Whether referring to sports or the continued production of a beloved automobile, it’s all too easy to play Monday morning quarterback. In September of 2001, GM dropped the bomb that the ’02 model year would be the last for the venerable F-body. Car people the world over were in a collective state of shock and dismay.
Today, many say they knew the Camaro was on the way out and also knew it would return. It was only a seven-year hiatus, while Americans got the SUV bug out of their system. Yeah right. The truth of the matter is that most took GM/Chevy’s word for it. The Camaro was a thing of the past — a dinosaur from a soon forgotten age, out of date, and gone for good.
Even with this dark and dismal reality bearing-down on the ’02 model year, Chevrolet was going to celebrate its iconic pony car’s 35-year existence by releasing an exclusive, limited-edition package to commemorate it.
Wearing Regular Production Order or RPO Z4C, the ’02 35th Anniversary Camaro would mark the last special-edition, Bow Tie F-body pony car. Available only on (WU8) Super Sport (SS) models, the limited number built would represent the best of the last.
Already Special: SS Package
Since 1998, the Camaro Z28/SS has been powered by the legendary Gen III 5.7L/346 cubic-inch LS1, making 305-325 underrated horsepower, depending on year and model. V8 Camaros were wielded by either a four-speed-overdrive automatic (4L60-E) or BorgWarner (T56) six-speed manual tranny. And both V8 models had standard four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with optional traction control.
On top of most option groups, the Camaro Z28s with the WU8-SS package were equipped with a higher output LS1 engine, resulting from a specific air-induction scooped hood and freer-flowing SS exhaust. SS badging, a taller rear spoiler, beefier suspension components, and 17×9 SS-specific wheels wrapped in 275/40/17 Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber completed the package.
Street Legal Party: SLP
Street Legal Performance (SLP), the NJ-based company, had relinquished its Firebird WS6 Ram Air responsibilities to American Sunroof Corporation (ASC) for 1998-’02. SLP was still in charge of converting mild-mannered Z28s into badass SS Camaros, something they had done since 1996. The Z4C 35th Anniversary package was SLPs F-body finale.
When a Z28 was ordered with WU8-SS/Z4C, the Camaro was built at the Ste Therese Quebec F-body assembly plant and then shipped, wearing a temporary flat hood, to SLPs nearby La Salle facility. Here, the lucky Camaro received its SS-specific air-induction composite hood and taller rear spoiler, along with any additional (second sticker content) SLP options (Y2Y). In the case of the Z4C cars, unique graphics and hood accent paint were added, as well.
Stripes and Everything Nice
For an additional $2,500, on top of the $3,625 option-loaded WU8-SS option, Z4C was primarily an appearance package.
The Z4C 35th Anniversary option included:
- Bright red exterior paint (Code 81) with dual silver stripes fading into checkered racing flags flowing from the front fascia splitter over the hood and rear decklid/spoiler. The 35th Anniversary T-top coupes have a red body color roof pillar. While the ’02 Z28/non-Z4C SS cars had black. The 35th Anniversary Camaro SS convertibles are fitted with electrically-operated black soft tops
- Matte black-accented hood scoop stripe
- Unique 17×9 ten-spoke, machine-faced SS wheels with black inserts and black anodized brake calipers front/rear
- Unique front grille and rear panel between tail lights receive silver-embossed “Camaro” lettering
- Exclusive 35th Anniversary SS badging
- Ebony leather seats with Medium gray leather inserts (193) and custom 35th Anniversary embroidered headrests, front floor mats, and rear hatch trophy mat- (T-top coupes only)
- “35th Anniversary” center-dash badge and special owner’s portfolio
Total Z4C 35th Anniversary Camaro production stands at 3,369 units, split between 1,971 T-top coupes and 1,398 convertibles, with 3,000 for the U.S. market and 369 staying in Canada.
As for transmissions, there were 943 Z4C auto/T-top and 789 auto/convertibles built for a total of 1,723. And there were 1,037 6-speed/T-top and 609 six-speed/convertibles, for a total of 1,646. Two of the Z4Cs built were labeled non-saleable. One Z4C 35th Anniversary convertible was retained in the GM Heritage collection.
Even though the SS/Z4C cars were already chock full of unique features, SLP offered an array of options. Starting with the 2000 year model, these options were referred to as RPO Y2Y for SLP’s second sticker content; on “most” of SLP SS Camaros/Firebird Firehawks, a second door jamb sticker exists, listing all additional SLP options ordered.
