Here’s the latest salvo in the perpetual power and performance war: Chevy will top Ford’s 550-hp Shelby GT500 with a husky 580-hp—SAE-certified—supercharged and intercooled 6.2-liter V-8 when the Camaro ZL1 finally hits the street early next year as a 2012 model. To compensate for Ford’s cam and valve advantage, Chevy resorted to the classic expedient of an extra 0.8-liter of displacement over the Mustang\'s 5.4 liters, thereby achieving the upper hand in torque: 556 lb-ft at 4200 rpm versus the GT500’s 510 lb-ft at 4250 rpm. For the record, this new LSA small-block V-8 is the highest-caliber ammo ever loaded into any production Camaro by the factory. Chevy’s evil intent goes beyond another volley at Ford. According to Camaro chief engineer Al Oppenheiser, the ZL1 also has supercar game in its sights. This street-legal, track-ready Camaro “has more power than a Ferrari 458 Italia, more torque than an Aston Martin DB9, and a power-to-weight ratio topping Porsche’s 911 Carrera GTS,” Oppenheiser crows. While the LSA V-8 is a kid brother to the 556-hp engine that makes Cadillac’s CTS-V a genuine force to be reckoned with, engineering the Camaro ZL1 required much more than the usual underhood reboot. Before the dust settled, roughly one-third of the parts in the car were upgraded, replaced, or altered in some significant way. Unlike the aforementioned Shelby, this Chevy is ready to race around road courses or down the quarter-mile with no coolers, ducts, or special lubricants added by the owner. To satisfy both sort of racer, Chevy will offer the ZL1 with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The ZL1’s visual distinctions are concentrated in the front. In addition to the humped and liberally ventilated hood, there’s a prominent splitter and a grille that’s opened up to usher in more engine and brake-cooling air. The belt-driven Eaton Twin Vortices Series (TVS) supercharger uses a pair of four-lobe rotors to deliver 1.9 liters of induction air per revolution. A massive filter supplies the blower with fresh air and the power steering has been changed to electric assist which consumes less engine power than hyrdaulic systems and eliminates the need for a belt-driven hydraulic pump cluttering the front of the engine. A new Tremec TR-6060 MG9 six-speed transmission has a stronger output shaft, a more robust rear housing, and an additional mainshaft roller bearing to provide 30-percent more torque capacity than the manual transmission used in the Camaro SS. To improve shift quality, there are triple synchros in some gears and a revised linkage. A new dual-mass flywheel is bolted to a high-capacity twin-disc clutch. The ZL1’s automatic is a Hydra-Matic 6L90 six-speed with additional clutch plates, a strengthened output shaft, and the extra planetary pinion gears needed to ensure survival in this trying assignment. The transmission is programmed with three operating modes. The normal Drive mode uses second-gear starts, quick upshifts in the interests of fuel economy, and temporary manual operation when a down-shift button is tapped or the lever is moved. The Sport mode ups the ante with first-gear starts, more aggressive gear changes, and shifts delayed to higher rpm. In Manual mode, there are no shifts until the driver commands one; gear changes are as fast as possible for maximum acceleration. The ZL1’s rear axle includes a high-capacity cast-iron-case differential, massive asymmetrical half shafts, and extra-heavy-duty universal joints. To keep the lubricant temperature in line, there’s an oil-to-oil heat exchanger built into the bottom of the differential. Transmission fluid circulates through that heat exchanger and through the radiator to drop operating temps by more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, the engine is fitted with the same oil-to-coolant heat exchanger used in the Corvette ZR1. Instead of the Corvette’s elaborate dry-sump lubrication system, the ZL1 has a deeper oil pan, a longer pickup, and a higher-capacity pump. All chassis calibrations received their fair share of attention. Brembo calipers with six pistons per wheel in front and four pistons per wheel in back handle stopping. A duct system delivers air from the grille to the hard-working rotors. The 20-inch forged-aluminum wheels are fitted with second-generation Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar radials (285/35ZR-20 in front, 305/35ZR-20 in back). Damping is provided by Magnetic Ride Control units similar to those that Cadillac and Corvette have long used. Varying the current in electromagnetic coils alters the manner by which iron particles held in a synthetic fluid resist wheel and body motion. Now in its third design iteration, this system can sense the need for a damping correction 1000 times per second and make that change in only five milliseconds. Another notable gift bestowed upon the Camaro is the use of the Performance Traction Management (PTM) system originally engineered for the Corvette ZR1. In addition to modulating engine torque for optimum launch performance in manual-equipped ZL1s, PTM also varies the traction control and suspension damping as needed. The five available modes are for wet, dry, sport with or without stability control, and race-driving conditions. Another Corvette hand-me-down is an active exhaust system that bypasses the more restrictive muffler passages during wide-open-throttle driving. Development is not yet complete, so there are no weight, acceleration, top-speed, or gas-mileage figures to share. Nor has any pricing strategy been announced, but plan on paying a gas-guzzler tax if this Camaro is on your shopping list. Considering that the base price on Ford’s Shelby GT500 is $49,605, Chevy isn’t likely to charge less than $50K for this beast.