Conceived and nurtured in the utmost secrecy, like some future king on “Game of Thrones”, the 1LE package traces its lineage to the 1988-’89 F-body Camaro/Firebird. Originally referred to as the “Special Performance Components Package”, 1LE was initially developed with the specific purpose of up-gunning GMs pony cousins for road racing in SCCA Showroom stock class in the U.S. and the Players Challenge series (basically the same thing) in Canada.
Pitted against the Porsche 944, Nissan 300ZX and Ford’s Fox-body Mustang competition, the F-bodies required upgraded brakes, suspension, driveline and fuel tanks for the grueling demands of the road course. As GMs pony cars raced and tested new parts, victories were common and the 1LE goodies became available. From the outset however, available was a liberal term, as only true racers knew of the hardcore package. And to add to its dark existence, there was a very unique way of ordering 1LE.
On the bow tie side of things, you started by requesting RPO G92 performance rear axle, which got the ball rolling. Only available on the IROC Z coupe, RPO G92 automatically added, 4-wheel disc brakes, an engine oil cooler, dual converter exhaust and beefier Goodyear rubber. Engine choices were either the L98 5.7L 350-cid V8 with an automatic or the LB9 5.0L 305-cid V8 with a 5-speed stick. Both would have 145-mph speedos/5500-rpm redline tachs. Now here’ s the catch, if you ordered AC, the cars were built as street drivers, if AC was deleted, Chevy automatically added the race-ready 1LE equipment for the track. This included, bigger front brakes adapted from the C4 Corvette, an aluminum driveshaft, and fuel tank baffles, special-tuned front/rear shocks and revised jounce bumpers. Additionally, 1LE deleted most, if not all power accessories to save weight. Fog lights were also absent to allow better airflow to the radiator.
The 1LE package continued as an available factory RPO with varying components through the fourth-gen LS1-powered F-body 1999 model year. From 2000-’02 (SLP) Street Legal Performance, took the puck on its stick, offering 1LE equipment from its catalog.
In 2013, 1LE returned to the fifth-gen Camaro SS and again suspension upgrades were the major factor, along with many ZL1 items added for good measure. This did not include the super Camaro’s 580-hp supercharged 6.2L LSA V8 however, with Chevrolet deciding, quite rationally, to stay with the Super Sports normal-breathing 426-hp LS3. Now with the sixth-gen Camaro, 1LE is back, this time with rational thinking definitely thrown to the wind.
2018 ZL1 1LE:
Even though the sixth-gen SS and even V6 models can be equipped with the 1LE package, the big news for 2018 is the arrival from the car gods of the ZL1 1LE, complete with the Corvette Z06’s 650-hp/650-lb-ft LT4 V8 and enough track-ready add-ons to make Jeff Gordon giddy as a school boy.
Now designated as the “Extreme Track Package”, ZL1 1LE powertrain equipment includes Active Rev Matching for the available-only-with six-speed manual, dual-mode exhaust and coolers for engine oil, tranny and rear diff. On the body, a satin black hood with carbon fiber air extractors sets the 1LE apart from a normal ZL1, along with a larger front grille maw, to suck more air to the blown LT4 and a wider splitter with integrated dive planes to help the badass beast cut the wind and stay tucked. And on it’s tail is a Formula 1-derived carbon fiber wing, that provides 300-lbs of downforce at over 150-mph.
As with all 1LE-fitted Camaros before it, the ZL1 1LE’s suspension is it’s shining star and with 650-supercharged horses under the hood, more crucial than ever. With that, Canadian manufacturer Multimatic has supplied aluminum-bodied (DSSV) Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve shocks with adjustable front ride height and racecar-like adjustable front camber plates. Under the rear, a three-way adjustable stabilizer (anti-roll) bar helps plant the ass at speed around the corners, better enabling the electronic limited-slip diff with 3.73s to do it’s job.
Bringing it all to the pavement are specific lightweight forged-aluminum 19-inch wheels wrapped in exclusive 305/30ZR19 front/325/30ZR19 rear Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R tires. Although 1-inch smaller in diameter than a regular ZL1’s rollers, the 1LE meats are the widest ever fitted to a Camaro. Hauling-down the ZL1 1LE from competition speeds are red-calipered Brembo 6-piston front /4-piston rear brakes with iron rotors.
Unlike the fifth-gen Z/28 with its sparse accoutrements, the 2018 ZL1 1LE may be a track beast, but lacks for little in the way of creature comforts. Standard interior features include, the ZL1s suede-wrapped flat-bottom and heated steering wheel, special RECARO heated/cooled front seats with specific bolsters for optimal shifting/steering comfort, head-up display and 8-inch infotainment system. A Performance Data Recorder, navigation, carbon-fiber interior trim and premium paint colors are the only options.
After all is said and gawked-over, 1LE-fitment sheds about 60-lbs off the big pony, allowing for mid-3s to-60-mph, high 11s in the quarter and most importantly, a 7:16.04 run at the Nurburgring in Germany. Not only is that the fastest time for any Camaro, 13-seconds faster than a reg-ZL1, but any GM product ever, yes that means you Vette-people and faster than a Ferrari Enzo, 488 GTB and a Porsche GT2 RS-and all for around $70k, take that old country.
If there are any negatives, as seen in the supplied “Drive” video with Matt Farah-unless you are on the road course, or smooth as glass pavement, which last I checked, does not exist in the US-of A, you may as well be behind the wheel of a John Deere tractor, according to Matt’s oh-gods, facial expressions and spine-straightening reactions this is definitely not a suspension built for daily driving.
With that the only real peeve, its obvious that GM/Chevrolet have produced the most incredible Camaro and track-capable machine overall in it’s fabled history. With words taken from Chevrolet, “When you set out to create the most extreme Camaro of all time, you utilize championship racing-derived parts and engineering know-how. ZL1 1LE is the most track-focused 1LE we’ve ever unleashed.” No argument here.