What's New for 1997
Chevrolet celebrates the Camaro's 30th Anniversary with a special-edition Z28 that emulates the appearance of the 1969 SS Indy Pace Car with white paint, Hugger Orange stripes, and black-and-white houndstooth seat inserts. Interior revisions to seats, center console and dashboard freshen the look inside for 1997. Two new shades of gray are available for interiors, while exteriors get new green and purple hues. Tricolor taillamps debut, and new five-spoke alloy wheels are optional. On the safety front, daytime running lights are standard and side-impact regulations are met.
"From the country that invented rock n' roll," claimed the advertisements for this Quebec, Canada-built sport coupe when it was redesigned in 1993. A small technicality, we suppose, but there are no technicalities when it comes to the Camaro's performance abilities, particularly in Z28 guise. The Z is blazingly quick, holds the road tenaciously, costs less than the average price of a new car in this country, and gets decent gas mileage when it's not being hammered along a twisty two-lane road.
For 1997, Camaro buyers will note few visual changes to their favorite pony car. Tri-color taillights debut, snatched from export models of the Camaro. Five-spoke aluminum wheels are newly optional, as well. Two new exterior colors join the paint roster; Bright Green Metallic and Bright Purple Metallic. Interiors are slightly revised, with new seat contours, a revised center console that now includes four cupholders, and a slightly restyled instrument panel. Radios are new, and a 12-disc CD changer is optional.
The Camaro celebrates its 30th birthday this year, and Chevrolet will release a special-edition Z28 to commemorate the event. Painted white with Hugger Orange stripes, the 30th Anniversary Camaro will sport a white interior with black-and-white houndstooth inserts. White leather is optional. Like other 1997 Camaros, daytime running lights will be standard on this limited production model. Yeah, like someone won't see this white and orange fire-breathing Z28 coming down the road.
The base Camaro engine is the 3800 Series II V6, which makes 200 horsepower. That's 45 more ponies than Ford's Mustang can produce. Phased in during the 1995 model year, the 3800 V6 can be mated to a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission. With a manual, this powerplant gets the Camaro to 60 mph nearly as quickly as a Ford Mustang GT. In fact, the existence of this powerplant makes a strong argument for avoiding the higher insurance rates and prices of the Z28. An optional Performance Handling Package puts bigger tires, alloy wheels, tighter steering, four-wheel disc brakes and a limited slip differential on the V6 Camaro.
From a bang-for-the-buck standpoint, the Z28 is unbeatable. A Corvette-derived 5.7-liter V8 gets 285horsepower to the pavement through the rear wheels. The SS version of the Z28 makes 300 horsepower, thanks to a big air scoop on the hood that forces cool air into the engine. SLP Engineering, known for working magic with GM's F-bodies since the late '80s, does the conversion work on the Z28 SS. See your dealer for details.
The interior of the Camaro is functional, if not slightly garish. The Camaro holds a respectable amount of gear in the cargo hold (more than 33 cubic feet of space with the generally useless rear seats folded down), and airbags and antilock brakes are standard. More mature drivers can order traction control, but that option defeats some of the fun of Chevy's ponycar: smoky, adolescent burnouts that leave the drivers behind choking on charred Goodyears.