1968 Chevrolet Camaro vs. 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Comparison Test

2011 Chevrolet Camaro Coupe

(6.2L V8 6-speed Manual)
  • 1968 Chevrolet Camaro vs. 2011 Chevrolet Camaro Comparison Test

    Inside Line's Sr. Editor Josh Jacquot pits a supercharged 1968 Camaro against its similarly supercharged 2011 descendant to test their torque, times, and soul. | February 10, 2012

1 Video , 65 Photos

Modern Muscle vs. Retro Romance: Round Two

  • Comparison Test
  • Specs and Performance
  • Specs and Performance

Carl Casanova could be both divorced and fired for things he's done in his modified 1968 Chevrolet Camaro, a car he's owned for 30 years. We'd guess most of those "things" happened in Casanova's younger, less cultured days. He is, after all, a family man now.

Casanova's Camaro isn't just any car, though. It's a machine he obsesses over, beats on a racetrack, lovingly rehabilitates and then beats on some more. It has a supercharged 5.7-liter V8 under its hood along with cooling and fuel systems with enough capacity to keep the Camaro running on the hard-boiled racetracks of Southern California. Yes, it's a very capable track car, one that exhibits equal bits willpower fabrication, ruthless wrench wielding and 3 degrees negative camber at each front wheel. Yes, 3 degrees. If you're not familiar, that's a lot.

And the other Camaro? It's a 2011 Chevy Camaro fitted with a Magnuson supercharger and a full array of chassis parts from Hotchkis Sport Suspension. Its philosophy is largely the same as that of all Camaros: tire-melting power, equitable handling and an unrelenting reputation among long-haired owners.

Still, it's the Camaro's soul that's the concern of this story. Not if it has one — we know it does. But rather whether that spirit is more genuinely demonstrated in a new car like the contemporary example built by Hotchkis or an old one built with passion and busted knuckles.

Forgive us if our nostalgic slip is showing already.

The Old Car's Hard Parts
We'd bet you can guess what it takes to make a Camaro as old as Casanova's perform similarly to a freshly minted version. A mélange of parts — including replacement of nearly every original drivetrain or suspension piece — are in order. The LS1 V8 is from a 2002 Camaro and the supercharger and accompanying parts come from Magnuson's Hot Rod Kit, which was originally intended for a 2004 Pontiac GTO.

Casanova did everything — from hand-fabricating the six-spot gauge cluster to building the circulation system for the air-to-liquid intercooler — with his own hands. The rear axle utilizes a 3.73 final-drive ratio and is fitted with an Eaton Positraction limited-slip differential. The six-speed Tremec T56 is from the same fourth-generation Camaro as the engine. The front brake rotors and calipers are from a C4 Corvette and the rears are from a '90s-vintage Z28 Camaro. A Chevy HHR master cylinder pressurizes the system.

The wheels are V45s from Vintage Wheel Works sized 17-by-9.5 inches and wrapped in 285/40R17 Kumho Ecsta XS rubber. Suspension is Hotchkis' Total Vehicle system and includes all four front control arms, both stabilizer bars, front coil springs and rear leafs as well as Bilstein dampers valved for this application. Entire days were spent dialing the setup in at both autocross and road courses. In short, this Camaro is a stunning piece of American iron hewn from long nights and sheer love.

And the New Car's Parts
By comparison, the 2011 Camaro rolled off a GM assembly line in Oshawa, Ontario, sometime in 2010. It then made its way to a Southern California dealer before landing at Hotchkis, where it was stripped of its stock springs, stabilizer bars and bushings, all of which were replaced by Hotchkis parts designed to make the 3,925-pound beast handle.

Because Hotchkis and sticky rubber go together like peanut butter and chocolate, the company replaced the Camaro's stock rubber with Nitto NT05 tires. Sized 275/40ZR20 up front and 315/35ZR20 out back, the big meats are mounted on BBS CH wheels.

To keep things interesting, there's a Magnuson supercharger bolted to the top of the Camaro's 6.2-liter V8. The engine breathes through JBA long-tube headers and a Flowmaster exhaust. No power claim is made, but other similarly quick Camaros tell us this one is producing somewhere north of 500 wheel horsepower. Thankfully, it has a Centerforce clutch, so putting all that power to use isn't a problem.

Stupid Fast
Among the items in short supply during a 12.6-second quarter-mile pass in a 43-year-old Camaro: common sense, clean drawers, presence of mind. Certainly not horsepower, which is claimed at a completely plausible 490 at the rear wheels.

Sixty miles per hour came and went in only 4.9 seconds (4.6 seconds with a 1-foot rollout like at a drag strip), at which point it still hadn't occurred to us that the helmet we were wearing might actually be needed. Thankfully, it was not.

