Classic American Cars: The Chevrolet Camaro
The Chevy Camaro was manufactured from 1966 (for the 1967 model year) to 2002. Classified as a pony car (because of its relatively smaller size), it was released in 1967 by GM’s Chevrolet division to compete with the Ford Mustang. Compared to other cars produced in the same year, the Camaro was technically a compact. It was also classified as a sports or muscle car. While the Camaro was never considered the flagship for Chevrolet, but has always been one of their most popular models.
General Motors’ marketing people evidently thought up the name, without any apparent meaning attached to it, because it doesn’t translate to anything else. But there are a few stories attributing meanings, such as it translating to “friend” or “companion” from the French. When automotive journalists asked the Chevrolet people what a “Camaro” was, they were told, “A small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs”.
There were four original generations of the Chevrolet Camaro produced:
The first generation began with the 1967 model released on September 29, 1966. It had the same platform and major components as the Pontiac Firebird, also introduced in ‘67. The car was made available as a 2-door, 4-seat sport coupe or convertible. The sport coupe was available in 3 models: base, the Super Sport (SS) and the Z28. The convertible was available in both the base trim and SS models. The engine was a 3-speed V-8, available in 4.9, 5.0, 5.4, 5.7 or 6.5-liter sizes. It was a rear-drive vehicle with a front-end engine, unlike the controversial Chevrolet Corvair, also in the Chevy line-up at the time. There were nearly 80 factory and 40 dealer options available, allowing the buyer to customize their car to their particular taste and price range. The first generation model was manufactured through the end of 1969.
Beginning in 1970, the second-generation Camaro was manufactured for 11 years. Its styling included a heavier, larger and wider size and a modified body design. It had a sleeker look than the previous generation and an improved suspension. After the 1970 ½ model, convertibles were not offered again until the third generation was well under way. In addition to the base model, there was Rally Sport option that had a unique front-end bumper and the Z28 Special Performance package equipped with a 360hp V-8 engine. The SS was discontinued after the 1972 model.
Chevrolet introduced the third generation of Camaro in the 1982 Z-28 model. The third generation continued for ten years, through 1992. These hot rods had fuel injection, and either a four-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. It featured updated styling with a hatchback. The IROC-Z was introduced in 1985 (named after the International Race of Champions). There were two commemorative models released: the 20th Anniversary Commemorative Edition in 1987 and the 25th Anniversary Heritage Edition in 1992.
The fourth generation of the Camaro was introduced with the 1993 model. It had many of the same characteristics as the 1967-year model: 2-door, 4-seat coupe or convertible (available on the ’94 model). In addition to the ‘67 options there was a new optional T-top roof. The rear-wheel drive transmissions were available with either a 6- or 8-cylinder engine. Design changes for the ’97 included a restyled interior that was modified again for ’98. The engine was replaced with the same all-aluminum LS1 that was in the Corvette C5. From 1999 to 2002 there were very few changes to the Camaro. The fourth generation model was manufactured through the 2002 model, making for 35 years of continuous production of the Camaro. There was a 35th Anniversary Edition offered on all three models (base, Z28 and SS), available only as a convertible or T-top. Sales of the Camaro had dwindled, while the demand was increasing for 4- and 6-cylinder cars.
In 2010, Chevy put the Camaro back into production as a fifth generation modeled after the original design. Offered in three trim levels – LS, LT and SS – the latest generation integrated modern technology like Bluetooth wireless and USB connectivity.
Chevrolet has released a handful of limited editions over the past few years, including an Indy Pace Car Replica (limited to 500) and a 45th Anniversary Edition in 2012 that sports unique hood width decklid red and gray stripes.
There is also an Honor and Valor model (2012) made available only to active members of the armed forces. Available in Victory Red, Summit White or Black, the model is limited to “less than 100”.
Are you a Camaro enthusiast? Did you drive one the earlier models? We’d love to hear your stories and see pictures.