In the realm of movies, the issue of a film’s franchise becomes tricky the more installments one adds to the mix. Sequels and prequels tend to water down the caliber of the original’s greatness, and rare is the second, third, or fourth episode that exceeds the first film’s quality.
The world of cars follows in much the same vein. Succeeding generations of a nameplate are held to the standard that original was, and judged accordingly from every aspect. The fifth generation Chevrolet Camaro had a lot to live up to, and one aspect of this was the aesthetic department. Lead designers Sangyup Lee and Tom Peters were instrumental in making the musclecar live up to its lineage, but no manufacturer has the final say in how a car should, or can, look, once those cars are in the hands of the public.
The 2010 Camaro SS in our project car fleet was dubbed “ZL1Upped” for a reason: we were dead-set on taking this already impressive late model coupe and enhancing just about every attribute, all in the name of having it one-up the Camaro perched at the heights of streetable performance, the ZL1.
Thus far, we’ve seen upgrades to the exhaust from Street Legal Performance; a Level 3 Handling Performance package from BMR Suspension; gearbox modifications from McLeod Racing; and a hefty jolt in output from the i-1 supercharger from ProCharger.
With just about all the performance boxes checked off, the task at hand now is to bring out the best of the SS’s facial features. As with any build, this task was a joint effort, as we assembled three prominent companies to help us make the Camaro stand out. We reached out to Chevy Performance, DJ Grilles, and LG Motorsports, and the race was on to produce a 5th-gen that would stand out anywhere.
ZL1 Factory Style
Even before the ZL1 officially hit the streets, clever enthusiasts were making use of their local dealers’ parts department to assemble “clones” straight out of the repair parts catalog. We put together our ZL1 nose using a laundry list of factory parts, right down to the fasteners:
- ZL1 front bumper cover (p/n 22831868)
- Right bezel (p/n 22895338)
- Left bezel (p/n 22895339)
- Support, absorber (p/n 20952857)
- DRL retainers (p/n 20957334)
- Bag of 20 bolts (p/n 11570637)
- Bag of 10 nuts (p/n 11610157)
- Bag of 10 rivets (p/n 92231490)
- Fog lights (p/n 10335108 x2)
One of the major aerodynamic goals of the factory engineers who created the ZL1 bodywork was to increase stability and downforce at the elevated speeds the supercharged über-Camaro could achieve. Additionally, consideration was given to supplying the intercooler and brakes with a copious flow of cool air, while managing aerodynamic drag. By using the factory bodywork, we are able to take advantage of GM’s extensive wind tunnel and full scale “rolling road” testing for our own project.
Of course, there are always those who want to go above and beyond what even the most ambitious OEM engineers can achieve, and to get our matching hood, we went to the experts at LG Motorsports, who don’t just make parts – they race what they sell, campaigning both late model Corvettes and Camaros in several road race venues.
We talked with Anthony Forney of LG Motorsports to get a better sense of what makes the ZR28 hood a fine fit for our ZL1 conversion, as well as other enhancements to race-oriented 5th gens. “We offer the hood in three versions: the ultra lightweight race carbon, the lightweight street, and the street series carbon.”
“Our Street Series version uses carbon for the top and a composite mix for the inner shell and mounting points,” explained Forney. “Meanwhile, the lightweight street and race hoods are both carbon, but use thin layers for the make-up to keep the weight down. The race hood requires hood pins as there is no inner structure to that hood at all.”
Borrowing certain qualities from these race-focused hoods is what has made the Street Series such a popular choice for aftermarket enthusiasts, and lends a touch of performance and distinction to the ZR28. “The hood design itself was used for the SCCA World Challenge series,” said Forney. “Ford had the Boss 302R models that they were running with modified hoods, and with such strict rules to aerodynamic modifications the Camaros needed help to make more front downforce.”
“Using what we knew from adding louvers and the design on the Corvette race cars we had been running, we set about doing a modified hood for the Camaro,” continued Forney. “In the middle of the 2012 season we pushed to get not only our ZR28 hood approved but also our GT2 race wings for the Camaro, which you will find on every Camaro in the World Challenge GTS class.”
