The Chevrolet Camaro is an automobile manufactured by General Motors under the Chevrolet brand, classified as a pony car and some versions also as a muscle car. It went on sale on September 29, 1966, for the 1967 model year and was designed as a competing model to the Ford Mustang. The car shared its platform and major components with the Pontiac Firebird, also introduced for 1967.
Four distinct generations of the Camaro were developed before production ended in 2002. The nameplate was revived again on a concept car that evolved into the fifth-generation Camaro; production started on March 16, 2009.
Before any official announcement, reports began running during April 1965 within the automotive press that Chevrolet was preparing a competitor to the Ford Mustang, code-named Panther. On June 21, 1966, around 200 automotive journalists received a telegram from General Motors stating, "...Please save noon of June 28 for important SEPAW meeting. Hope you can be on hand to help scratch a cat. Details will follow...(signed) John L. Cutter – Chevrolet Public Relations – SEPAW Secretary." The following day, the same journalists received another General Motors telegram stating, "Society for the Eradication of Panthers from the Automotive World will hold first and last meeting on June 28...(signed) John L. Cutter – Chevrolet Public Relations SEPAW Secretary." These telegrams puzzled the automotive journalists.
On June 28, 1966, General Motors held a live press conference in Detroit’s Statler-Hilton Hotel. It would be the first time in history that 14 cities were hooked up in real time for a press conference via telephone lines. Chevrolet General Manager Pete Estes started the news conference stating that all attendees of the conference were charter members of the Society for the Elimination of Panthers from the Automotive World and that this would be the first and last meeting of SEPAW. Estes then announced a new car line, project designation XP-836, with a name that Chevrolet chose in keeping with other car names beginning with the letter C such as the Corvair, Chevelle, Chevy II, and Corvette. He claimed the name, "suggests the comradeship of good friends as a personal car should be to its owner" and that "to us, the name means just what we think the car will do... Go!" The new Camaro name was then unveiled. Automotive press asked Chevrolet product managers, "What is a Camaro?" and were told it was "a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs."
The Camaro was first shown at a press preview in Detroit, Michigan, on September 12, 1966, and then later in Los Angeles, California, on September 19, 1966. The Camaro officially went on sale in dealerships on September 29, 1966, for the 1967 model year.
First generation: 1967–1969
First-generation Camaro debuted in September 1966, for the 1967 model year, up to 1969 on a new rear-wheel drive GM F-body platform and would be available as a 2-door, 2+2 seating, coupé or convertible with a choice of 250 cu in (4.1 L) inline-6 and 302 cu in (4.9 L), 307 cu in (5.0 L), 327 cu in (5.4 L), 350 cu in (5.7 L), or 396 cu in (6.5 L) V8 powerplants. Concerned with the runaway success of the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet executives realized that their compact sporty car, the Corvair, would not be able to generate the sales volume of the Mustang due to its rear-engine design, as well as declining sales, partly due to the bad publicity from Ralph Nader's book, Unsafe at Any Speed. Therefore, the Camaro was touted as having the same conventional rear-drive, front-engine configuration as Mustang and Chevy II Nova. In addition, the Camaro was designed to fit a variety of power plants in the engine bay. The first-generation Camaro would last until the 1969 model year and would eventually inspire the design of the new retro fifth-generation Camaro.
Second generation: 1970–1981
Introduced in February 1970, the second-generation Camaro was produced through the 1981 model year, with cosmetic changes made in 1974 and 1978 model years. The car was heavily restyled and became somewhat larger and wider with the new styling. Still based on the F-body platform, the new Camaro was similar to its predecessor, with a unibody structure, front subframe, an A-arm front suspension and leaf springs to control the solid rear axle. Road & Track magazine picked the 1971 SS350 as one of the 10 best cars in the world in August 1971. RS, SS and Z28 performance packages gradually disappeared.
The Z28 package was reintroduced in mid-year 1977, largely in response to enthusiast demand as well as the remarkable success of its corporate stablemate, the Pontiac Trans Am. 1980 and 1981 Z28s included an air induction hood scoop, with an intake door that opened under full throttle.
