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GM’s Bowling Green plant will make Camaro Z/28 engines

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January 9, 2014

GM’s Bowling Green plant will make Camaro Z/28 engines

New Performance Build Center will hand-assemble 505-horsepower V-8 for track-ready muscle car

By G. Chambers Williams III
| The Tennessean

The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 high-performance sport coupe, which goes on sale this spring, will feature a hand-built high-power engine that will be the first product of General Motors’ new Performance Build Center, now being built at the automaker’s Bowling Green, Ky., plant.

Powering the Z/28 will be a 7.0-liter V-8 engine that cranks out 505 horsepower and 481 foot-pounds of torque. The car will have a starting price of $75,000, including $995 freight and the federal gas-guzzler tax, giving fans of Chevrolet’s iconic muscle car a new version designed for both road and track use.

GM said last January that it would move its special engine facility from Wixom, Mich., to the Chevrolet Corvette plant in Bowling Green early this year, with plans to make high-performance engines for some specialty models of the Corvette and Camaro. About 20 new jobs are being created by the move.

The center is still under construction, but it will be up and running in time for the launch of the Z/28, GM Bowling Green spokeswoman Andrea Hales said Wednesday.

“Staffing is already underway, and we will be prepared to support the Z/28 timeline in the spring,” she said.

Besides the new jobs and a $3.5 million investment, the relocation of the Performance Build Center also is expected to bring more visitors to the plant, as the center offers buyers of the specialty models the opportunity to help build the engines that go into the cars they order.

Before the move, the Wixom location produced 6.2- and 7.0-liter V-8s for such models as the Corvette Grand Sport Coupe, Z06 and top-of-the-line ZR1 models.

The Kentucky plant already received $131 million in upgrades over the past 18 months to prepare for production of the seventh-generation Corvette, which went on sale late last summer.

A new body shop was built to make the aluminum frame for the new Corvette, and the Performance Build Center is being located on the area of the old body shop, GM said.

Build your own engine

Each engine is hand-built by a single technician, aided by high-tech manufacturing aids such as a computerized torque wrench that can tighten 16 bolts simultaneously to exact specifications, said GM Corvette product specialist Monte Doran.

“Customers are allowed to help build their own engines, and can do as little as they want, or all of it,” Doran said. The technician is on hand to guide customers’ work.

Even engines built by the customer are covered by the 100,000-mile GM warranty, and are thoroughly tested before being installed in the cars, GM said.

The Camaro itself is now assembled in a GM plant in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, but will be moved to the Lansing Grand River plant in Michigan next year.

Since its rebirth four years ago, the famous muscle car that Chevy had discontinued in 2002 has been routinely outselling its Ford Mustang counterpart, and building an entirely new fan base.

In 2013, GM sold 80,567 of the Camaro, compared with Ford’s sales of 77,186 for the Mustang.

The revived Z/28 Camaro is intended for those who want a superb track-capable vehicle. Dealers will begin taking orders late this month. It will be offered only with a six-speed manual transmission.

And, as racers usually leave their windows open, air conditioning will be optional — a weight-saving measure designed to help improve track performance.

It will be available in five colors: red hot, black, silver ice metallic, ashen gray metallic and summit white.

The only option is a $1,150 package that brings the air conditioning and six audio speakers (only one speaker is standard).

With room for up to four passengers, the Z/28 comes with bolstered Recaro front bucket seats with microfiber inserts. There is a matte-metallic finish called Octane on the interior trim, and a flat-bottom steering wheel is standard.

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