NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I can vividly recall the excitement when going for a ride in my sister's cherry red, 1991 Chevy Camaro Iroc Z. Wow, the squared sexiness of the design, and the signature T-tops, was enough to make any 16-year old boy's heart skip a beat. I went onto be a proud owner of a 1991 Pontiac (<--RIP) Trans Am GTA, a competitor to the Camaro badge throughout the years.
So it was a pleasure to have a giggling schoolboy moment and chat with General Motors' (GM) Mark Dickens, Director of Performance Vehicles, who has been an integral member of the development team for the new Camaro Z28, with the New York International Auto Show in full effect. Dickens is a true passionate car guy, his knowledge all but took me by the arm through the phone and put me behind of the new beast of the roads, the highly legal street racer known as the Camaro Z28.
To get a feel of the power of this awesome piece of American muscle, simply watch this cool feature on TheStreet from inside the cockpit. Here are the interview excerpts from Dickens, designed to be Camaro Z28-like . . . quick, with full punch off the line.
It's tough for this former 1991 Trans AM GTA owner to be doing a Camaro interview, but the new design is truly performance car meets eye candy. Take us behind the scenes a bit, how did you and your team improve upon an already stellar Camaro design?
2 Goals When Designing the New Camaro Z28
- How can it win at the race track?
- Beat the Ford (F) Mustang "at all costs," tapping into extensive performance data in the process.
3 Key Attributes on How the Goals were Achieved
- A higher revving engine then prior iterations.
- Increased road grip through improved downforce.
- Mass reduction.
When developing the new Camaro Z28, "every part had to earn its way onto the car" noted Dickens. Might want to apply that same philosophy to your office team . . .
Specifically to the Z28, what are the key things you learned when testing it on the track before its release to the public? Any interesting car guy stats you can share that may not be found on Car & Driver?
It may not be sexy to you Toyota (TM) Prius drivers, but brakes are sexy to the performance-minded individual that ponies up a good chunk of change to buy a Camaro Z28. According to Dickens, the Camaro Z28's brakes are one of its most vital upgrades. In non-car-shop talk, the Z28 has better stopping ability.
The Camaro Z28 is basically race ready right off the dealer lot. I am curious though, how do you think the broader Camaro interior will evolve over the years as digital dashboards and info-tainment centers begin to take over the industry?
The clear trend in automobiles these days is the huge info-tainment section embedded in the center console. Over time, that will be replaced by the seriously distracting smart dashboards. For performance cars, however, they have to carefully balance giving the driver access to new technology that is being utilized in everyday life against weighing the vehicle down, and thereby reducing road and track experiences.
Here is how Dickens led me in a discussion of the likely evolution of the Camaro's interior in coming years.
What to Expect in Future Camaro Interiors
Greater control of data by the driver. Could be information on the chassis. Could be the ability to tweak the traction control. For those glued into a Camaro Z28 seat, they want to know how the car is performing when pushing it to the max in certain situations. Don't expect a Tesla TSLA interior in the 2016 Camaro Z28, in other words.
How do you envision the Camaro evolving over the next few years? What do you see coming down the pike in terms of auto design and performance that could end up on a 2017 Camaro?
What to Expect on Future Camaro Models Overall
- Improved fuel economy through drag reduction (making the car is even more aerodynamic).
- There has been a movement in the auto industry to including additional grill openings to bolster engine cooling, which is apparent in the new Camaro Z28. That movement will not be going quietly anytime soon.
You have extensive experience in the performance parts market. I am interested in trends you are seeing there amongst car owners. Also, what are you seeing consistently done to a stock Camaro in the aftermarket?
4 Booming Areas of the Aftermarket Parts Industry
- Cold air induction
- Exhaust systems with performance sound
- Brakes with colored calipers
- Upgraded chassis packages
General Motors (GM) has now implemented a program where aftermarket upgrades could be retrofitted at the time of purchase, with the costs lumped into the monthly payment. By offering this option, General Motors gains revenue streams, but also gets a Camaro to a customer how they want it and with warranty guaranteed dealer parts.
Around the Horn
- How much would a set of replacement tires cost on the Camaro Z28? Each 19-inch tire costs $550 (that is $2,200 total...).
- Can you share one or two interesting attributes of the new Camaro in the upcoming Transformers 4? Unfortunately, not much to share on this! (here are spy photos of the new "BumbleBee" Camaro on set of Transformers 4).