The Three Toughest ZL1 Camaros in the Country

There’s no sense beating around the bush here. The ZL1 Camaro is an amazing performance car right from the factory, and truth be told – in  bone stock form it’s a better all-around performer than many other cars that have been modified to the gills.

It’s already supercharged and makes just shy of 600 horsepower. It already has a suspension technology that is so good that Ferrari licensed it from GM to use on their own cars. It has oversized brakes that can hang with the best the aftermarket has to offer. Looking even deeper, the finite details like aerodynamics, better cooling, beefier drivetrain, and race-ready wheels and tires have already been covered. Is there anything left on the ZL1 to improve on?

The folks at Livernois Motorsports, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, and Redline Motorsports would all agree that the answer to that question would be “yes” – especially when it comes to power. As soon as the ZL1 was available to the public these three companies started developing their own versions of the new super-Camaro in a battle for supremacy. We’re not here to declare a winner, but rather to fill you in on the details of the hard-hitting cars that resulted from their development work. It is with this understanding that we bring you (in no particular order) the Three Toughest ZL1s in the Country.

Lingenfelter’s Yellow ZL1

Within three weeks of taking delivery of their ZL1 Lingenfelter was already running 10s.

It’s only fitting that we start with the ZL1 that has the honor of claiming several “firsts” for the name plate. When the ZL1 was finally released to the public at the beginning  of April 2012, Lingenfelter Performance Engineering grabbed one as quick as they could and went straight to work. Less than three weeks after taking delivery, the yellow Lingenfelter ZL1 was the very first ZL1 to crack into the 10s with a blast of 10.79 at 134 MPH.

The stability of the ZL1 played a big role in providing the confidence to push it that hard at those speeds. -Jason Haines, Lingenfelter

Lingenfelter’s ZL1 made it into the 10s thanks to an extensive but familiar list of engine modifications (see below) that bumped the power output up to 720 horsepower and 650 pound feet of torque at the rear wheels on VP109 race gas. Great numbers, but how did they get it to the ground? As it turns out, Lingenfelter’s traction modifications were limited to a set of Nitto NT05R 305/45/R18 drag radials on 18×11 wheels.

“We left all the suspension components stock,” says Jason Haines from Lingenfelter. “It’s a very good suspension as it is. Of course, there are a few areas you could improve on if you were making it a dedicated drag car or another specific application. But for it to be just an all-around good at everything car, it’s hard to improve on the magnetic suspension.”

The modifications Lingenfelter made to the stock LSA included CNC'ed heads, an aftermarket cam, and of course pulleys for more boost.

Lingenfelter’s firsts in their yellow ZL1 wouldn’t end at the drag strip. In May of 2012 the Lingenfelter team headed to the Continental Tire Proving grounds in Uvalde, Texas, with their sights set on the top-speed title. The yellow ZL1 was still in the exact same configuration as it was when it ran 10s, with the only difference being a set of Continental Extreme Contact DW tires on stock ZL1 wheels.

Again, there were no changes made to the suspension, but the tires were a bit of a strategic choice. Haines tells us, “Changing to the smaller diameter, narrower cross section 275/35ZR20 Continental ExtremeContact DW tires helped by improving the gearing along with reducing the cross sectional area and lowering the ride height for better aerodynamics.”

The only changes Lingenfelter made to their ZL1 before the top speed runs was swapping wheels and tires. They ran it with both the stock tires and a set of Continental ExtremeContact DWs

After numerous attempts in less than ideal conditions, David Frieburger, Editor of Hot Rod Magazine, finally pushed the Lingenfelter ZL1 to a record top speed of 202.67 MPH. When we asked Haines what the biggest factors were in getting the ZL1 over the 200 MPH mark he told us, “The increased engine power was the most significant factor, but other factor was Frieburger’s willingness to push the ZL1. The car was at roughly 0.5 G’s at 195 MPH coming out of the turns, and we had wind conditions making it even more difficult. But, the stability of the ZL1 also played a big role in providing the confidence to push it that hard at those speeds.”

Lingenfelter Camaro ZL1: Power and Performance Specs

(click to enlarge)

  • Rear Wheel Horsepower: 720
  • Rear Wheel Torque: 650
  • Quarter Mile ET: 10.79 at 134 MPH
  • Top Speed: 202.67 MPH

