 10, 1967 and driving it
back to Penske's Chevrolet agen cy in Reading, Pa. Penske immediately tore
down the car and sent the engine to Traco in his push toward entering
The next eight Z's went to a variety of customers, in
cluding three shipped to other GM divisions and one sold to a GM Proving
Grounds engineer named David D. Horchler. Car #21 was delivered to stunt
driver Joie Chitwood in Tampa, Fla. Chitwood raced the car and has
subsequently used Camaros in all his thrill shows ever since.
In Chevrolet's rush to get the first Z28's out to the
races, the first 16 1967 Z28's used a 4-P body to get the cars to the
Daytona race on time. The 4-L body style code was used after the first
ordered Z28's were shipped out.
The 1967 Z28 was responsible for a long term race
relationship with the Z28 and Vince Piggins of Chevrolet. The
Penske/Donohue race team was largely responsible for bringing many
heavy-duty race parts to the Chevrolet dealers' parts counters. Any part
used on the racing Z28's had to be made available to the public.
Mr. Fred Gibb raced a 1967 Z28 for over a year and a half.
He was a national winner in his class. It was his love for this car which
led to the development of the 1969 ZL-1 Camaro.
To most of the die-hard Z28 fans, the main idea was to
make your Z28 like one of the special Trans Am race cars like the
Penske/Donohue racing Z28 Camaro.
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