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Car of the Week: 1970’s Chevrolet Camaro

Posted by Jess Stoeckeler on


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20 Facts About The Chevy Camaro Most People Are Unaware Of

‘There are many things that even an ardent car enthusiast may not know about the Camaro.

History is full of rivalries between two strong competitors like Coke vs. Pepsi, AT&T vs. MCI, Nike vs. Reebok, and Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs. In almost every case, the competition and the drive to outdo a rival resulted in the production of superior products by both companies and benefited the consumer with high quality and lower prices.

The rivalry between the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang has run for more than a half a century with similar results.

Both vehicles, rear-wheel-drive, 2+2 American sports coupes began their battle for customers starting in the 1960s, and each has had their ups and downs. Except for a Camaro hiatus from 2002 to 2010, each year has brought a new model with features designed to surpass the competition. The seemingly inexhaustible attraction of inexpensive V8 horsepower, sportscar road handling, and stylish good looks has permitted the classic American pony car civil war to continue well into the 21st century.

Mark Reuss, executive vice president, General Motors Global Product Development said, "For five decades, the Camaro and the Mustang have been battling it out in every possible setting. These two cars have been striving to beat each other on the track, on the drag strip, and on the streets. That competition is a big part of why both cars are so amazing, and so popular, today."

There are many things that even an ardent car enthusiast may not know about the Camaro when it was first released in the 1960s and during its long production history. Here are twenty secrets about the Camaro most people don’t know.

  1. The Original Name

During the design and initial construction of the Camaro, the car had the name "Panther." The 1965 concept bore the Panther emblem, and it retained the name until just a few weeks before the car debuted. However, Chevy always intended to give its Mustang competitor a "C" name to conform to its Corvette, Chevelle, and Corvair models.

It became one of the most iconic muscle cars in American, but no one knew what the Camaro name meant when it was introduced in 1966. GM claimed it was an old French slang term for friendship and camaraderie. Rumor has it that GM executives told the press the Camaro is “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.” Other humorous accounts claimed it meant a rare disease that kills horses (i.e. Mustangs).

  1. The Camaro Was Kept In The Shadows

The design and production of the Camaro was a well-kept secret, even from Chevy fans, until the name was revealed in June 1966. A different marketing strategy than that used by Ford which teased the public with show cars and concepts leading up to the Mustang’s debut, GM waited until the last minute.

The formal launch was announced in Detroit a couple of months later in August. Within a month, GM began delivering Chevrolet Camaros to dealerships around the country.

The Camaro introduction marked the beginning of the pony car wars, which continued for more than fifty years and are still raging today.

  1. The Camaro Was Introduced With Seven Engine Options

When first introduced in 1967, Chevy offered more engine options (seven) for the Camaro than most other car manufacturers, and more than are provided on present-day models. At the low end of the power scale, two six-cylinder engines were available, both with a single barrel carburetor: the L26 230 CID produced 140 hp; and the L22 250 CID generated 155 hp. Next, moving up the power scale three small block engines with a single barrel carburetor were the L30 327 CID producing 275 hp, the L48 350 CID that produced 295 hp and the Z28 302 CID producing 290 hp that was made for SCCA Trans-Am competition. At the high-end Chevy offered two big block engines equipped with four barrel carburetors: the L35 396 CID producing 325 hp and the L78 396 CID producing 375 hp.

The Special Performance Package Z/28 with a 302 CID V8, was designed to be an SCCA-race legal equal to Mustang’s racing endeavor but ordered by only 602 people.

  1. Unusual Options For Early Camaros

In 1967 the Camaro was offered with two unusual options. The A67 Fold-Down rear seat created a flat surface that served only as a luggage shelf. The Camaro was built with a solid wall between the cabin compartment and the trunk preventing the use of the space for carrying longer items that would extend from the back seat into the trunk.

