1965 Chevrolet Corvette L78 drag racing 1978 Chevy Camaro z28: A Surprisingly Close Drag Race

Muscle cars from the Malaise era often face criticism for their less impressive aesthetics compared to their predecessors. Many argue that they don’t truly embody the essence of traditional muscle cars. However, it’s important to note that not all ponies built in the late-to-mid-1970s were dull and uninspiring.

While the second-generation Ford Mustang underwent a radical transformation from its predecessor, the second-gen Chevrolet Camaro retained its original design before the oil crisis shook the automotive market. Although the aforementioned Mustang lacked power with a range-topping V8 trim delivering only 140 horsepower, the Camaro came closer to 200 horses. Among the various iterations, the Z28 stands out as an exceptionally appealing version of the second-generation Chevy, regardless of the specific model year.

In 1978, for instance, the Camaro Z28 featured a 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) V8 engine, generating 185 horsepower and 280 pound-feet (380 Nm) of torque. While this might not seem like a lot when compared to the muscle cars of the golden era, it’s crucial to consider that Chevrolet was employing net power figures in 1978, which differed from the gross numbers used before 1971. Ultimately, the performance gap is narrower than it appears on paper.

 

But what captivates enthusiasts about the muscle cars from the Malaise era are the captivating paint schemes. While some may argue that certain colors make the Mustang King Cobra look rather cheesy, the silver 1978 Camaro Z28 featured in this article exudes an undeniable charm, thanks to its red and orange stripes that adorn the hood, rear spoiler, and wheel arches. Although these stripes don’t enhance its speed, they serve as one of the cool features available during that era.

In terms of performance, the Z28 could complete the quarter-mile in approximately 16 seconds—a time that falls short by around two seconds compared to high-performance cars of the golden era, but respectable nonetheless. However, the particular Camaro showcased in this article has undergone unassuming upgrades, significantly improving its acceleration. Just how quick is it? Well, let’s say it can give a 1965 Corvette L78 a run for its money on the drag strip.

The L78, a one-year wonder and a rarity today with only 1,542 units produced, is equipped with a 396-cubic-inch (6.5-liter) V8 engine that churns out an impressive 425 horsepower and 415 pound-feet (563 Nm) of torque. That’s as much power as the iconic 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) HEMI introduced by Chrysler in the 1966 model year. This particular drop-top variant of the L78 stands out even more due to its optional side-exiting exhaust pipes, four-speed manual gearbox, and 4.56 rear gears.

Without a doubt, if a drag race were to take place, the L78 would be the car to bet on. However, it’s important to note that this quarter-mile showdown doesn’t involve purely stock muscle cars. These vintage vehicles participate in the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drag Race (PSMCDR) series, which permits a wide range of modifications under the hood. While there is no information available regarding the specific upgrades made to these Chevys, the Camaro is now nearly as quick as its theoretically more powerful counterpart.

In fact, the Z28 emerged victorious in the initial race, crossing the finish line in 14.21 seconds, almost half a second faster than the L78. Nevertheless, the Corvette struggled to gain traction at the start line. However, during the second and third races, the Corvette driver expertly utilized the power of the big-block V8 and manual gearbox, securing victories with sub-14-second runs. Surprisingly, the Camaro remained incredibly close, recording an impressive 13.97-second pass during the second race.

It’s a classic case of “never judge a book by its cover.” Watch the thrilling competition unfold in the video below, captured during the 28th Annual Pure Stock Muscle Car Drag Race event held in 2022.

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