Lingenfelter ZL1 Modifications – 202 MPH Configuration

  • 2.38” 10 bolt pulley
  • 10 bolt LSA/LS9 press on pulley hub
  • Ported LSA front supercharger cover
  • Ported LSA throttle body
  • 5% overdrive supercharger drive pulley on LSA damper kit
  • LPE GT9 camshaft –  215/247 .629/.656 121 CL
  • LPE CNC ported LSA cylinder heads
    • Hollow stem intake valves – 2.165” diameter
    • Inconel exhaust valves – 1.59” diameter
    • Double valve springs with titanium retainers and 10 degree locks
  • LPE 3 bolt camshaft conversion kit
  • 160 degree thermostat
  • Lingenfelter ZL1 air intake kit
  • Lingenfelter 10” conical drag race air filter
  • Lingenfelter ZL1 intercooler fluid reservoir kit
  • High flow fuel injectors
  • Lingenfelter 2010-2012 Camaro fuel pump voltage booster kit
  • Race calibration programming in ECM
  • VP MS109 unleaded race fuel
  • Wheels and Tires:
    • Drag strip configuration: Nitto NT05R 305/45R18 drag radials on 18×11” CCW wheels, 5.50-17 front runner tires on 17” CCW wheels
    • Top speed test: Stock ZL1 wheels with 275/35ZR20 Continental ExtremeContact DW tires

Redline Motorsports’ “ZLR” Camaro ZL1

Our second feature ZL1 comes from Redline Motorsports, in Pompano, Florida. If you’ve followed the happenings in the 5th Gen Camaro World at all then there is no doubt that you are already familiar with Redline. Redline teamed up with Joel “Mr. Motion” Rosen, and DeNooyer Chevrolet in Albany, New York, to bring back the iconic Baldwin MOTION Camaros with the 5th Gen.

Redline's primary purpose for their ZL1 was development of their ZLR Line of tuner Camaros. The ZLR will be available in both a standard version that retains the LSA, and a "427 Super Coupe" that is aimed at taking on the GT500 Super Snake conversions.

There’s no real mystery to making power in the ZL1. It’s all about more pounds per minute in airflow. -Howard Tanner, Redline Motorsports

“This car is a continuation of our tuned dealer Camaros, and it was really done to address the GT500 since we knew it was going to have more power,” says Howard Tanner, President of Redline Motorsports. “A guy that buys a Camaro buys it because he’s a loyalist. He’s not going to jump to the other side of the fence and buy a Mustang just because it has more power. We wanted to give that guy a better option.”  

Even though Redline’s primary purpose for their new ZL1 was to develop their “ZLR Camaro” line, the car’s considerable success at the drag strip launched it into the thick of the battle for quickest ZL1 against other tuner companies across the US. Redline followed a methodical path of adding parts in stages, tuning, and then track testing – all the while chipping away at their ETs.  When all was said and done the ZL1’s output had been bumped up to 624 horsepower and 654 pound feet of torque at the rear wheels.

Redline's ZLR isn't just another pretty face, and more than proved its mettle on the dragstrip. "We make sure that everything we put into these cars has been beaten, pounded, and tested." says Howard Tanner, President of Redline.

“There’s no real mystery to making power in the ZL1,” says Tanner. “It’s all about more pounds per minute in airflow, and we’re lucky with the ZL1 that we already have an air compressor called a ‘supercharger’ sitting on top of the engine. If you know how to manipulate that properly, you’ll compress more air, and make more power. The fundamentals of what we do are nothing really secretive.”

With the added power, the Redline ZL1 churned out a 10.32 at 134 MPH with a 1.54 60-foot on drag radials and stock suspension. At the time, it was the best ET of any ZL1 around, and for several weeks the Redline ZL1 held the title of quickest ZL1 in the world.

In addition to the power upgrades, Redline developed several proprietary features to the ZLR which include model specific wheels and lots of carbon fiber goodies.

The development of the ZLR may be completed for now, but don't be thinking this is the last you'll hear about it doing battle on the drag strip. In a recent conversation with Tanner, he hinted at the fact that they are actively working on making the car even quicker.

Redline has taken the lessons learned on the drag strip and have applied them to their new ZLR line of tuner ZL1s. “For us, drivability is as much of a factor as a flat-out horsepower number. We won’t sacrifice drivability just to say that we have a big number on a dyno sheet. The impressive thing is that we can make the numbers that we are, and still have a vehicle that is responsive, drivable, that actually gets decent mileage. That really is the testament to the ZL1.”  

Redline ZLR Camaro: Power and Performance Specs

(click to enlarge)

  • Rear Wheel Horsepower: 624
  • Rear Wheel Torque: 654
  • Quarter Mile ET: 10.32 at 134 MPH

Redline Motorsports ZLR Camaro ZL1 – 10-Second Drag Strip Trim

  • Comp Cam 231/248 .617/.596 119 LSA    
  • Custom Redline Motorsports Cold Air Intake
  • American Racing 1-7/8” Primary Headers with High Flow Cats and X-Pipe (Stock Dual Mode Cat-Back)
  • ATI Harmonic Balancer
  • ATI 8.66” Overdrive Supercharger Pulley
  • LPE 2.55” Upper Supercharger Underdrive Pulley
  • Ported Stock Blower Snout
  • 98 Lb/Hr. Fuel Injectors
  • Fabricated High-Capacity Reservoir for Heat Exchanger  
  • Custom Redline Motorsports EFI Live Tune  
  • Coan 3600 Stall Torque Converter
  • Mickey Thompson 305/45/18 Drag Radials on 18×11 CCW Wheels

Livernois Motorsports 9-Second ZL1

There is simply no way you can talk about the toughest ZL1s in America and not mention the white ZL1 from Livernois Motorsports – currently the quickest ZL1 in the country. Ironically, Livernois arrived to the ZL1 wars fairly late in the game. By the time the white ZL1 landed at the Livernois shop in Dearborn Heights, Michigan at the very end of April, the competition had already been working on their new ZL1s for several weeks. On April 29th, 2012 Livernois took their bone-stock ZL1 to Milan Dragway, and ran a 12.41 at 115 MPH, and it was clear they had a lot of work to do.  