The Camaro was also offered with the impractical V75 Liquid Aerosol Tire Chain in 1969. Designed to substitute for tire chains in the snow, it featured a refillable aerosol can located in each of the rear wheel wells.

With the push of a button inside the cabin, the special traction enhancing liquid was sprayed onto the rear tires to help with snow and ice traction. Considered by most buyers a useless attachment, only 188 Camaro's were ever built with the V75 option.

  1. The Camaro Has Six Different Body Styles

Since the Camaro debuted over a half-century ago, it has evolved with six markedly different body styles.

The first-generation Camaro (1967–1969) was offered in a two-door coupé or convertible model and introduced a new rear-wheel drive GM F-body platform.

The second-generation Camaro (1970 – 1981) was redesigned and became somewhat more substantial and broader with the changed styling.

The third-generation Camaro (1982–1992) was the first Camaro to offer modern fuel injection and hatchback bodies. The cars were nearly 500 pounds lighter than the second-generation model.

The fourth-generation Camaro (1993–2002) retained the same characteristics since its introduction in 1967: a coupé body style with 2+2 seating or convertible.

The fifth generation Camaro (2010–2015) received a complete redesign and a new platform based on the 2006 Camaro Concept and 2007 Camaro Convertible Concept cars.

The sixth generation (2016–present) Camaro was introduced on May 16, 2015, to coincide with the vehicle's upcoming 50th birthday.

  1. An Indy 500 Legend

The Camaro has been the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 nine times, more than half of those coming since Chevrolet secured the exclusive pace car rights for the race in 2002.

The only car to be honored as the pace car more times is the Corvette with fifteen appearances, the latest in 2018 with the ZR1.

Following in the footsteps of its Ford Mustang rival, which paced the 1964 race just a month after the car's introduction, the first production model Camaro was selected to pace the field at the start of the Indy 500 in 1967. The Mustang has been selected as the pace car only three times.

  1. The Camaro Sales Peak Was 1979

While Camaro sales suffered during the late 1970s and early 1980s "malaise" era, 1979 was the car's best-selling year ever. Buyers, desperate for performance cars during a period when mileage was king, purchased 282,571 Camaros in the twilight of the '70s. Nearly 85,000 of those were the Z/28 version.

The 1979 Chevy Camaro Z28 came in a 2-door coupe body style with rear-wheel drive and a 3-speed gearbox. Equipped with 350 cubic inch engine, it generated 170 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque. With a top speed of 105 mph, it accelerated from 0 - 60 mph in 9.4 seconds and completed the 1/4 mile in 17.2 seconds. Estimated fuel consumption was 11.4 mpg.

  1. More Power Than Ever

Camaro power has progressed rapidly over the years starting with the fifth generation. The supercharged 2012-2015 ZL1s produced 580 hp, a quantum leap from the pathetic 1955 Camaro that produced a measly 155 hp.

Even the most successful sales year, 1979, in Camaro's history saw a Z28 equipped with a 350 cubic inch engine that generated only 170 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque.

In 2018 the ZL1 is the most authoritative Camaro ever produced, powered by a 6.2L LT4 V8 with an Eaton supercharger. The new design features an intercooler with more efficient heat exchange and extended, continuous power resulting in 650 hp and 650 lb.-ft. of torque. The Camaro ZL1 accelerates from 0-60 mph in a mere 3.5 seconds, and in a quarter mile, it hits 127 mph in just 11.4 seconds.

  1. The First Camaro Cost Just $2,572

In 1967 the average household income was $7,305 per year, the cost of a new house was $14,425, a movie ticket sold for $1.25, and a gallon of gasoline required just 33 cents.

The base price of the debut Camaro was a mere $2,572. Fifty years later that amount won't even pay for the Camaro's RS appearance package with 20-inch wheels valued at $1,950 and the $800 Technology Package including an 8-inch touchscreen display.

Adjusted for inflation, $2,572 in 1967 dollars is equal to $19,668.22 in today’s dollars. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, that sum is not enough to purchase a 2018 Camaro with no options at a price of $25,700.

