There are two kinds of suspension available on the ZL1: standard magnetic dampers or fancy DSSV (dynamic suspensions spool valve) dampers from motorsport firm (and Ford GT manufacturer) Multimatic. Gary’s car has the magnetic dampers, which are said to be more chilled than the DSSV ones, so heaven knows how tightly controlled the ZL1 feels with those, because it’s already pretty solid and responsive even with these. It’s a hardcore car.
Likewise in terms of straight-line speed. With its automatic gearbox and a power output that starts with a mere seven, you might expect it to feel positively wimpish compared with the Mustang. Not a bit of it: they’re both sensationally, gigglingly, brilliantly fast, similar in thrills and pace but different in character.
They come to the same end from different starting points, and both are undeniably muscle. By doing things his own way, Gary has managed to save money compared with the more corporate route. He reckons that, all told, you can just take the dollar price for the car and components and, by the time they’re here, call it pounds. He has spent about £75,000 on his ZL1, compared with a “from £115,000” for the CS850.
I’m not looking for a winner in this test. We don’t all have the time or energy that Gary does, but the method does appeal to me. It’s clear he has lavished a lot of time and love on his Camaro, getting it to look the way it does and feel the way it does. The CS850 feels less individual, which is a peculiar thing to say about a Mustang, given that they’re rare and special in the UK in the first instance, even before they get bespoke modifications and 850bhp. And it’s a very complete, very competent, well-rounded package: a proper product.
If it were my choice, I could more easily imagine my car’s bonnet open, outside a big garage on a warm summer’s evening, with a bunch of my own tools resting on the wing with the golden-hour sun warming my face, happy if envious of warmer winters and wider open spaces.
Gary Handa’s modified Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Price £75,000 (estimated) Engine V8, 6162cc, supercharged, petrol Power 770bhp Torque 737lb ft Gearbox 10-speed automatic Kerb Weight 1760kg 0-62mph 3.5sec (estimated) Top speed 180mph (estimated) Economy 20mpg (estimated)