SAN FRANCISCO: Its kind of a shame, celebrating
thirty-five years and the end both at the same time. Maybe thats why Chevy
isnt heralding the end of the Camaro (and its corporate stable mate the
Pontiac Firebird). But thats the reality. After 35 years of slugging it out with
Mustang (and Barracuda, Challenger, and sometimes Javelin) GM is giving up, throwing in
the towel, calling it quits for the Camaro and Firebird.
Which is way too bad cuz the limited addition 35th Anniversary
Camaro SS is one wicked package. With a 325 hp, 5.7-liter, LS1 V8 and a 6-speed manual
transmission, one of the most raucous exhaust systems youve ever heard from Detroit,
and bright Rallye Red paint with dual fading silver stripes running the length of the
Camaro from the front fascia, over the hood and onto the rear decklid and spoiler, the
Camaro SS is a confirmed extrovert. Theres absolutely no way you wont be
recognized in a Camaro SS. Which could be very bad news for your drivers license.
The SS package is available on either the convertible or coupe. The coupes include
removable T-tops. Theres plenty of special SS badging both inside and out
commemorative front fender emblems, 35th Anniversary emblems embroidered into
the front headrests, and a badge on the dash. Youll never forget what youre
Regardless of all the attention the SS Camaro will draw, or perhaps because of it, it
is made for driving. Being a Ford guy it pains me to say this but the LS1 is a truly great
engine. Bags of torque and it revs like crazy. It makes its peak horsepower at 5,200 rpm
and it loves getting there. Ive driven a Mustang with the 4.6-liter, SOHC V8 which
admittedly makes less hp but unless you open the hood on either youd be hard pressed
to say which was the hi-tech, overhead cam engine.
The LS1 is the "new" Small Block Chevy. It is an all aluminum, overhead valve
engine. When Chevy announced the LS1 a couple years ago everyone thought they were crazy
for not making it an overhead cam engine. Pushrods are passť they said, like back in the
Stone Age, man. Well GM proved them wrong again.
Not quite so great is the 6-speed manual transmission. Oh it does wonders for the EPA
fuel economy ratings of 18-mpg city, 26 highway, and 22 combined. And I have no doubt that
the actual highway mileage will be close to the rating but the city mileage? No way unless
you never put your foot in it. The main problem with the transmission is GMs
insistence on using the "skip shift" feature. Basically if you try to drive nice
and easy the onboard computer forces you to skip from first gear to third gear, all to
beat the dreaded "gas guzzler" tax. Pay the darn tax! Most everyone I know
avoids the skip shift by applying generous amounts of throttle or they go out and buy a
simple little device to defeat the computer.
According to the car mags this is one fast Camaro. Expect 0-60 mph times around 5
seconds and a top speed up near 160 mph. I banged it through the gears a couple times and
Id say the acceleration numbers are pretty close. I did not test top end. I like my
license and my insurance rates too much.
I was actually impressed with the ride and handling of the SS Camaro. Lets face
it, this is a heavy car (almost 3,600 lbs.), it is stiffly sprung, and it rides on pretty
big meats P275/40ZR-17s to be exact. This is not a recipe for comfort. Add in the
loss of rigidity that normally comes with a convertible and youd expect a whole lot
of rock n roll with some banging for rhythm. Make no mistake, the SS Camaro
was stiff but it was not harsh and there wasnt all that much body flex either.
The power steering was nicely weighted, feeling hefty at speed yet perfect for parking.
The big tires did tend to follow road grooves a little but at speed the SS just hunkered
down and cruised.
There is a down side to the Camaro, all Camaros and Firebirds. Their age, which is
reflected in the packaging. This generation Camaro was first introduced in 1982. Yes
its had some freshening since but essentially its the same package.
Theres the same hump on the front passenger floor to accommodate the catalytic
converter underneath. Theres the same deep, narrow trunk and the same long, heavy
doors. These date the Camaro. If it was introduced in 82 it was first planned in
78 or 79 making it a 70s car. Maybe this has something to do with its
demise its just too old to upgrade anymore and an all new, rear-wheel-drive
package just isnt economically feasible. And a front-wheel-drive Camaro would be,
well it just wouldnt be a Camaro. To be fair to Chevy its main competitor,
Mustang, is even older. The Fox platform that the Mustang is based on was introduced in
Another down side is price. The 35th Anniversary SS Camaro Convertible is
expensive. The sticker on the car I drove was just over $33,000. Is it worth it? Who
knows. It may become collectable and it is quick and fast. But at that price a buyer might
just consider moving up to a Vette. It would be a hard choice, but a fun one to make
either way. By Bruce Hotchkiss ©
AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Chevy Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
Column Name: This Limited Edition Camaro SS is One Wicked Package
Topic: 2002 Chevrolet 35th Anniversary Camaro SS Convertible
Word Count: 998
Photo Caption: 2002 Chevrolet 35th Anniversary Camaro SS Convertible
Photo Credits: Chevrolet Internet Media
Series #: 2002 - 2
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