July 10, 1997
A Chance Encounter
During the Camaro Street Nationals I decided to take a break from detailing my car and stroll around for a little while. I noticed that there was yet another ’98 Z28 sitting in the visitor parking lot with non-manufacturer plates on it. I thought it was interesting because at the time, I only had heard of a few rare cases where V6 Camaros were making it to the showroom floor. A few minutes later, I happened to notice a gentleman who had the rear hatch up and was loading the cargo area of the same ’98 Z. I walked over, introduced myself, and politely asked him how long ago he took delivery on the car. His name was John and he seemed happy to answer my question and told me he hasn’t had it for very long. Just out of curiosity, I asked him if he would mind telling me what dealership he got it from so I might be able to pass on where my fellow Camaro owners could find one for purchase. He told me he is an employee of the GM Tech Center. He went on to tell me about how the car does not really belong to him, but to the Tech Center and it is one of around 150 test releases on the road at that point in time. He and I talked for a little while about the coming Camaro as well as other aspects of the F-Body line. Some of the things we talked about was when the car will be officially released. He said there were one or two small items to be worked out in the car, and it should be released very soon. He also told me that the sales of the ’98 could affect the direction of the next generation Camaro. Let’s hope that the public likes the look of the ’98.
A Test Drive
The conversation was wrapping up but before I left, I asked John what it would take for me to get behind the wheel of one the LS1 powered F-bodies. I asked this one at the Camaro Superfest earlier this season when a different GM employee had a ’98 Z28 Convertible there. All he could do without getting in trouble was let the sit in the driver’s seat and rev the engine a little. This time was different. After I asked to drive his car, John replied, “Do you want to drive it?”. I didn’t have to think about that one and told John that I’d be right back. I ran back to the show area and grabbed my camera and Chris and our friend Lisa and we all ran back to the car. Chris said he’d take pictures of me and the car and really didn’t have to ride in it. Lisa, on the other hand, didn’t seem to want to pass this one up and hopped into the passenger seat while John got in the back…
Chris snapped a picture of me sitting in the car and then I started the engine and pulled out. John told me to drive around behind one the buildings where I would have some space to open it up a little. As I came up to one of the intersections that leads around the back, John said the magic words. “When you get to where you have a straight shot, go ahead and turn it up if you want to.” Just what I wanted to hear.
I stopped, looked behind me to make sure it was clear, revved it up and dumped the clutch. It was pretty interesting. The car pulled very well, and it seemed like the powerband was never going to go away. What was great was it sounded and felt like it had more than two valves per cylinder. What I mean by that is, it was a very smooth pull. It made me think of the engine of a luxury vehicle with a dose of adrenaline.
I can’t accurately comment on how powerful it really was because I didn’t have enough room to have it wide open for very long in third gear. However, it does not take much for me to realize the fact that the engine has a lot of potential. From first to second gear, it didn’t seem to quite have the pull of my 1996 Camaro SS, but my car has 3.73:1 gears and a few performance modifications. This car was stock, of course, and had only a couple hundred miles on it.
Overall, I was very impressed. Much of the drivetrain felt more refined.. The clutch had a better feel as there was a positive stop to the throw of the pedal when shifting. The exhaust had a nice throaty note to it. Under heavy acceleration, the engine felt very healthy and I could hear it churning out power just as clearly as the exhaust. It was a great ride and my only wish was for it to be longer.
Actually, anything short of a weekend on Woodward with this car would not be enough for me.