Camaro ZL1 Chief Engineer: “Ford Mustang Has Been Playing Catch Up.”

Posted by on November 17, 2011 - more

Seems the announcement of the Camaro ZL1 Slayer has gotten Camaro fans concerned enough that the Chief Engineer of the Camaro ZL1, Al Oppenheiser, felt it necessary to issue a public statement.

The statement contains the expected. Talking up the ZL1 for it’s off-the-showroom-floor track readiness. When he isn’t talking about the ZL1 he is taking shots at Ford for playing catch up, stating that the Camaro has been the best-selling sports car in America. He ends his statement by stating:

For Mustang fans, you’re welcome. Clearly the Camaro has encouraged Ford to throw everything they can at us.

Am I glad the Camaro is back? Absolutely! There is truth to his quoted statement above. Competition is healthy for us consumers. That is why it broke my heart when the Ford Mustang lost its main competitor to a bloated nightmare of a business named GMC. A time when the Ford Mustang just had to exist to outsell the Camaro. A time that left Camaro owners frustrated and depressed, waiting for the day that they could once again run to the dealership and purchase the car that they grew up loving.

I know why Mr. Oppenheiser made the comment about the Camaro outselling the Mustang since 2009. It sounds great on paper. If only everything was black and white though. The reality is, the Camaro market had 6 long years to dwell on the fact that their favorite car had vanished, yearning for the day they could run to the Chevy dealership and drop their loads…. of cash on their desk.

We know it has been a tough time for Camaro enthusiasts and we welcome back the rivalry that we all grew up with. With that said, I wouldn’t get used to bragging about being the best-selling sports car in America. Once the newness wears off, we will get a better idea of how the future will look in regards to our cherished rivalry. As far as his claims against the GT500, time will surely tell. I am sure both cars will be fun to drive.

In the meantime, I can’t wait until Jim Farley hears about this. The man just flat out doesn’t like your company.

Full Statement

Camaro Nation:

As you know, the blogs lit up with the announcement of the new 650-horsepower Mustang GT500, and I wanted to give you my perspective on the latest challenge from Dearborn.

The Mustang has been playing catch up since the moment the fifth-gen Camaro arrived in 2009. Since then, Camaro has been the best-selling sports car in America, indicating that consumers know which car offers the best performance, style and safety.

It is no coincidence that Mustang has introduced three 100-horsepower increases to keep pace with Camaro: First their V-6 was bumped to 305; then their V-8 went to 412, and now the GT500.

Even with the 100-hp increase, the 2013 GT500 will still not match the technology and sophistication of the 2012 Camaro ZL1.

The days of “no replacement for displacement,” are over, and it’s not enough to be fast in a straight line. With the Camaro ZL1, we set out to deliver integrated performance, and be equally good at acceleration, braking, grip, and turning. As you will soon see, that’s why the Camaro ZL1 will set the performance benchmark for the segment.

Our approach was to make every Camaro ZL1 fully track-capable, from the factory. As we announced today, the ZL1 Coupe will start at $54,995 with standard Magnetic Ride Control, standard Performance Traction Management, and standard track-capable equipment such as a rear-differential cooler, brake cooling ducts, and an engine and transmission cooler.

None of our customers will have to buy extra options – or modify their ZL1 – for track-day usage. That is not the case for the current GT500, or their new car.

For Mustang fans, you’re welcome. Clearly the Camaro has encouraged Ford to throw everything they can at us.

For Camaro fans, trust me, we are always listening to your feedback, and working hard to keep the Camaro in the lead.

Al O.



  1. Having greater sales numbers for the last few years is hardly earth shattering news gents. What about the 35 or so years before that, when the Mustang ruled the pony car wars. I can’t wait to see a head to head comparison of ALL the various models of Mustangs and Camaros. Not just the uber-expensive top of the line ones. I think in the end Ford will come out victorious in this arena. Only time will tell for sure, Bring on the testing!!! Mustangs forever…

  2. Tim Lee says:

    I notice he didn’t mention the BOSS when it comes to being track ready. Put a BOSS on track with a ZL1 and I bet the solid axle car will still win!

  3. David says:

    “Ford is playing catchup” …so that’s why the Mustang has outdone the Camaro in sales in every year except for 2 since it’s existance?  So that’s why the Camaro didn’t exist for a 7 year period?  So that’s why the Camaro needs 6 liters to make the power the Mustang can with 5 liters?  lol  What a joke, this guy’s an idiot.

