The new Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is the fastest Camaro ever. With a 580-horsepower supercharged V8, it goes from 0-to-60 miles per hour in under 4 seconds. The acceleration in the new model is unreal, but a great car is about more than just speed, right? It’s about style and character. It’s about how it makes you feel. And that’s where the 1968 Camaro comes in. It’s not going to challenge the ZL1 on the drag strip, but just look at it — it’s a classic. They definitely don’t make them like that anymore.
So which one’s better? The newer, faster Camaro? Or the one with a few miles on the clock? We took them for a spin to find out.
Behind the Wheel
Inside the ’68 Camaro, it’s clear how far we’ve come since it debuted. There are three sliders for the climate control, and the dash slants away from the driver, instead of toward — pretty basic stuff. At the same time, there are some nice touches here that show that the Camaro was a special car. Check out the deeply hooded gauges, which you’ll see imitated in the newer model. You’ve got to love the cursive Camaro name on the glove box; the new model doesn’t feature that.
In the Camaro ZL1, the dashboard curves out to meet your hand, putting most controls easily within reach. The standard 7-inch touchscreen with smartphone integration gives you the technology of a luxury car. The seats have headrests and side bolsters, which definitely represent progress. Visibility is, however, much better in the older car; you can barely see out of the new one, and the new dash looks a bit generic.
Come to think of it, the old dash looked generic, too. We assume that’s just the way muscle cars are. Let’s call it a tie.
Pedal to the Metal
When you open up the ’68 Camaro’s 327-cubic-inch V8, banging through the Muncie 4-speed’s trusty gears, the ’60s come roaring back like they never left. Nothing today produces the primal growl of a vintage small-block V8, even one with a relatively modest 275 hp. That’s a big part of any old muscle car’s appeal right there — the noise it makes when your foot’s in it. Does it matter that you need about 7.5 seconds to hit 60 mph? That depends on your priorities, but a little dose of that sweet noise can go a long way.
The ZL1, on the other hand, is a rocket ship. It’s so fast we’re not even sure it should be legal. Thanks to 376 cu in, a supercharger and a few decades of progress, the ZL1’s V8 makes more than twice the power of the old 327. It’s like having your own personal teleporter — any time you want to get away, just squeeze the gas and you’re gone. And it sounds darn good, too.
So who has the advantage? We’re going to have to say the new model wins this category.
Which Is Better?
We need to talk about styling before we’re done. Not to spoil the surprise, but this category definitely favors the old guy. The first-generation Chevrolet Camaro is a real icon of automotive design, from its beautifully blunt nose to those gorgeous hips running from the driver’s door all the way to the tail. It’s one of the prettiest things Chevy has ever made. The new model tries to match those hips, but it’s somehow not convincing. The partially concealed headlights aren’t as cool as the big round ones on the original model. Don’t get us wrong: The new car’s a head-turner, but the ’68 Camaro is a classic for a reason.
Then there’s price. A 327 in great shape will set you back about $25,000-$30,000, but let’s say you want to step up to the more powerful SS. If you find a nice 396, which make anywhere from 325 hp to 375 hp, you’re looking at maybe $50,000-$60,000. Now we’re getting up near a new ZL1, which costs about $55,000. The ZL1 also comes with a warranty, by the way; for the old model, your wallet’s the warranty.
So which would you rather own — a piece of automotive history or one of the fastest cars in the world? We would probably grab a 327 plus a new Camaro SS for the same price as a ZL1. Any way you slice it, choosing between these cars is an excellent problem to have.