“Not only is the hood 100% approved for racing, but also its design was done first and foremost to help the Camaro on the race track for down force, and the cooling aid is another added benefit,” concluded Forney. “Our customers always benefit from our years of racing experience to help make the product better for their own race or street cars.”
SoCal Style, US Quality
Meanwhile, in the case of the GT Corsa equipment from DJ Grilles, the company’s lead designer and mechanical engineer, Dan Marchese, was able to answer some of our probing questions about the grilles. “DJ Grilles has been making truck and automotive grilles since 1999,” said Marchese. “We manufacture everything in Southern California, with the exception of some electronics sourced from other countries.”
When it comes to installation, the grilles themselves are perhaps a little more trying than changing oil or installing a cold air intake. “This [kit] can be installed in the garage by an intermediate level DIYer,” cautioned Marchese. “The front bumper cover does have to come off, but it is not impossible. Two people are recommended to remove the front bumper cover and could [finish it all] in an afternoon.”
And as far as build quality goes, DJ Grilles does not cut corners on its processes, nor does the company exclude owners of V6-powered late model Camaros: “We use carbon and stainless steel materials. The parts are sandblasted, phosphate washed, primed and powder coated with a 20% gloss black finish,” explained Marchese. “We have applications available for all 5th gen models from 2010-2014, regardless of engine size.”
Paging Doctor Chevy, Doctor Chevy…After five years on the road, the stock front was still in great shape, but its looks were beginning to grow stale. We were all too happy to go about disassembling the front, which we did with dispatch. The guys at the LGE-CTS Motorsports shop were on hand to help with the task, and did fantastic work.
An important thing to consider here is that the ZL1 bumper does not line up perfectly with the body lines of an ordinary Camaro. If you’re going to do this upgrade to your own 5th gen, it’s highly recommended that you find a suitable replacement hood that meshes with the ZL1 bumper’s contours. You’ll see what we mean when we get to the installation of the ZR28 hood we got from LG Motorsports.
Starting with the bumper, we removed the wheels and tires up front to get to the inner fenders, which each have six TORX fasteners going front to back. These were unscrewed with a T-25 bit. The tabs that held the fender wells in place were undone using a flathead screwdriver.
Next, we located the four 10mm bolts that held the bumper to the fenders: three in front, and one on the side. Once removed, we moved onto the 7mm bolts near the sidemarkers and undid them as well. On the passenger side, this required disconnecting the wire harness.
Finally, the last two bolts were 10mm ones on either side of the bumper’s bottom. We carefully slid the bumper free of the car and laid it aside while we gathered all the components that would go toward assembling the fresh ZL1 fascia.
On With The New
Moving onto the next phase, we went about installing the fog lights and their bezels into the ZL1 bumper. Once that was done, we opted to make sure the fitment was where it should be by installing it onto the Camaro. After confirming that everything was in order, we switched gears to removing the hood.
With the four bolts removed from the hinges, we carefully grabbed the stock hood on either side and walked it over to an area that was out of the way. The new hood took its place, again requiring cautious handling to seat the panel properly before the bolts were threaded through. We tested the hood’s fitment a few times, making small adjustments to ensure the latch assembly was lining up just right before pressing on.
Once we were satisfied with that, the last phase was the installation of the DJ Grilles Corsa GT components. Here, we set the new grilles into their respective places and secured them with nuts and bolts–simple enough. We then drilled holes into the factory mounting tabs on either side, and used the supplied hardware to fasten everything down. A finishing touch was done courtesy of the red “SS” badge that made its way onto the driver’s side of the top grille.
Talking The Talk And Walking The Walk
Here, at last, we had reached the end of the modifications to our beloved 5th Gen. With just about every other facet taken care of, from brakes to driveline to suspension, we felt that these modifications were enough to truly christen this Camaro “ZL1Upped.” LG Motorsports’ carbon fiber layers gave a sleek look that help improve durability and reduce weight, with body lines that coordinated perfectly with the ZL1 front clip.
The Corsa GT grilles wrapped up the front end nicely as well, adding a bright flair to the car that contrasted with the surrounding darker shades to give the car some real noticeability. The Camaro is now the total package, ready for the track, the quarter-mile, and any show-n-shine we happen across.