The Camaro

A small, fierce creature to kill the Mustang.

Tate Larsen, Staff Writer

The six Camaro generations side view.


The six Camaro generations front view.

In the 60’s General Motors needed a car to compete with the new 1964 Ford Mustang, so in 1967 they released the first generation Camaro. It came as a two-door coupe or convertible with seven engine options, the top two being a 350 cubic inch V8(5.7L) or a 396(6.5L). The Camaro was built on the F body frame, which was a rear wheel drive platform developed by GM and was shared with the Pontiac Firebird. The car was offered in standard, Rally Sport (RS) and Super Sport (SS) packages. A Z/28 was introduced in 68 with striping and a 302(4.9L) V8 engine. 

    After a three-year run the first generation ended and the second was introduced in 1970 with an updated body, but almost everything else was the same including the 350(5.7L) and 396(6.5L) engines. However, GM got a little sneaky with some 402s(6.6L) being badged as 396s. 

Just like the first gen, the second gen offered a choice of transmissions. There were four options: a two-speed automatic, three-speed which came in manual or automatic and a four-speed manual. In October of 1973, the oil crisis hit the United States making fuel hard to come by. This caused the beloved American muscle cars to get tiny, poor engines and the small cars that were more fuel efficient became more and more popular.

 In 1974 the Camaro grew seven inches and got an updated front to fit the new aluminum bumper. You might recognize this car from the movie “Transformers” where Bumblebee is played by a 1977 Camaro. T-Tops became available in 1978. GM eliminated the SS package in 1972, and it remained absent until 1996. From 1974 to the end of the second generation in 1981 it came with the Z/28 and RS packages.

     The 80’s brought some of the most iconic movies, music, as well as big, long, curly hair and also a new generation of Camaros in December of 1981. The third generation was introduced during this time. This new Camaro came as a two-door convertible or a hatchback and once again had seven engine options, this time with the 305(5.0L) and a 350(5.7L) being the top two. They only put out 100 horsepower or 165 horsepower respectively. It came with a three or four-speed automatic and a four or five-speed manual transmission.

In 1982, the new Z/28 served as the pace car for the Indy 500. Around 6,000 replica pace cars were sold at Chevrolet dealerships with a special two-tone silver and blue paint job. Another special package that came with the gen three was the Berlinetta; this was a car introduced as a “luxury” version of the Camaro in 1979. With the Berlinetta, Chevrolet tried to entice women into the sports car market. In 1983 all new standard and Berlinetta Camaros got an overdrive gear. In 1984 the Camaro got an updated dashboard and the Berlinetta got a futuristic dash that looks like it was inspired by KITT from “Knight Rider.” 

In 1985, fans of the Camaro got something a little special. The Z/28 package became available with the IROC-Z package as an option, IROC standing for International Race of Champions and the Z standing for Z/28. This package came with lower ride height, upgrades to the suspension and a special decal on the side of the car. The convertible became an option again in 1987, for the first time since 1969. GM hired the American Sunroof Company to build convertibles to celebrate the car’s twentieth anniversary. Only about 1,000 were made and had 20th anniversary commemorative badges on them. The Camaros remained the same till 1990 when the IROC-Z went away. Then in the last year of the third generation in 1992 the Camaros would be marked with a 25 on the dashboard to mark the 25th anniversary. My mom has a teal 1992 RS twenty-fifth anniversary Camaro that I think she should trade in for an IROC-Z with a 350 in it.

     In November of 1992, the Camaro received another refresh, which my family refers to as the Doorstop Camaro and the internet calls it the Catfish Camaro because it is very ugly. This Camaro came with five engine options: two V6s and three V8s, the top of the line this time being a 350 V8. It once again came as a lift back, convertible or with t tops. The Camaro remained the same from 1992 till 1996 when the SS badge made its return alongside the Z/28 that stuck around through the generations. In 1997 Camaro celebrated its birthday once again. This time it turned 30 and would receive a white paint job with orange stripes on the SS and Z/28 models. Then, they celebrated again in 2002 for its 35th birthday. This Camaro was bright red and had a checkered, white racing stripe running from nose to tail. 

I would not say that there is a worst generation of Camaro, but the second, third and fourth gens have their downsides like the under powered engines from the mid 70’s until the 90s and the SS badging being absent for 20 years.

    In 2003 the Camaro was shelved and was not seen again until 2006 as concept car when the car was shown at the International North American Auto Show and again in 2008 at the Geneva Motor Convention. When the car was finally released in 2009, it was reminiscent of the 60s Camaro looking like a modern version of its old brother. It came with eight engine options, the top being a 7.0L. Not ever missing a birthday, the 2012 Camaro came in a 45th birthday edition with orange stripes and 45th heritage badges. The Camaro came with a ton of special editions, the most notable being the Transformers, Indy 500 and Jay Leno’s custom.

    The sixth and current gen was started in 2016 which now only had four engine options with the top being a supercharged 6.2L V8 making 650 horsepower on the ZL1 trim. The sixth gen Camaro once again had many special editions like a Redline and a Hot Wheels package. The most important was its 50th anniversary with the word 50 being spelled out all over the car for badges.

     It is amazing a car could stick around for 50 years. One of the reasons it has is because its entry-level price makes sports cars accessible to more people. Like teenagers, and my mom, the teacher.

     Over the years, Camaro had some very ugly colors especially in the 80’s and 90’s with many nasty greens, yellows, copper and a dreadful reddish-orange from 2013. My favorite color of Camaro has to be the bright blue.

     It is hard to say which Camaro generation is the best, but I am going with the first gen followed closely by the sixth and current generation. The ‘67-’69 Camaro earned its spot as an iconic classic American muscle car competing with the Mustang, which was the first muscle/pony car. Both cars have survived the test of time, and some are worth hundreds of thousand and even millions of dollars. The Camaro is still around today and is the muscle car to spite the Mustang.

     If you like cars you probably like power. Just like which generation is the best, I can not tell you which package is the best. However, some of the most iconic are the Z/28, SS and ZL1 which makes 650 horsepower.

     It is no small task for a car to remain on top for half a century. Unfortunately, there is a lot of talk on the internet about the Camaro going away for a second time in 2023. GM made statements that did not deny or confirm if we will see this legendary pony car ever again after that.