For ’02, SLP offered some enticing upgrades, including the new 345 horsepower option, combining SLP’s new Blackwing air lid and smooth intake bellows. bump the factory 325 horsepower to 345 was accomplished with one of two proven, optional S/S exhausts: either the Dual/Dual (D-D) system or SLP’s signature Center Mount Exhaust (CME). With the stock intake, both exhausts provided 335 horsepower. Other popular SLP Y2Y content included Bilstein shocks, 1LE suspension components, BFG G-Force tires, an Auburn rear end diff, and an SLP car cover.
In factory guise, the ’02 35th Anniversary Camaro SS performs as a standard SS, since graphics and paint don’t add horsepower. That said, in its day, an ’02 SS Camaro was quite the bang for the buck. Making a manufacturer-stated 325 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, most sources had Chevy’s last Super Sport F-body launching to 60 mph in the low 5-second range and down the 1/4-mile in the mid-to-low 13s. Although only a tenth of a second-difference, computer-shifting (auto) often edged out the stick. Of course, with the SLP options mentioned above and a good set of slicks, they were even quicker.
Extra Rare and Well Done
During the final two years of F-body production, Marietta Georgia-based tuner GMMG was responsible for building some of the most potent fourth-gen Camaros/Firebirds ever. Founded by the ex-SLP regional manager, Matt Murphy, GMMG partnered with various Chevrolet/Pontiac dealers to produce a very limited number of the very special F-bodys.
Paying homage to the hopped-up Berger, Baldwin Motion, Yenko, and Royal Pontiac cars of the late ’60s and early ’70s, GMMG cars were up-gunned and lavishly equipped with high-performance components. Most GMMG hot-rodded machines featured a high-flow carbon-fiber air lid with a K&N filter, chambered cat-back exhaust, Eibach lowering springs, a 25-percent underdrive pulley, performance engine tuning, and American Racing Torque Thrust II wheels. Graphics and paint accents/badging and interior appointments were also part of the package.
The higher, more expensive stages included the addition of headers, heads, cam, C5 Corvette brakes, and additional engine/suspension work was done. These different offerings cranked out 350, 380, 435, and 475 horsepower. GMMG even offered a 427 cubic-inch option that produced 600 horsepower. Many owners applied higher stages after initially purchasing GMMG cars in 350/380 horsepower trim.
For one of its rarest offerings, GMMG built 52 ’02 Z4C 35th Anniversary Performance Edition SS Camaros. The first two prototypes were automatics with 380horses. All other automatics were 350 horsepower cars, and all six-speeds had the 380-horse package. There were 22 T-Top coupes and 30 convertibles, split between 24 automatics and 28 manual six-speeds. Eight Brickyard 400 convertibles were built with the GMMG Performance Edition package.
Intent on not letting the Camaro go silently into the night, Chevy provided 45 convertible Z4Cs and at least one T-top version, to be used as festival cars for the “Brickyard 400” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Killing two birds with one stone, the flashy red convertible celebrated the race and Chevrolet’s final top F-body.
Also worthy of mention are the 57 non-Z4C SS convertibles and one T-top coupe, used as public relations vehicles for the Indy 500. Designated with RPO code (Z7D), these Sebring Silver Super Sport Camaros wore Z4C-35th Anniversary wheels but were standard SS drop-tops. They were used to chauffer parade officials and waved the flag for GMs bow-tie division.
The End For Then
The 35th Anniversary Camaro SS was a beautiful parting gift, but, according to popular opinion, the continued production of a new and improved Camaro would have been better.
Today, the Z4C 35th Anniversary Camaros are being recognized for their significance, both as early LS-powered machines and representing the final iteration of an iconic platform. As they transition from used cars to late model collectibles, the Z4C’s rarity and status become ever more realized.
After it was all said and done, on August 27, 2002, the last fourth-gen F-body Camaro, a red convertible Z28, rolled off the assembly line, and a day later, the Ste Therese plant was shut for good. Without a crystal ball and nothing but a fool’s hope, the Camaro and its Firebird cousin were gone, relegated to the annals of automotive history and the hands and garages of dedicated collectors.
As we are all aware, 18 years later, we have seen two Camaro generations since the 2010 Camaro. But sadly, not only did our Firebird phoenix fail to rise, Pontiac Motor Division itself, has gone into the fires of extinction.