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A Brief History of the Chevrolet Camaro

The Chevy Camaro is a legendary car. But how did it get there? Let's look at the history of this classic classic!

The Camaro is one of the most iconic muscle cars to come out of America, right there in line with the Dodge Challenger. Today, the Camaro is one of Chevrolet's halo models if you go high enough and gives the company a lot of culture that many other car companies don't have.

First Generation: 1967-69

The First Gen, SS Camaro | CREDIT: Car and Driver

The First Gen, SS Camaro | CREDIT: Car and Driver

However, the first generation Camaro delivered a pure, classic proportion that will forever be regarded as one of the best-looking embellishments for high performance models.

Ed Welburn

The first gen Camaro went into production in 1966, when the era of muscle cars was just beginning. Because of the Ford Mustang, that went on sale 2 years earlier, Chevrolet rushed the front engine, rear wheel drive car into production to have a chance at competing with the sales success that the Mustang had become. The Camaro was based on the Chevrolet Nova and had a coupe and a convertible version. It had a long hood, a short rear deck and lots of engine options, such as an inline 6 and big block V8's, so more people would be enticed to buy it, with different things in mind. They had a 6.4L V8 engine that produced 375 horsepower, a 140 horsepower inline 6 so basically an economy engine, and more big block V8's. Ed Welburn, vice president of GM Global Design, said "The Camaro should not have been a design success, as it was based on an existing architecture and admittedly hurried to market to address the personal coupe revolution occurring with Baby Boomer customers," he said. "It was very lean and muscular, with comparatively minor embellishments for high performance models. That was in contrast to some of the brasher competitors during the muscle car era, and it has helped the first-generation Camaro maintain timeless good looks," Welburn ventured.

Second Generation: 1970-81

The Second Generation Z/28 Chevrolet Camaro | CREDIT: Car and Driver

The Second Generation Z/28 Chevrolet Camaro | CREDIT: Car and Driver

The second generation of the Camaro was completely redesigned from the first generation, and leaving it as a coupe exclusively. This model really put forward the signature Chevrolet round taillights, and a distinctive split- bumper design available through the RS package. Ken Parkinson, executive director of design for Chevrolet Trucks and Global Architecture said this about the design of the second gen Camaro, "a radical departure from the first gen. For the first time, it was built on its own dedicated architecture, which gave the design team the freedom to create a pure expression..... There was simply nothing else like it." reflected Parkinson.

This generation also had a 5.7L V8 engine that produced 360 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque with the Z/28 package. And for the first time, it had an automatic and manual transmission, in the way of a 4 speed. The SS 396 came with a big 6.4L V8 with 375 horsepower. In the year 1970, the stricter emission regulations made Chevrolet remove all the big block V8's, with the most powerful V8 engine in the 1972 model year only producing 155 horsepower.

For the 1978, the Camaro got a new nose with a soft bumper, along with a soft rear bumper and an optional T-top roof with a convertible like removable glass panels.

The Third Generation: 1982-92

The Third Generation Camaro | CREDIT: Car and Driver

The Third Generation Camaro | CREDIT: Car and Driver

The third generation came in 1982 with some Korean DNA! Just kidding, but it was a hatchback coupe, with a new focus on an aerodynamic shape, and better strut front suspension and rear coil springs. The front's aggressive design ditched the opened headlights of the last generation and got quad rectangular headlights, with a more inside the body design, not extruding. The rear glass was curved to the B pillar, which was a technological advancement for automotive glass making at the time.

Engines you could get in 1982 included a first ever 4-cylinder engine, a V6 and a some V8's/ The 4 cylinder was 2.5L with 88 horsepower used until the 1986 model year. The V6 was a 112 horsepower 2.8L, along with a 5.0L V8 with 145 horsepower and an optional 165 horsepower fuel injected 5.0L V8. The Camaro IROC-Z arrived in 1985 with an option tuned-port injection 5.0L V8 with a power rating of 215 horsepower. The 5.7L V8 went back into the Camaro in 1987, with 225 horsepower, the most power since 1973.

John Camaro said it was a "car of its time" with the influence ranging from the aerodynamic styling and shape to the digital instruments on the interior and the Z28 package. The convertible made a return in 1987.

The Fourth Generation: 1993-2002

The 1993 Chevrolet Camaro pace care | CREDIT: Car and Driver

The 1993 Chevrolet Camaro pace care | CREDIT: Car and Driver

At least for me, the fourth generation Camaro was the start of the modern Camaros, and the controversial designed ones. It had a new sleek and aggressive design with the low front end of a wild cat, ready to pounce. This generation had an even bigger focus on the aerodynamics, with a very visible wedge shaped design.

The engine options included a 160 horsepower 3.4L V6 for the sport coupe, and the Z28 had 275 horsepower produced by a LT1 small-block V8, that was starting to be put in the Corvettes a year before 1993.

The convertible also returned again in 1994, with an optional 200 horsepower 3.8L V6; which was the standard engine in 1996. And for the Camaro's 30th birthday, the designer made a orange 1997 Z28 with white strips. Then, the production of the 2002 model year ended, and the Camaro lay dormant for eight years...

Fifth Generation: 2010-15

The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS | CREDIT: Car and Drive

The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS | CREDIT: Car and Drive

It's a car design for those who like to drive, and its elegant deisgn makes you smile everytime.

Tom Peters

After a long wait, the New Corvette was made for the 2010 model year. It had a new modern and retro design that started the other muscle cars to adopt a similar design. Personally, when I think of this generation of Camaro, I think of Transformers and the pop culture that this car attracted and made.

The standard engine for the car was a 304 horsepower 3.6L direct injection V6. The SS trim was powered by a 6.2L V8 rated at 426 horsepower with a 6-speed manual and a little less with a 6 speed auto, with 400 horsepower. In 2012, with the introduction of the |ZL1 coupe, the car got an engine upgrade in the way of a supercharged 6.2L V8This car was actually selected for the pace car position in the 2010 Indianapolis 500.

In 2014, it got a sleeker look and new headlights and taillights, except for the ZL1, being the classic model with the original design from 2010.

The current gen: Sixth from 2016-now

CREDIT: Car and Driver

CREDIT: Car and Driver

The sixth and current generation of the Camaro is built on a new platform, called Alfa from GM. This makes this car significantly better dynamically, and even better than the Mustang and the really old Dodge Challenger. It gets the Corvette's 455 horsepower 6.2L V8, in the Camaro S, while the corporate engine, also known as the 3.6L V6 makes it as the standard engine for the mid- range trims. And the puny engine title goes to the 2.0L 4 cylinder as the base engine, with a reasonable 275 horsepower.

In 2019, Chevy did a slight facelift for the front, keeping the heritage of the car to look older, but making it more modern. Swoops in the taillights are as modern as they get. The almost double grill is made more obvious, and the car just has a bit of an angrier face.

Question for you? Do you like the new Camaro? Its had a pretty controversial design, which most new Chevy's have these days. But I like it, it looks angry, based on its heritage but modern.

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Comments (12)

  • Great article, laying out the history of a great car!

      1 month ago
  • Very good! I enjoyed it!

      1 month ago
  • The 7th gen honestly looked so weird and it's good they facelifted it and it looks a bit better

    But the 6th gen still looks the best for me as well as the 1st gen Camaro Z28

      1 month ago
  • It's the second gen cars that have the best styling. It can stand up to the best from Europe from a design standpoint. Use the pre-1975 models, non-safety-bumpered, to judge. You'll see.

      1 month ago
  • First gen was the best. Why did they brought the third gen? Should have reintroduced the first gen instead.

      1 month ago
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