  1. The IROC Z Was Named After A Famous Car Race

Created by Les Richter, Roger Penske, and Mike Phelps, the International Race of Champions (IROC) was a North American auto racing competition, primarily associated with North American oval-racing culture. The race was designed to measure driver ability and remove the differences between race car performance and reliability. A single team of mechanics prepared identical stock cars. A small field of invited drivers (6–12) participated in the race.

A Porsche Carrera RSR was selected for use in the first year, 1974, but the following year, the governing body opted to switch to the Chevrolet Camaro. Discontinued in 1980, IROC returned four years later with a new commemorative Camaro to recognize the return to competition, the IROC Z.

  1. Many 1970 Camaros Were Really 1969 Camaros

In 1969 Chevy ran into production problems stamping out the all-new second-generation Camaro.

Hotrod.com described what happened: "Things had been right on schedule for the all-new Camaro body stampings at Fisher Body when during what is called ‘final die tryouts' right before production stamping begins, the quarter-panels kept wrinkling and splitting. The body dies required too much draw for the sheet metal to cooperate. Fisher decided to reconfigure the draw dies, which are the two halves needed to pound out a fender or panel from flat sheet stock. This required a short delay. Unfortunately, the resulting quarter-panels stamped from the new dies were worse than the previous attempt. What to do? Chevrolet delayed the intro for the Camaro—again—while Fisher created entirely new dies.”

The delayed Camaros are designated as 1970-1/2 models.

  1. Camaros Are Even Used As Dubai Police Cars

Famous for their obsession for speed, in 2013 the Dubai Police force added Camaro SS coupes to their fleet of patrol cars. It was the first Camaro to be selected by a Middle East police force.

The Camaro SS is powered by a 6.2L V8 engine that boasts 426 hp and a torque of 420 lb-ft. With a top speed of 160 mph and acceleration of 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds, the Camaro had the performance to meet Dubai Police force requirements.

“The Camaro is highly regarded around the world. It is the ideal car for Dubai Police as we look to upgrade our vehicles to meet the Emirate’s world-renowned standards in safety and security,” said Dubai Deputy Police Chief Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina.

  1. The Official Camaro Announcement Was Also The World's First Mass Teleconference

With current technology and the Internet, teleconferences and video conferences are commonplace. However, in 1966 when Chevy scheduled the launch and announcement of the Camaro (Panther) the communication technology was a bit more primitive.

On June 28th, more than 200 journalists and the Chevy PR team assembled at hotels in fourteen American cities to hear the conference call announcement. It was the first large-scale teleconference requiring more than Bell 100 technicians on-hand to ensure success.

Although the "Panther" name was dropped before production, it did make it into the press release when the car was launched. Chevy's used an unusual PR campaign to promote the launch. It was billed as the first and last ever meeting of SEPAW, or "the Society for the Eradication of Panthers from the Automotive World." And so the Camaro was born!

  1. Station Wagon Version

Although the station wagon body style has its appeal to a specific segment of the car-buying public, a growing family is a perfect example. It is one better left to cars not destined to be among the highest performing muscle cars ever manufactured.

Never-the-less, Chevy considered producing a Camaro station wagon right up until the launch. Cooler heads prevailed, and the idea was abandoned. However, the concept reared its ugly head again for the second generation but was summarily disregarded.

Had Chevy gone ahead with the station wagon Camaro, who knows what other bizarre vehicles may have developed, like the Mustang Minivan, the Corvette Camper or the Dodge Viper hatchback?

  1. Inspired By A Classic Ferrari

Perhaps best known for the famous actor, Steve McQueen, who owned one, the classic Ferrari Lusso 250 GT was also an inspiration to GM designers when they created the second-generation Camaro. The body style similarities are apparent when compared side by side.

Other features of the two cars are vastly different. Ferrari only made 350 units, making them extremely rare. The first year of the second-generation, 1970, GM made nearly 125,000 Camaros.