Nor was it needed in the 2011 Camaro, which ran the same elapsed time at 12.6 seconds, but trailed at the traps by more than 4 mph (116 vs. 120.7). The 60-mph milestone arrived in 4.6 seconds (4.4 seconds with rollout), demonstrating the new car's superior power-to-the ground abilities. Plentiful road-crushing mass and another few inches of rear rubber will do that.

Too Close To Call
It's not often a 40-year-old anything will out-handle its modern counterpart — even when cubic mega-hours have been committed to the task. Still, that's nearly what happened when we hit the track. In fact, around the skid pad, that's exactly what happened. The elder Camaro's 0.93g lateral acceleration number was clearly better than the new car's 0.91g performance.

Through our slalom cones, the first-generation Camaro achieved 68.1 mph to the new car's 68.6 mph. Much of the old car's pace is thanks to a Saginaw 12.7:1 recirculating-ball steering box, which seemingly doubles the Camaro's steering speed. It's a good thing, but makes us keenly aware of the value of rack-and-pinion steering.

Finally, when it comes to stopping, there's no substitute for antilock brakes. Sixteen feet separate the two (127 feet vs. 111 feet) when hauling down from 60 mph. This test, unsurprisingly, fell in favor of the new car.

It's Not About Numbers
Let's be honest. The modern Camaro isn't a car that triggers emotion like the original. To prove this we drove the cars together for a day and contemplated unvarnished public opinion. One observer drove his Civic into the middle of the photo shoot — equally ignoring both the shooter and the looming orange Camaro — to discuss the details of Casanova's LS conversion, even asking him to fire the engine. Another equally unaware spectator piloted his Altima Coupe dangerously close to the old car long enough to invoke stalker laws in most states. He eventually ended his fear-inducing gaze with a "look Ma, no hands!" double-thumbs-up salute. At 79 mph.

And so it goes with bitchin' Camaros.

There's a reason for this. Especially given the hardware we're considering. One is a legend, and the other wants to be. And it's trying hard. Drive them both back to back and certain legend-making qualities emerge in the old car. Like its pencil-thin A-pillars and elbow-on-the door-sill waistline — something that's hopeless in the modern car. A commanding view over the hood is easily embraced, particularly when the entire body twists in protest to its infusion of modern power.

There's a mechanical candor here that's a product of the successful melding of old and new. The best of the old remains — styling, visibility, blunt manual simplicity. But the things that too often prevent us from embracing old cars — worthless control feel, hopeless reliability, the stink of fuel — are distinctly and thankfully absent. Instead there's a modern, fuel-injected, supercharged lump that's ready, at any moment, to twist off this car's rear axle. And it's linked to your right foot via a cable that's indifferent to spinning wheels, yaw rate or steering angle — just like God intended.

In other words, it is good.

Camaro Ethos
We've already told you which car we like better here. What we failed to do — thus far — is explain the extent to which the modern Camaro fails to inspire. Certainly it's not slow, so that's not the problem. Rather, it's a combination of small but damaging fundamentals that keep it from being a machine after which we lust.

Not being able to see out of it doesn't help, but that's hardly enough to send us running. Maybe it's the way the mulish shifter resists every effort to slot into gear quickly. Or maybe it's the off-center steering wheel or the unrelenting understeer — even in this modified car. Heck, it might even be the orange paint.

No, wait. It's none of those things. In fact, those are nitpicks leveled against a wholly capable pony car. Here's what's really bugging us: The modern Camaro — any modern Camaro, in fact — lacks the patina, passion and purity of character that oozes from every inch of this 43-year-old machine.

Well, that, and it's yet to inspire us to do anything that might end either our job or our marriage.