The ZL1 maybe designed primarily for handling, but Livernois proved without a doubt that it can hang with the toughest cars around on the drag strip.

With the car being an auto, and with the great suspension, almost anyone could have got in it and went 9s. -Rick LeBlanc, Livernois Motorsports

Then seemingly out of nowhere, the news came to us the afternoon of May 11th, 2012, that Livernois had ran a single digit ET in their ZL1 – 9.87 at 142 MPH. Rick LeBlanc from Livernois was the man behind the wheel that day, and filled us in on the details. “The car as it came off the dyno ran 10.10 the first pass, then 10.07 the second pass,” LeBlanc Says. “I made several 10.0X passes, and we knew were going to be first in the 9’s, no matter what. So we filled the tank with race gas, and Dan Millen worked on the tune based on the logs we had from the previous passes. He decided to throw a bunch of timing at it and made several other changes, and it did the trick.”

Livernois made over 700 RWHP thanks to heads, a cam, and blower pulleys on the stock supercharger. Even so, they tell us that the car is tame enough to use as a daily driver - minus the slicks and skinnies...

Livernois had been very busy in those 12 short days after their baseline tests. They dove right into the LSA with a heads, cam, and a pulley package for the stock supercharger that pushed its output to over 700 horsepower at the rear wheels. But the power isn’t the impressive thing about this car. It’s the fact that Livernois was able to go well into the 9s in a Camaro that weighs 4,295 pounds (with driver) on a bone stock suspension.

It took Livernois just 12 days to transform their ZL1 from showroom stock to the quickest ZL1 in all the land.

“I was amazed at just how different the ZL1’s suspension was from the SS,” LeBlanc tells us. “I got in, put the suspension settings to Track Mode 5, and the car went straight enough down the track that I could’ve driven it with one hand. With the car being an auto and the great suspension, almost anyone could have got in it and went 9s.”

Livernois Camaro ZL1: Power and Performance Specs

(click to enlarge)

  • Rear Wheel Horsepower: 707.43
  • Rear Wheel Torque: 680.10
  • Quarter Mile ET: 9.87 at 142 MPH

Livernois 9-Second ZL1 Modifications List:

  • Livernois Motorsports In-House CNC LSA Cylinder Heads
  • Livernois Motorsports Stage 2C High Lift Camshaft
  • Livernois Motorsports LSA Head Studs
  • Livernois Motorsports Exclusive Heat Exchanger
  • Livernois Motorsports Solid Supercharger Coupler
  • Livernois Motorsports Supercharger Pulley
  • Livernois Motorsports Exclusive Steel Idler Relocation Bracket w/ Metco Pulleys
  • Livernois Motorsports Spec’d Injectors
  • Livernois Motorsports Dual Fuel Pump Upgrade
  • Precision Industries Converter Built to Livernois Specs
  • Metco Oversize Crank Pulley Ring
  • Innovators West Oversize Balancer
  • Rotofab/Livernois Cold Air Intake
  • Stainless Works Longtube Headers & Connection Pipe
  • Hardened Pushrods
  • NGK TR6 Spark Plugs
  • 160 Degree T-Stat
  • GM 90mm Throttle Body
  • Bogart 17” Wheels w/ Slicks & Skinnies
  • Livernois Motorsports Dyno Tune

Final Gear

Just barely over a month after the first ZL1’s hit the streets, they were already clipping single digit ETs, and hitting top speeds of over 200 MPH. It’s just more proof that General Motors got it right with the ZL1. They designed a car that’s fast and refined from the factory, but still leaves enough room to grow to keep it interesting.

GM took care of the foundation – the chassis, suspension, brakes, supercharged power, and PTM – and left the truly fun stuff for the end user to build up to their own tastes; like adding huge amounts of horsepower. Lingenfelter, Redline, and Livernois have built the three toughest ZL1 Camaros in America by doing just that, and they’ve given us a taste of the ZL1’s incredible potential when it’s in capable hands. We like to think of these three cars are just the beginning for the ZL1.

About the author

Clifton Klaverweiden

Clifton has been a car fanatic since his late teens, when he started the restoration of his '67 Camaro. He considers himself a student of automotive science and technology, and particularly loves all things LSX. And, although he has an appreciation for everything, from imports to exotics, his true passion will always be for GM musclecars.
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