Back in the old days, a group of performance-minded GM engineers would meet late at night and come up with ideas for the “next cool thing.” Back then there were fewer lawyers involved and they would often build a car “on the sly” in hopes of showing it to the suits and getting a green light for the project. This is one reason we got some of the classics like the Z/28 and early 1LE Camaros.
Today, things are a lot more “corporate” over at GM, but that love of performance still lives on with the gearheads that run the engineering and performance departments. Al Oppenheiser, chief engineer for the Camaro, was hearing a lot of griping from 2010 Camaro owners about the car’s handling — mainly the massive understeer. We’re also pretty sure that GM heard rumors about a Track Pack option being developed by Ford for the Mustang. In any event, the GM team decided to put together a Camaro that flat-out handled.
The car was dubbed project Yellow Jacket, and it’s the father of all 1LE Camaros that followed. It was a GM fleet Camaro SS that was going to be sold off when it was liberated by some GM engineers. The sunroof was cut out and covered over with some sheetmetal and duct tape. This is the way they did it in the old days, no style like the concept cars at the auto show, just a testbed for performance. It was about engineering an all-out, affordable handler that would kick the crap out of the Mustang Laguna Seca (which it did).
The GM crew stole some of the tech from the ZL1 project, tweaked it around, added some new parts, and eventually ended up with a wonderfully balanced fifth-gen Camaro that stuck to the track like it was dripping VHT. Rumor has it they built it on the sly and caught a little flak. We can’t confirm this, but we like to think it’s true since it shows that GM still has the fire they had back in the late ’60s.
Check out these exclusive, never-before seen detail shots of GM’s project Yellow Jacket; the car that gave us the fifth-gen 1LE!