A 1976 Camaro reentered the limelight in the box office hit movie, Transformers as an Autobot character named “Bumblebee”, Sam Witwicky’s (Shia LaBeouf) first car. One of the most important heroes in the film, Bumblebee was sold on eBay (on July 18 2008) for just over $40,000 USD with proceeds going to charity.
Third generation: 1982–1992
The third-generation Camaro was produced from 1982 to 1992. These were the first Camaros to offer modern fuel injection, Turbo-Hydramatic 700R4 four-speed automatic transmissions, five speed manual transmissions, 16 inch wheels, a standard 4-cylinder engine, and hatchback bodies. The cars were nearly 500 pounds (227 kg) lighter than the second generation model.
The IROC-Z (the IROC stands for International Race of Champions) was introduced in 1985 and continued through 1990. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Regulations required a CHMSL (Center High Mounted Stop Lamp) starting with the 1986 model year. For 1986, the new brake light was located on the exterior of the upper center area of the back hatch glass. For 1987 and later, the CHMSL was either mounted inside the upper hatch glass, or integrated into a rear spoiler (if equipped). In January 1987, the L98 5.7L 350" V8 engine became a regular option on the IROC-Z, paired with an automatic transmission only, although a limited run of 1,000 late 1986 350" Camaros had been produced. The "20th Anniversary Commemorative Edition" was offered in 1987, as well as a "25th Anniversary Heritage Package" in 1992 that included a 305 cu in (5.0 L) High Output engine. Beginning in 1988, the 1LE performance package was introduced, optional on street models and for showroom stock racing in the U.S. and Canada. The B4C or "police" package was made available beginning in 1991. This basically created a Z28 in more subtle RS styling.
The Camaro was one of the vehicles in the SCCA-sanctioned Trans-Am Series. Chevrolet worked with Roger Penske to operate their unofficially factory-backed Trans Am team, winning the title in 1968 and 1969 with Mark Donohue. Jim Hall's Chaparral team replaced Penske for the 1970 season. Warren Agor of Rochester, NY, was the series' leading Camaro privateer, his orange #13's o, 1993, 1994, and 1998.
There was also another SCCA Trans-Am Series Camaro that was not popular because of racing but because of its body modifications. This Camaro, number 13, had been built and driven by Henry “Smokey” Yunick. Smokey Yunick was a car builder who worked to reduce the weight of his cars by acid-dipping body parts and installing thinner safety glass.
The Penske/Donohue Camaros also had the front sheet metal dropped, all four fenders widened, windshield laid back, front sub-frame “Z’d” to lower the car, the floor pan moved up and even the drip-rails were moved closer to the body. This Camaro had always kept its stock look and had a 302 engine that was able to produce 482 horsepower. This Camaro had later on been bought by Vic Edelbrock. At this time he put it to use as a test car for new age Chevy small block performance part. One part that had come out of his testing was the Edelbrock Cross-Manifold. To this day the Smokey Yunick 1968 Camaro is owned by Vic Edelbrock Jr.
Bob Jane won both the 1971 and 1972 Australian Touring Car Championships at the wheel of a Camaro.
The Camaro was the official car of and used in the International Race of Champions (IROC) starting in 1975 and lasting for 12 years until 1989. It was the first American car of the series succeeding the Porsche Carrera RSR.
The Camaro was the Indianapolis 500 Pace Car in 1967, 1969, 1982, 1993, 2009, 2010, and 2011. The Camaro also paced races at Daytona, Watkins Glen, Mosport in Canada, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The Camaro was also a regular in the IMSA GT Championship, competing in the Trans Am based GTO class.
The Camaro was also used in both the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
General Motors has made product placement, or embedded marketing, deals for the Chevrolet Camaro in numerous media.
One of the more popular movie Camaros was a black 1967 model driven by actor John Cusack in the 1985 film Better Off Dead.
The vehicle mode of the fictional character Bumblebee in the 2007 film, Transformers, is first depicted as a 1977 Camaro and later a fifth-generation concept variant. A modified fifth-generation Camaro reprises the role of Bumblebee in the sequels, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.