    • Rick says:

      You’re the idiot for using the horsepower per liter argument.  That is ricer math.  That’s like saying that Ford needs a V8 twice the size of Chevy’s V8 to make the same power, or that it needs 3 more camshafts, or that it needs to rev to 7k rpm.  It’s an argument that holds no water.  And Ford is playing catch-up.  It took them over 45 years to put a GT model into the 12’s.  Welcome to the 90’s.  You also fail to recognize that GM has offered more than just the Camaro on the same f-body platform with the likes of the Pontiac Firebird/Trans Am.  Also, the whole cancellation of the f-body is due to the booming sales of SUV’s.  They felt more money would be made by selling the more expensive SUV’s that had topped the market in sales for several years.  Look into the discussion as a whole before you form a biased opinion.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I can’t help but chuckle at this. This guy can’t possibly believe what he’s saying. He was just compelled/ordered to give a statement by upper management just to rub the backs of the Camaro guys as they sob and weep over the news of the pony car god that is the 2013 GT500. 

    Just reading the specs of the new one, it seems like maybe, just maybe, the GT500 will be heavy into Porsche 911 territory. Who knows, we might just see the GT500 return to Rolex racing!

  5. Anonymous says:

    That’s right Mr. Government Motors man. You just keep doing what you can to convince the suckers, oops! I mean buyers, coming in your door so the Mustangs can have at least a bit of competition.

    Seriously I am glad to see they are back. I wish Dodge would step up their game too.
    Look at what it has done for our favorite Pony Car rides.
    Like the article says, “The competition is good for us, the consumers.”

    Thanks for the article Brent.

  6. i love my 2012 mustang it’s one hot and fun car!

  7. P. M. Summer says:

    Britain’s Auto Express says the 2013 Mustang GT500 laps Nürburgring in 7:30… or 11 seconds faster than the Camaro ZL1.

    Interestingly, they also say Jost Capito’s Ford RS team did the tuning.

  8. decades raising the bar when your precious Camaro had to take one hell of leave of absence. So, WHO really is playing “catch up”? ;)
    Thought I’d share my FB status.

  9. Lets talk about this in 10 years to see if GM  will keep investing in a 2dr personal car. The last 15 years of Camaros were little more then glued up 1980 cars that were even worse on the inside. As a 2006 Ford owner my car has been great to drive and upgrade but Ford has allowed its cars to do the talking. Lets hope that GM will keep building a Camero because it will make a better Mustang.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Who wants to bet  Al Oppenheiser will secretly own a GT500… Actually now that I think about it I bet he doesn’t have the balls to drive one!

  11. FEAR! Chevy is nervous.

  12. Paul Ferris says:

    GM, not for the first time, owes a debt to the Mustang — for defining the market at the very least.   Were it not for solid Mustang sales they wouldn’t have even breached the thought of re-introducing the Camaro (this is the second time they’ve piggy-backed the Market — the first was in 1967).

    The Mustang is and will always be the real Pony Car.   These words are fraught with misunderstanding anyway — “no replacement for displacement” for example — it’s GM that’s has been playing catch-up with ham-fisted attempts at extending the wheezing life of the Neanderthal push-rod V8’s in their cars by upping the displacement — Ford has been the one to show them how it’s done with less displacement.   The 5.8 Liter motor in the new car is certainly bigger than the one shipped in the 2011/2012 — but it’s still smaller than the Motor in the ZL1.   Ford has made their horsepower with technology and this moron has to know it.

    GM does have some technological advantage with their magnetic ride adjustment — but they’re going to have to shed some serious weight off the Camaro and give it a motor fitting of a car made sometime after 1980 for it to be a real competitor at a technology level.   His main point (that the car is selling better) is a fad — starved Camaro buyers have been rushing to the showroom to get their fix (that’s my theory), so I’ll bet this bump is only temporary.

    So GM — here’s to you being able to catch up someday.  Maybe sometime in the next couple of years you’ll get a modular motor team together and learn to make V8’s that don’t have Roman numerals for version numbers stamped on them.   Maybe you’ll design a car that doesn’t feel like a rolling bunker when you drive it.   Maybe it’ll even have a usable trunk for that matter.  

    Lotta maybes.   You want realities — those cars are gonna have the Ford logo on them.

  13. Jason Searcy says:

    The Camaro ZL1 Chief Engineer sums it all in one sentence. Although Mustang is faster, it never beat Camaro in terms of sales. I guess the personal-sports/race-car look of Camaro is one factor that boosts it sales and its modern designs resemble the classic ones:

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