The words, "American Muscle Car," bring two cars to mind, the Camaro Z28 and the Mustang GT. Both cars have been around for generations and loved by all types of people. Ford debuted its Mustang in 1965 and Chevrolet's response to Ford's fast selling pony car, the Camaro, debuted in 1967. For 35 years these cars battled head to head. The most recent battle was between the Camaro Z28, model year 1998-2002, and the Mustang GT, model year 1999-2004. The Camaro Z28 stopped production in 2002, while the current Mustang GT remains essentially unchanged since 1999 and in its last year of production for 2004. The Camaro Z28 holds the title for best "bang for the buck" sports car on the planet, but the more user-friendly and less brute Mustang GT proved better for the average consumer.
The Camaro Z28 has the clear advantage when it comes to power and speed. The Mustang GT's 4.6L SOHC V8 is no competition for Chevrolet's 5.7L LS1 V8. The LS1 V8 first appeared in the fifth generation Chevrolet Corvette, America's best sports car, in 1997. The only modifications from Corvette specifications for the Camaro Z28 were made for packaging reasons. The Camaro Z28 is rated at 310 horsepower @ 5200 rpm and 340 lb.-ft. torque @ 4000 rpm. That's a 50 horsepower advantage and 38 lb.-ft. torque advantage over the Mustang GT. Even with excessive power gas mileage is rather impressive when driven responsibly. Mustang GT averages 25 highway miles per gallon with a manual transmission and Camaro Z28 averages 28 highway miles per gallon with a manual transmission. .
The no compromise package of the Camaro Z28 kept sales figures under 100,000 units per year. The Camaro is 10.3" longer, 1.4" wider, and 1.9" lower than the Mustang GT. The Camaro is low-slung, harder to maneuver at low speeds, and harder to park. Many potential female buyers were turned off based solely on exterior dimensions. The Mustang GT's less intimidating approach kept sales figures well above 100,000 units per year.