NEW YORK – General Motors North America President Mark Reuss says the new-for-’14 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, a surprise unveiling at the New York International Auto Show, will rally the troops at the recently bankrupt auto maker as well as stoke excitement among the pony car’s many enthusiasts.

“The individuals who work on this brand are who we are, and we haven’t been able to do this for a while,” Reuss says after introducing the Z/28, which revives a variant meant to marry the track with the street. GM sold the last version until 2002, according to WardsAuto data.

The nomenclature dates back to 1967, when GM developed a Camaro Z/28 to compete in the Sports Car Club of America’s Trans Am 2 class.

Reuss says during the run-up to GM’s 2009 bankruptcy, when the auto maker could not afford to build such niche cars, the Chevrolet brand’s performance credentials suffered.

“When we didn’t have cars that fully expressed what the Chevrolet brand means, people were confused,” Reuss tells WardsAuto. “You have to have the breadth of the portfolio, from the Impala (large sedan) to the Spark (minicar) and the Z/28,” he says.

GM says the new coupe will deliver at least 500 hp and 470 lb.-ft. (637 Nm) of torque from a naturally aspirated small-block LS7 7.0L V-8 mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.

“We’ve got the powertrains and the chassis and, most importantly, the engineering expertise to do a car like this,” Reuss says. “I want our internal engineers as motivated as our customers.”

The Z/28 will join the SS and ZL1 as high-performance variants of the Camaro, which last year saw U.S. sales decline 4.4% to 84,391 units.

Still, it beat the rival Ford Mustang by 1,400 deliveries. As a brand, Chevrolet accounted for one in every four performance cars sold in 2012.

Chevrolet this year also adds the redesigned seventh-generation Corvette Stingray and all-new Chevy SS to its performance lineup.

Unlike its stablemates, the race-ready Z/28 does away with niceties such as a lined trunk to shave 200 lbs. (91 kg) off a standard Camaro. The car also is 300 lbs. (136 kg) lighter than the monstrously powerful ZL1. Air conditioning is optional, and all but one audio system speaker was removed.

“I wanted them all out, but we had to keep one for the seatbelt chime,” Reuss jokes.

The weight loss, along with stickier tires and better stopping power from Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, has yielded better lap times in development testing for the Z/28 than the ZL1 achieved. GM does not release 0-60 mph (97 km/h) times.

The Z/28, with its specially designed Recaro performance seats, will arrive at Chevrolet dealers late this year and begin appearing at track events in spring 2014.

The coupe carries a number of exterior enhancements GM makes to the entire Camaro line this year, all ideas drawn from its racing programs.

Reuss says he expects Z/28 sales volumes to be low, fitting its niche status. It will be built at GM’s Oshawa, ON, Canada, assembly plant.

jamend@wardsauto.com