It’s the never-ending debate – Mustang or Camaro. But whatever you may think about these two pony cars, today we’re going to be focusing on the latter of which. Produced by Chevrolet, there are currently six generations of Camaro – so, with that in mind, there’s a lot of history to cover.
It was the Ford Mustang’s rapid success that triggered the Camaro’s birth in the 1960s. Chevrolet really worn’t messing around. When asked what Camaro actually meant, press were told it was ‘a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs’. If that’s not declaring war, we don’t know what is.
Anyway, whether you think the Camaro was conceived out of spite, jealousy or just GM thinking they can do better, there’s one thing that’s undeniable – the Camaro caused quite the shakeup. When the original car came out for the 1967 model year, Chevrolet sold 220,906 Camaros in the US.
The pony car featured a range of engines, including some inline-sixes and V8s. The heralded Z/28 model was made to qualify for Nascar and offered a high-revving V8 developing 290bhp. Dynamometer readings, however, showed it actually produced over 350bhp.
When the Camaro went into its second generation in 1970, changes were mainly cosmetic. The car now featured a restyled body, giving a somewhat sleeker, more streamlined look, but was still based on the same platform as its predecessor.
The SS package was dropped in 1972, not to appear again until 1997, although the Z/28 survived; now including an air induction hood scoop with an intake flap that opened under full throttle.
In 1982, the third generation Camaro arrived along with fuel injection – a first for the model. Another key improvement was weight. Compared to the previous iteration, this one was 227kg lighter – making for a much more athletic package.
The IROC-Z was introduced in 1985 and was referred to as ‘the Camaro that thinks it’s a Corvette’. It sat above the esteemed Z/28 trim as an add on.
Still based on the aging platform of the first Camaro – yes, Chevrolet used the same platform for 35 years (until 2002) – the fourth-gen version became less muscular and arguably less attractive to look at. Sure, you could still get it with a fire-breathing V8, but popularity dipped. This can by shown by the sales – which in 2001 during this car’s lifecycle – dropped to an all-time low of 29,009 Camaros sold in the States.
The fourth generation model went out of production in 2002 and the world had to wait until 2009 for the Camaro’s return.
The fifth gen Camaro, although heavily inspired by the original, was a much more modern car and one primed to be a pain in the Mustang’s backside once again. It harnessed V6 and V8 engine options, with the latter producing 426bhp. All this – along with its earlier concept variant having a starring role as Bumblebee in 2007’s Transformers – meant the Camaro was back on the pony car map, as US sales in 2010 are pegged at a much more promising 81,299.
The current generation – the sixth Camaro – only furthered what the previous iteration had accomplished, with an even more powerful 455bhp naturally-aspirated V8 and the basis of GM’s new Alpha platform. Saying that, over 70 per cent of the sixth gen’s architectural components are unique to the Camaro and not shared with any other current GM product.
2018 saw the ultimate Camaro come to light – the ZL1 1LE. This track package for the already crazy-fast supercharged 650bhp ZL1 took things to a whole new level. In total the 1LE pack reduces weight by 27kg and comes with an improved aerodynamics package, complete with an awesome rear wing.
What’ll come next for the ‘small vicious animal that eats Mustangs’? Well, if the fifth gen Camaro is anything to go by, we’ll see a new, lightweight, naturally-aspirated Z/28 to act as a swansong to the current Camaro some time in the future.