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Whenever it decides to leave us, the Chevrolet Camaro will remain a staple of American performance, or more importantly, a tribute to the evolution of American performance. The Camaro started strong and then, like all other muscle cars, saw a dip in performance when the 1970s hit. It took a while, but the Camaro recouped its losses and bounced back stronger than ever. It started as a Mustang competitor and still is and has also come into its own. 

When the revamped Camaro debuted in 2006, it achieved something the Mustang was steering away from, and the Challenger couldn’t reach at the time: perfect harmony between being a muscle car and a modern sports car. While the Mustang was becoming a sports car and the Challenger staying pure muscle, the Camaro got the best of both worlds. It felt big, mean, and loud and could handle a corner. In other words, perfect. These are the most powerful Camaros that constitute its legacy. 

Back to fighting form: 2001 Chevrolet Camaro SS

2001 Chevrolet Camaro at Goodwood
2001 Chevrolet Camaro at Goodwood | Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Remember that dip we mentioned? The 2001 Chevrolet Camaro SS was the comeback in terms of power. Finally, muscle cars were back to where they were 30 years prior. They were making respectable horsepower numbers, but this time it was SAE net, not gross, thus still counts as one of the most powerful Chevrolet Camaros ever made. The 2001 Chevrolet Camaro SS had a 328-hp LS6, an all-aluminum 5.7-liter overhead-valve V8. The same engine was in the Chevrolet Corvette but made 385 horsepower. 

Old school performance: 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 | Wikipedia Commons

In 1969 Chevrolet released just 69 examples of the first-ever Camaro ZL1. It used an all-aluminum 427 with 16 valves and a 12.5:1 compression ratio. This helped the 427 develop 430 (gross) horsepower and got the car to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Not only is it a respectable time, it’s also blistering. The 1969 Mustang Boss 429 couldn’t come within arms reach of the Camaro ZL1.

Continuation of ZL1 Dominance: 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

The ZL1 returned to the new generation Chevrolet Camaro. In 2012, using an all-aluminum supercharged 6.2-liter LSA, the Camaro made 550 horsepower. It used a lighter, more balanced internal assembly, hypereutectic pistons with oil squirters, and a center-feed fuel system. The LSA also got high flow cylinder heads and an oil cooler, according to GM

The most powerful Chevrolet Camaro ever: 2018 ZL1 1LE

Chevroelt Camaro ZL1 1LE on the highway
Chevroelt Camaro ZL1 1LE | Chevrolet

The 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE name has about as much horsepower as syllables in its protracted name. The ZL1 1LE uses a supercharged LT4, a 6.2-liter all-aluminum V8 with overhead valves to make 650 horsepower. It stands as the most powerful Camaro from GM to date. Having a Corvette engine under the hood certainly helps. Car and Driver cited its sprint to 60 mph as 3.7 seconds and a 190-mph top speed.

The Chevrolet Camaro must exorcise the demon

Conjured as a Dodge Demon slayer, the good people at Hennessey Performance made an exorcist out of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. It looks ferocious, and best of all, the Exorcist has the power to back up its ferocity. Hennessey gave the Exorcist 1,000 horsepower at 6,500 RPM, a 217-mph top speed, and a 0-60 time of 2.1 seconds. Drag Camaros from smaller independent shops might make more power, but the Exorcist is something you can drive down the street to pick up groceries. It is the most powerful Chevrolet Camaro. 

At this juncture, if the Chevrolet Camaro were to continue, it would become more ridiculous. Where can you go from 1,000 horsepower? Thanks to shops like Hennessey, the Chevrolet Camaro can reach previously unattainable heights.


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