When Ford came out with the Mustang, GM had the grand idea of directly competing with it. But although it appeared only second to the Mustang, it still ranks as number one in the hearts of many car enthusiasts.
1st Generation (1967 to 1969)
The first generation Chevrolet Camaro was unveiled in Detroit in September of 1966, and it served immediate notice that the Mustang now had a direct competitor in the pony car division. It also had a lengthened hood, a shortened rear, two doors, and a back seat. The base engine offered 140 horses, but V8 engines were available for the SS and the Z/28. The 1969 version was a marvel—it’s considered to be one of the most beautiful cars of all time. There was also an astonishing range of available performance equipment for the 1969 version.
2nd Generation (1970 to 1981)
Like its competitors, the Camaro didn’t really fare all that well in the 1970s. The first of the 2nd gen looked great as it was based on the Ferrari, but during this time it would eventually get bigger and heavier. That would cause a lot of problems later on when the fuel crisis hit and the emissions regulations were tightened. The performance numbers of the Camaro went down as a result. By 1975, the Mustang was downsized and Chrysler eliminated the Challenger and the Barracuda, which left only the Camaro and the Firebird as the only traditional pony cars left.
This generation saw Chevrolet engineers trying to squeeze as much horsepower as possible under the new emissions regulations. There was also a revised hood scoop for the 1978 model, and that year saw the best sales ever for the Camaro. But 1980 and 1981 sales were disappointing.
3rd Generation (1982 to 1992)
By 1982 the obsolete platform of the second generation Camaro was made over. The new Camaros were built without front sub frames or leaf-spring rear suspensions, and they were generally 500 pounds lighter. The look was boxier and beefier as well.
This generation didn’t really start out all that well, as the base sport coupes offered only 90 horsepower. But later on the improvements were considerable. These Camaros were the first to feature 5-speed manual transmission, 4-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch wheels, and modern fuel injection.
The most notable developments during this period included the introduction of the 1985 IROC-Z. Aside from the huge 16-inch wheels, the Tuned Port Injection offered 215 horsepower, although it was only available with the 4-speed automatic. Even today, these IROCs are among the most salivated-over Camaros.
In 1987, the 5.7 liter V8 also returned as an option, and with the TPI produced 225 horsepower. The TPI was also available in the 5.0 liter engine with the 5-speed manual. The Camaro convertible also came back, and it was the first Camaro convertible since 1969. They were considered special editions to mark the 20th year anniversary of the Camaro.
The Z28 was phased out in 1988 due to the IROCs. But by 1990 there would be no more IROCs because Dodge took over the sponsorship of the International Race of Champions. So in 1991, the Z28 was back. Camaro also introduced the B4C pursuit vehicle, which was for the police to use as their police car. 1992 was basically the same as the previous year, but since it was the 25th anniversary they all got a special badge for their panels.
4th Generation (1992 to 2002)
This generation shifted its design principle, and now the new Camaro was streamlined and sleek compared to the boxier look of the 3rd generation. The sales were encouraging in the early years, but by 2000 the sales were becoming alarmingly low. By 2001, it became evident that the end was near. It was the lowest production year for the Camaro with just 29,000 units built. The market for sports coupes were getting smaller, and the Ford Mustang’s reign seemed unassailable.
5th Generation (2010 to present)
For eight years, the Camaro people waited patiently, but eventually their patience was rewarded. The movie Transformers gave a lot of people their first look at the revitalized Camaro. In the movie, Bumblebee was first shown as a 1974 Camaro, but would later become a 5th generation version. This first look created quite a media buzz, and movie goers simply loved the new look.
The new Camaro was an overwhelming success, and it spurred a lot of interest. It was awarded the World Car Design of the Year at the World Car of the Year Awards. Its look took a lot of cues from the 1969 model, and it was positively gorgeous. Under that new look was a new Zeta platform as well. Engine options included the 3.6L V6 and the 6.2L V8.
In 2011, a convertible was added to the lineup, and in 2012 the most powerful Camaro (the ZL1) was launched. The latest 2013 model didn’t have any major changes, except for a new audio system and the addition of hill-start assist. After all, why change something that’s obviously great?
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