Nearly two years ago, I swore on this blog I’d test-drive a new model year Chevrolet Camaro SS. Since that fateful day the muscly bowtie has been the white whale that haunts my dreams, the one that got away, the reason I wear mittens to bed to keep my fingernails harmlessly sheathed when the night terrors come.
Here today, reeking of saltwater and premium grade fuel, I’m proud to announce the great Detroit beast was lanced from my “to do” list in Yakima, Washington of all places.
My family and I were in town for the weekend to visit the grandparents for Easter and celebrate the triumphant return of Jesus. Unable to suppress smart-ass remarks for extended periods of time, my spirit was broken when an innocent joke implying Christ’s resurrection was dependent on whether or not he saw his shadow was ill-received at the old folks’ home.
Back at our hotel room, I turned off the lights and stared blankly through the half-shuttered blinds of a fourth story window, broken and fraught with guilt.
Then, from the darkness, an inexplicable force guided my eyes across the street to one of the few things in life that could have lifted me from such a hopeless low: A corvette-powered 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS, heavenly white with zesty orange racing stripes. It glowed with an aura, as both the egg and the prize within it.
Apparition or not, it appeared to be parked directly in front of Bob Hall Chevrolet, home of “Bob Hall’s Bottom Line Pricing 24/7”. Sweetening the small town “good people” reputation, Bob Hall’s sales staff isn’t paid on commission, but solely on volume and customer satisfaction.
Maybe, just maybe on this Easter morn…
I emerged from my rented man cave into the blinding 68 degree Yakima sun, reborn with the prospect of performing a miracle of human proportions: Successfully test-drive a muscle car the salesman knew full well I had no intention of buying.
In the showroom, I introduced myself, explained my credentials and handed a salesman my stylish yet classily understated (cheap) business card.
“Sure. Do you want to drive an Automatic or manual?”
If Cadbury made dreams, this would be the dollop of yellow cream in the center.
Behind the wheel of the white Camaro, I found myself in another cave. The low-slung roof line that topped off the car’s menacing look reduced its interior visibility to what I imagined it would be like to peer through Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge’s visor.
(Blind guy on Star Trek)
No matter. The view was fine from my vantage point. The Camaro’s orange racing stripes were pulled taught over the bulges of the lengthy muscular hood. A turn of the key brought the LS1 V8 to life with the sound of 426HP burbling happily out the dual exhaust.
Whenever traffic allowed it I pressed the gas pedal to the floor, sometimes in a stomping fashion that made the engine roar with a manic ferocity, other times in a slower manner that growled steadily through the power band. Both scenarios contributed to the development of a megalomaniac complex in my right foot.
On the highway leading back towards Seattle, we hit 112mph passing one of the iconic white fruit warehouses with massive red lettering painted on its side. There was nothing to it. At 70mph the Camaro was nearly at an idle. A sharp dip into the throttle grunted us casually up to 100mph as though we were only merging into the carpool lane to avoid slower moving traffic.
The friendly salesman riding shotgun didn’t make a fuss about the liberating speed; like a gun, muscle cars are only good for one thing and the purpose is rarely legal.
It was impossible to drive the Camaro as if it were a normal vehicle for more than a handful of minutes. People who are dead inside might argue, but true freedom is defined by the sorts of pleasures the Camaro SS provides-Sweet escapes from the drudgery of mindless commutes, the joyous obliteration of practicality, they're only a flick of the foot away.
I removed the mittens from my hands and thanked Bob Hall’s salesman for his time. Leaving Yakima would have closed the book on the last unfinished chapter of my muscle car odyssey, were it not for another fateful glance on the internet. From autoblog:
“The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was a performance monster, featuring an all-aluminum engine displacing 427 cubic inches that was originally intended for racing. Just 69 units were built, and they are highly coveted by collectors today. Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Chevrolet chose to resurrect this classic moniker for what it is calling the fastest and most technologically advanced Camaro ever built.
At this point, specifications are still preliminary, but Chevrolet is estimating that its supercharged and intercooled 6.2-liter LSA V8 engine will put out around 550 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque. Those ponies will be sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission using a dual-disc clutch that's necessary to properly harness all those horses. There's also a dual-mode exhaust system that alters the sound level and character in response to engine rpm.
Chevrolet tells us that its goal was to build "a Camaro intended to reach optimal lap times on top road-racing circuits and excellent driving dynamics on the street.” (1)
Car & Driver estimates (conservatively) the ZL1 will reach 60mph in four seconds flat and hit 100mph in 9.9 seconds with a quarter-mile time of 12.5 seconds. (2)
This blog was typed wearing mittens.