Vehicle
Year Make Model1968 Chevrolet Camaro RS (5.7L 8cyl 6M)
Vehicle TypeRWD 2dr 4-passenger Coupe
As-tested MSRPPriceless family heirloom
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeSupercharged, port-injected V8, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)5,669/346
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainPushrod, 2 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)10.1
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)490 wheel hp (est.)
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)490 lb-ft at wheels (est.)
Fuel typePremium unleaded (recommended)
Transmission typeSix-speed manual
Transmission ratios (x:1)I=2.66,II= 1.78,III= 1.30,IV=1.00,V=0.74,VI=0.50
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.73
Differential(s)Eaton Positraction limited-slip
Chassis
Suspension, frontDouble wishbone, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearSolid axle, leaf springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeHydraulic recirculating-ball power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)12.7
Tire make and modelKumho Ecsta MX
Tire typePerformance front and rear
Tire size, frontP285/40R17
Tire size, rearP285/40R17
Wheel size, front17-by-9.5 inches
Wheel size, rear17-by-9.5 inches
Wheel materialAlloy
Brakes, frontVentilated cast-iron discs with dual-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rearVentilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.6
0-45 mph (sec.)3.5
0-60 mph (sec.)4.9
0-75 mph (sec.)6.5
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)12.6 @ 120.7
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)4.6
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)30
60-0 mph (ft.)127
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)68.1
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.93
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsVery difficult to launch effectively. Massive power combined with light weight and relatively little rubber conspire to easily blow off the tires. There's probably more speed here -- even with this setup -- but we opted to leave the last few tenths out there given the nature of the test.
Braking commentsNo ABS and minimal pedal feedback make braking a challenge. This car tends to lock up its front right tire, but it still stops better than many modern cars with the advantages of ABS.
Handling commentsSlalom: Good balance and grip. No bad habits. Slack in the steering during transitions makes it a bit of a guessing game, but that's the nature of recirculating-ball steering. Still, its speed here is quite respectable. Skid pad: Good feedback, balance and stick. Can balance steering against throttle in sub-limit situations, which can't be done in the new Camaro.
Testing Conditions
Test date1/24/2012
Test locationCal Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,120
Temperature (F)63.9
Relative humidity (%)34
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)29.05
Wind (mph, direction)NA
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)32/28
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)4,116
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,590
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)54/46
Seating capacity4
Vehicle
Year Make Model2011 Chevrolet Camaro 1SS 2dr Coupe (6.2L 8cyl 6M)
Vehicle TypeRWD 2dr 4-passenger Coupe
Base MSRP$37,625
As-tested MSRP$50,000 (estimated)
Assembly locationOshawa, Ontario Canada
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine typeSupercharged, port-injected V8, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)6,162/376
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainPushrod, 2 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)10.7
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,250
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)500+ @ 5,900 (estimated)
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)500+ @ 4,600 (estimated)
Fuel typePremium unleaded (recommended)
Transmission typeSix-speed manual
Transmission ratios (x:1)I=3.01; II=2.07; III=1.43; IV=1.00; V=0.84; VI=0.57; Reverse=3.28
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.45
Differential(s)Limited-slip differential
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeSpeed-proportional power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)16.1
Tire make and modelNitto NT05
Tire typePerformance front and rear
Tire size, frontP275/40ZR20 103Y
Tire size, rearP315/35ZR20 106Y
Wheel size, front20-by-9 inches
Wheel size, rear20-by-10 inches
Wheel materialAlloy
Brakes, front14-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with four-piston fixed calipers
Brakes, rear14.4-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with four-piston fixed calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.2
0-45 mph (sec.)3.2
0-60 mph (sec.)4.6
0-75 mph (sec.)6.1
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)12.6 @ 116.0
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)4.4
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)27
60-0 mph (ft.)111
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)68.6
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.91
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsGood grip and a strong clutch make this Camaro relatively easy to launch. Couldn't get it off the line without a little clutch stink, however. Shifter balks at ultra-quick shifts, but overall this is a fun car to hammer down the quarter-mile. It makes all the right sounds.
Braking commentsSolid, consistent pedal stop after stop. Multiple hard stops produced some smoke from the pads, but this is plausibly a product of new pads or pads not yet bedded in. Still, stopping performance is good.
Handling commentsSlalom: Very stable and confident. Adequate damping despite low ride height and stock dampers. Confident in fast transitions, easily controlled oversteer at the final cone. Skid pad: Heavy understeer especially in counterclockwise direction. Doesn't respond to lift-throttle as well as other Hotchkis-tuned cars we've driven. Still, limits are high.
Testing Conditions
Test date1/24/2012
Test locationCal Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,120
Temperature (F)63.9
Relative humidity (%)34
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)29.05
Wind (mph, direction)NA
Odometer (mi.)17,274
Fuel used for test91-octane gasoline
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)34/31
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)4,116
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,925
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)53/47
Length (in.)190.4
Width (in.)75.5
Height (in.)54.7
Wheelbase (in.)112.3
Track, front (in.)63.7
Track, rear (in.)63.7
Turning circle (ft.)37.7
Legroom, front (in.)42.4
Legroom, rear (in.)29.9
Headroom, front (in.)37.8
Headroom, rear (in.)35.7
Shoulder room, front (in.)56.9
Shoulder room, rear (in.)42.5
Seating capacity4
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/100,000 miles
Corrosion6 years/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance5 years/100,000 miles
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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro in VA is:

$151 per month*
* Explanation
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