BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Barber Motorsports Park is providing the backdrop this week as Chevrolet introduces its new Camaro Z/28 to journalists from top auto enthusiast magazines.
About 100 people are visiting Birmingham and the park over a 10-day span, including Chevrolet engineers, as well as writers, photographers and videographers for Motor Trend, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Hot Rod and others.
One magazine alone brought a 14-person crew to sit in briefings about the car, drive it around the track and capture images.
The new Z/28, which Chevrolet unveiled about a year ago, is scheduled to arrive in dealers’ showrooms in April. They have begun taking pre-orders.
With a starting price of about $75,000, the four-passenger, front-engine, rear-drive coupe features a 505 horsepower 7.0-liter V-8 engine. It is billed as the fastest track Camaro ever built.
Detailed specifications, as well as impressions of the Z/28′s driving performance, are embargoed until the magazines’ May issues, which will hit newsstands in April.
“Their stories always set the tone, so they’re very important to us,” said Michael Albano, Chevrolet’s director of communications. “It’s critical we get off to a good start, and Barber has provided us the perfect platform for that.”
Several factors play into choosing a site for an event like this, including the capabilities and persona of a vehicle, he said. For instance, the company held a similar event for its new Silverado pickup in Texas.
The Z/28 is built for a track, so that element was key. Barber stood out because of its technically challenging track that shows off the car’s capabilities.
“You’re never in a steady state,” said Al Oppenheiser, chief engineer for the Camaro. “There’s always something challenging, whether it’s the elevation change, whether it’s the corners, it’s a great place to evaluate the Z/28 we’re offering.”
The park’s immaculate grounds and museum filled with vintage and modern sports cars and motorcycles are another benefit.
“It’s my first time here, and I told the track guys it’s not our last,” Oppenheiser said.
The group is staying at the Westin Hotel and frequenting local restaurants including Five, Dreamland Bar-B-Que and Todd English P.U.B.
Barber also has helped other automakers with debuts of new and updated models, including the Cayenne, Cayman and Boxster for Porsche, the Lotus Elise and the Honda Odyssey.
The park, which opened in 2003, has a long relationship with Porsche, as the site of the only Porsche Sport Driving School in the U.S.
The automaker’s general counsel, who spoke this week at a meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, said the company plans two more vehicle launches at the park later this year.
Produced at the Camaro plant in Canada, this is the first new Z/28 introduced by Chevrolet since 2002.
It’s expected to be popular among enthusiasts who want a street-legal ride that also has high-performance capabilities they can enjoy on a track.
More than 190 parts were changed in the new Z/28, relative to the current Camaro SS, in the name of improving performance, Oppenheiser said.
“We didn’t spare any detail in taking weight out or in a faster lap time,” he said.