The Ferrari Lusso 250 GT was equipped with a 3.0 L V12 "Colombo" engine that produced 240hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. It was the fastest passenger car of the period with a maximum speed of 150 mph and an acceleration of 0-60 mph in 7 seconds. The 1970 Camaro SS boasted 6.5 L L78 rated at 350 hp.

  1. Why Chevy Built A Single Z/28 Convertible

Pete Estes, fifteenth president of General Motors, from 1974 to 1981, was President of the Chevrolet Division when the Camaro team needed his approval to send the Z/28 package to production. Legend has it that Estes was enamored with convertibles, so the crew ordered up a one-off topless Camaro with all the proposed Z/28 options along with every other available upgrade in 1969. The tactic worked, Estes loved the car and the Z/28 was subsequently born. The car was the only convertible Z/28 in existence until the option was made available nearly two decades later.

The origins of the name Z/28 are in the codes Chevrolet listed for the Camaro models. The Z/27 code was used for ordering the Camaro SS package with the 350 engine, and the Z29 code was for the Vega GT package.

  1. Reducing The Weight

Two methods are usually used to increase a vehicle’s performance: increase power and reduce weight. To compete with Mustang, Chevy engineers examine every part of the car for possible weight-saving modifications including the windows. The fifth-generation Camaro designers were successful saving almost a pound of weight when they reduced the thickness of the glass in the rear window by 0.3 millimeters. They also reduced the rear seat padding and sound insulation from several locations. Although the thinner insulation added noise, the weight reduction was worth it.

Chevy engineers managed to save an astounding 200 pounds on the sixth generation Camaro over the weight of the generation-five car.

  1. The Neiman Marcus Edition Camaro

Phone lines opened at noon on Tuesday, October 19 and it was over in just three minutes; the time it took for one hundred limited-edition Neiman Marcus Chevrolet Camaro Convertibles to sell out. The convertible was available only in a special Bordeaux red hue with “ghost” racing stripes.

Powered by a 426 hp LS3 engine coupled to a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission, extensive engineering was required to transform a coup to a convertible.

More than just a fancy paint job, the windshield surround was painted silver, the cabin was finished in amber leather with red accents on the center console, steering wheel, and gear shift knob. The $75,000 Neiman Marcus version was sold at a premium of roughly $30-40,000 over car's price in the standard format.

  1. The First Pilot Prototype Camaro (No. 10001) Still Exists

The very first Camaro, pilot prototype number 100001, was assembled at the GM Assembly Plant, at Norwood, Ohio, just down the road from Cincinnati, on May 21, 1966.

The company planned to built Camaros in Norwood and at their Van Nuys, Los Angeles plant. Forty-nine pilot prototypes were built in Norwood to develop the equipment and assembly line required for the planned high volume, serial production. At the Van Nuys plant, Chevy built three pilot prototypes eight weeks later in preparation for manufacturing and assembly there.

Amazingly, the first pilot prototype Camaro (No. 10001), pictured here, still exists. The Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) has added this special machine to its National Historic Vehicle Register.

  1. The Exclusive COPO Camaro

The Central Office Production Order (COPO) Camaro is so exclusive that even many well-informed gearheads are not aware of its existence. Essentially a drag racer, they are hand-built in small numbers for track use only. The right to purchase one is awarded to lottery winners only.

Chevy markets them to the most diehard fans, those who want to run it on a performance track, race one, or add it to an extensive and expensive collection of unique cars. While a standard Camaro rolls off the assembly line after approximately 20 hours, the COPO car takes ten days to build.

Each COPO vehicle is assigned a number, like a special-edition bottle of high-end bourbon or an art print. Buyers of rare items feel secure knowing their purchase is unique. Each car sells for at least $110,000 when purchased directly from Chevrolet, and much more at auction.’

- Hotcars.com, June 29, 2018


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