A 750bhp tuned Chevrolet Camaro showed me the American way of modding
Although I’ve been lucky enough to visit the USA a couple of times, I’ve never had the opportunity to experience some proper American muscle.
You see, all the cars that people normally kick about in are trucks and fairly standard sedans – and there are also plenty of pony cars around. But on my latest adventure in North Carolina, I finally had the muscle car box firmly ticked by a Chevy.
At Charlotte Motor Speedway, a new 2020 stock car was being launched – the Chevy that William Byron would be racing in the upcoming NASCAR season. And although that bright yellow race machine was damn cool, it was the car sitting next to it that took my fancy.
Hendrick Motorsports had coincided the stock car launch with the reveal of its latest skunk works project – their very own take on the Camaro ZL1.
The standard car has a 6.2-litre supercharged V8 that produces 650bhp – not exactly a number that would leave people wanting more. But in America, bigger is better, so in went a larger capacity supercharger to gulp in a colossal volume of air, leading to a final output of 750bhp andan increase of over 100lb ft of torque.
At a time when turbocharging and hybridisation are dominating the performance landscape when it comes to engineering the fastest cars in the world, there’s something wholesome about Americans sticking to their guns and increasing horsepower using the old school method.
Now the argument for supercharging – despite the parasitic power losses – is the instant throttleresponse and, more importantly, a safe, reliable power increase. Chevy’s LS and LT engines have been boosted by superchargers for over 20 years now and, to put it simply, Americans like supercharged V8s more than a turbocharged car. That’s just the way it is.
Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to get behind the wheel of the ZL1 seeing as it had just rolled off the Hendrick Motorsports production line, but I was given a blast in it by someone far more talented – the aforementioned William Byron.
This dude is only 21-years-old, has won multiple junior stock car titles and is now in the big leagues, competing in the NASCAR-prepped ZL1. So if anyone is going to show me what this boosted muscle can do, it’s Willy.
In the near future however, you’ll be able to hire one of these pumped up Chevys from Hertz’s American Collection and drive it yourself. Imagine leaving the airport arrivals and getting the keys to one of these? That seems like a better deal than the usual Camry or Corolla.
Although an autocross track maybe wasn’t the ideal test of a muscle car with 750bhp, Byron launched the ZL1 away from the line, pinning me firmly into the passenger seat with the supercharger wailing up front.
You may presume that stock car drivers can only turn left, but immediately the talent that Williamhas for finding apexes and carving perfect lines around a track became incredibly apparent. Even with that big 6.2-litre lump hanging over the front axle, he scythed through the autocross track with a deft touch, letting the V8 burst into life whenever a small straight presented itself.
In less than a minute, we used all of the 750 horses to fly through the finish line in a flurry of tyresmoke, stinking brakes and an engine that just wants to be fed more and more air.
A monster car, a mega driver and an awesome all-American experience.