Welcome to the latest edition of Muscle Car Showcase. If muscle cars are your passion, you’ll feel right at home here. We look at rare, limited edition, and even a few anomalies that have significance in the muscle car world. Here, we like to throw out the rule book, enjoy ourselves, and try to learn something new along the way. We’re here to have a good time and enjoy the ride. Let’s take a look back to 1997 and explore what is surely to become a muscle car classic at some point down the road. While you’re at it, grab something to drink, chill out for a while, and enjoy our latest article.
This edition of the Muscle Car Showcase highlights the 1997 Chevrolet Camaro 30th Anniversary LT4. In 1997, Chevrolet celebrated the Camaro’s 30th birthday by launching the 30th Anniversary Camaro. The package included Artic White paint, dual orange stripes across the hood and rear deck, and sported white 5-spoke wheels. Available in Z28 and SS trim, the car was a throwback to the 1969 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car.
For the final year of LT engine production, SLP Engineering went the extra mile and created what has become a highly collectable and very rare Camaro. SLP took LT4 engines left over from the 1996 Corvette Grand Sport production run and installed them in 100 Camaro SS coupes. The result was one of the most powerful fourth generation Camaros ever built – – the 1997 30th Anniversary SS LT4. Few, if any, of these cars ever hit the showroom floor since they were spoken for well before getting to dealers.
“Officially, what you’re seeing is Goodyear’s best effort to contain 330 horsepower and turn it into useful acceleration. But we think there’s more here than 330, it may be more like 350 when SLP Engineering finishes their work on this extremely limited run of ultra SS Camaros.” Jim Scoutten, Motor Trend Television
SLP could have simply placed the LT4 in the 30th Anniversary SS, jacked the price up almost 18 grand and called it a day. Instead, they completely disassembled, balanced, blueprinted, and enhanced the engine with stress plates. From there, one out of five engines was put through its paces on a Superflow dynamometer and every LT4 SS car was tested on a chassis dynamometer and road tested for 6 miles.
So, other than bragging rights, what did you get by coughing up all this extra cash? For starters, you get performance exhaust, lightweight drive shaft, Bilstein sport suspension, and a Torsen limited slip differential. Options for the LT4 SS were limited and consisted of a Level III Bilstein suspension package and BF Goodrich Comp T/A tires.
The LT4 Camaro was definitely built to function like the performance icon is has become. The engine comes with a 10.8:1 compression ratio and redlines at 6,300 RPM. Maximum horsepower is achieved at 5,800 RPM and maximum torque is realized at 4,500 RPM. Fuel shutoff doesn’t occur until 6,400 RPM. Nope, this isn’t your typical 4th Gen Camaro. Chevrolet and SLP Engineering got it right when they conceived this tire smoking, pavement pounding Camaro SS.
So, how did the LT4 SS Camaro measure up against its Grand Sport sibling? The results just may surprise you. Motor Trend tested both vehicles and the cars ran neck-and-neck from 0-60 and in the quarter mile. 0-60 time was 4.9 seconds and the quarter mile was completed in 13.3 seconds. Keep in mind, the LT4 in the Camaro was not detuned by General Motors or SLP Engineering.
All LT4 SS Camaros were hardtops and the only giveaway to what lurks under the hood is the “330 HP” decal on the rear. All this horsepower is laid down by way of a Borg-Warner T56 6-speed manual to 17” x 9” Artic White cast aluminum wheels. All 30th Anniversary LT4 Camaros are identified by their Artic White paint with Hugger Orange stripes on the hood, roof, and rear deck. Orange SS badging adorns the front fenders and rear deck. A functional hood scoop rises slightly above the hood and feeds fresh air to the LT4. This car looks fast just sitting still. Unsuspecting Mustang Cobra owners that challenge this car at a stoplight will probably get their feelings hurt.
Pricewise, the LT4 Camaro is only about $4,500 cheaper than the Corvette Grand Sport. Some may say that with a spread that low, why not get the Grand Sport. Remember, exclusivity is what’s at stake here. Chevrolet produced 1,000 Corvette Grand Sports while the production run for the Camaro LT4 only topped 100 cars. Make no mistake, one day this car will be coveted like the 1960s era COPO and Yenko Camaros.
For those wanting something even more distinctive, SLP Engineering and Hendrick Motorsports took nine of the of the LT4 Camaros and created the Hendrick Motorsports Special Edition LT4 Camaro. Upgrades to the car included a performance exhaust system with dual polished tips and Level III sport suspension. The cars also came with logoed Hendrick items such as floor mats, key fob, dash plaque, and car cover. This package elevated the price of the car to around $47,000. This included travel costs and accommodations to Hendrick Motorsports in Charlotte, North Carolina to pick up the car. Rick Hendrick kept one car for his personal use and, since he owned eight Chevrolet dealerships in 1997, one LT4 Camaro was sold per location.
On a side note, SLP also produced about 25 Pontiac Firebird Firehawks with the LT4 engine. These cars were only available as a hardtop with a 6-speed manual. Just like the Camaro, prices for this limited edition Firehawk were around $40,000.
For those still around in 30 years, it will be interesting to see what kind of prices these rare cars fetch on the secondary market and auctions. Due to their scarcity, these cars will probably have low mileage and be in pristine condition.