Seasonal changes are everywhere in nature. Falling leaves in autumn. Snow in winter. Flowers in spring. You can tell it’s about to become summer in the Detroit area when the car shows sprout up like dandelions in your lawn.
One of the first shows that kicks off the season each year is the Michigan F-Body Meet and Greet, near Milford, Michigan, northwest of Detroit proper. Hosted by the Michigan F-Body Association, it draws hundreds of Camaros and Firebirds and for the past several years, it has also drawn the attention of GM engineers, who have brought the latest Camaro models from the nearby Milford Proving Ground – GM’s official testing facility.
The engineers didn’t disappoint this year, rolling up in a trio of 2014 Camaro ZL1s, which gave almost everyone at the event their first personal glimpse at the revised rear fascia and tail lamps for the cars. The reaction was positive, with unofficial polling suggesting the sleek, slim appearance of the lamps gives the Camaro a high-tech look without losing its heritage roots.
In fact, many noted the tail lamps evoked the look of 1969 lamps. That’s what we thought, too. They appear to be LED-lit, which looks pretty cool, as well.
Chevrolet has already shown images of the new Z/28 and 2014 Camaro SS, which feature new front-end styling, so enthusiasts were rightfully curious when the ZL1s rolled in with new rear fascias, but the 2013-style front ends. Why? “Airflow,” was the reply that came from the engineers who brought the cars.
When the ZL1 was designed, its front end was crafted specifically for the airflow requirements of the supercharged LSA engine and it works just fine the way it is, thank you very much. So, the other ’14 Camaros will wear a new nose, along with the revised rear end, but the ZL1s carry over their purposeful front ends. Got it?
Event participants pored over the ZL1s – and, later, a 2014 Z/28 that snuck out of the Proving Ground and rolled into the show, too, but we missed it – but there were plenty of other great Camaros on hand, too. The event is mostly a late-model gathering, but all generations were represented.
Lingenfelter Engineering was on hand with one of their modified Gen 5s, along with Classic Design Concepts, who brought one of their Firebreather cars – one of a number of Trans Am-styled models based on the Gen 5 Camaro. What made theirs unique was the fact it was based on a ZL1, with a retro Trans Am-style “shaker” scoop mounted on top of the supercharged engine.
The Best of Show award went to Pro Touring guru Mark Stielow and the LS9-powered 1969 Camaro he built – now owned by a California enthusiast – that’s known as “Jackass.” The car is a few years old, but still stunning in its execution and performance. Stielow also happens to be one of those GM employees from the Milford Proving Ground and he worked on the 2014 Z/28 program. He also won the OPTIMA Challenge a couple of years ago in his Red Devil ’69 Camaro pro-tourer.
It’s encouraging to see the engineers behind the production vehicles live and breathe their work off the clock, too. In fact, we were thrilled to see the mutual enthusiasm from the engineers on hand. They didn’t simply roll up, park the cars and lock them up. The left them open, while proudly wiping them clean, and encouraged participants to climb in them. They answered a myriad of questions and engaged everyone who approached them. In short, they were ambassadors not only for the Camaro, but Chevrolet and General Motors – and hats off to all of them. The personified the car-guy spirit we all hope is behind the corporate facade.
So, it’s official. It’s car show season in Detroit. If the success of the F-Body Meet and Greet is any indicator, it will prove to be a good one.