Chevrolet Camaro SS396

After a successful debut in ’67, the Camaro hit the deck in ’72. Sluggish sales and a 174-day strike at the Lordstown, Ohio, plant meant Camaros were in short supply, and only 68,656 were produced that year. Worse still, 1,100 half-finished cars sitting on the assembly lines couldn’t meet the impending ’73 bumper impact laws, so GM was forced to junk all of them. There were some dark mutterings in GM boardrooms.

Should the Camaro be canned? 1972 also saw the Super Sport (SS) package bow out. Road & Track magazine mourned its passing, hailing the SS396 as “the best car built in America in 1971.” But the early Seventies were a bad trip for the automobile, and the Camaro would rise again; five years later it had risen from the ashes and was selling over a quarter of a million units. This is one American icon that refuses to die.

DURABLE DESIGN

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The Camaro design survived an incredible 11 years without any serious alteration. It lured eyes and dollars away from the traditional European performance machines and became one of the most recognized American GTs of the Seventies. In addition to the SS package, Camaros could also be specified in Rally Sport (RS) and Z-28 performance guise.

SS NUMBERS

Only 6,562 Camaros had the SS equipment package in 1972 out of total Chevrolet sales for the year of 2,151,076.

EXTRA GRIP

You could buy spray-on liquid Tire Chain to improve traction.

STYLING

The Camaro was designed using computer technology; the smooth, horizontal surfaces blended together in an aerodynamically functional shape.

NASCAR RACER

Chevy spent big bucks to become performance heavyweights, and the Camaro, along with the Chevelle, was a successful racing model in the early ’70s.

REFLECTOR

This was the age of safety legislation requiring features such as this on new cars.

BODY CREASE

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Perfectly straight top-to-bottom waistline works well.

INTERIOR

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Interiors were generally quite basic. Revisions for ’72 were limited and mostly confined to the door panels, which now included map and coin holders under the door handles. The high-back seats are a clue that this is a post-’70 model.

UNIQUE SS

Unlike other performance packs, the SS option gave the car a whole new look. The bolt-on front end was different, and included sidelights up alongside the headlights and recessed grille. SS spec usually included mini quarter-bumpers.

CONCEALED WIPERS

SS and RS packages included hidden windshield wipers.

COMPUTER-DESIGNED

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REAR SPOILER

The SS and Z-28 packages got a rear-deck spoiler; the RS did not.

The Camaro was designed using computer technology, with smooth horizontal surfaces blended together in an aerodynamically functional shape. And individuality and power came cheap in ’72— the SS package cost just $306.

COMFORT OPTIONS

Special instrumentation, center console, and Comfort-Tilt wheel were convenience options.

COOL INTERIOR

Air-conditioning for the Camaro cost an additional $397.

WHEELS

Camaros came with five wheel-trim options.

ENGINE

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Camaros came with a range of engines to suit all pocketbooks and for all types of drivers. The entry-level V8 was just $96 more than the plodding straight six. The block featured here is the lively 396cid V8. Under 5,000 owners chose a six compared to nearly 64,000 who opted for one of the V8 options.

ENGINE IDEA

A 400cid engine was planned for mid-year introduction but it never made the Camaro.

S P E C I F I C A T I O N S


MODEL Chevrolet Camaro SS396 (1972)

PRODUCTION 6,562 (SS, 1972)

BODY STYLE Two-door coupe.

CONSTRUCTION Steel body and chassis.

ENGINES 350cid, 396cid, 402cid V8s (SS).

POWER OUTPUT 240–330 bhp.

TRANSMISSION Three-speed manual, optional four-speed manual, and automatic.

SUSPENSION Front: coil springs; Rear: leaf springs.

BRAKES Front power discs and rear drums.

MAXIMUM SPEED 125 mph (201 km/h)

0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 7.5 sec

A.F.C. 15 mpg (5.3 km/l)

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