The Ford Mustang set the pony-car agenda at just the right time, when the Sheiks turned off the oil taps and gas guzzling became bad news, but Chevrolet’s response was swift and impressive. The Camaro followed the required long-bonnet-short-rear-deck pony-car principle, but its styling was in no way imitative and the new equine runner was an instant winner.
The Camaro ‘personal car’ (Chevy’s description) came as a sleek 2+2 coupe or convertible. From the beginning the Camaro tempted buyers seeking that heady combination of performance and style. The 3.8 litre straight six was the standard engine, but a larger straight six and succession of five V8s rising to a potent 6.5 litre monster would eventually be offered. A popular first addition to the range was the mid-year SS-350 performance version, with bee-striped nose and a 295 bhp V8.
There was also a Rally Sport package featuring concealed headlamps. Beyond the choice of body style and engine, a host of optional extras allowed buyers to personalize their new wheels. Did they respond well? You bet — over 220,000 were sold in Year One, more than half with a macho V8 engine.
The Camaro story would be one of constant evolution, and 1968 models saw improved suspension with front disc brakes, plus through-flow Astra ventilation for a sales tally of 235,000. In 1969 an extensive facelift introduced new bumpers and grille —creating a sleek long, low look that earned a ‘Hugger’ nickname and 243,000 sales.
A second generation Camaro appeared in 1970, with all-new fastback coupe styling, and this special speedster went on to become something of an institution, going through four generations and remaining in production until the early 21st century, before returning in 2009 as a fifth generation retro-styled machine that represents a stunning revival of the iconic Camaro brand.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1967 (until 2002)
Various, from 3.8 I (230 cid) Straight Six to 6.5 I (396 cid) V8
SS-350 model – top speed of 142 mph (229 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.3 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
There was never any doubt where Chevrolet’s sights were set – at the press conference where the Camaro name was unveiled to the eager motoring press, one journalist asked ‘But what is a Camaro?’ – to which enquiry came the swift reply ‘A small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs’.