Over the years, the Chevy Camaro has been part of one of the most intense and resilient rivalries the automotive industry has ever witnessed, let alone the world. Every Camaro ever built, from the Z-28 to the SuperSport, IROC-Z, and the ZL1, had the sole purpose of dominating the Ford Mustang in every aspect of the game. And for the last 54 years, the Chevy Camaro has won the loyal hearts of several generations of motoring enthusiasts.
Chevrolet’s mission to build a performance car for the masses that still looks good on the highway or driveway has paid off in spades. The Camaro’s unique styling and image have made it a formidable opponent to the Mustang and the Challenger, as well as turned it into a desirable collectible muscle car. Undoubtedly, this legendary pony car has a long, illustrious history filled with fascinating details. Nonetheless, there are a few facts that most gearheads either forgot or don’t know about the Chevy Camaro.
10 No One Knows The Meaning Of “Camaro”
When the Mustang debuted in 1964, Chevrolet had nothing in their lineup with enough sex appeal to go toe-to-toe with Ford’s pony car, the Mustang. In a rush to produce a comparable vehicle, Chevrolet had first settled on naming the new model “The Panther,” but later altered it to “Camaro.”
During the first public announcement, Chevrolet had teased that Camaro meant “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.” Despite folklore about the real meaning of the Camaro name, the word doesn’t translate to “friend” or “old friend” in French. The truth is, no one knows what it means, in other words, it probably doesn’t mean anything. However, it was in line with Chevrolet’s tradition of naming its models starting with “C.”
A few Chevrolet dealers started modifying the Camaro SS to give it bigger, more potent engines, upgraded axles, and upgraded suspensions. The production restrictions imposed on GM in the late 1960s meant the Camaro was no longer available with the big block units. Luckily, the COPO system allowed the dealers to circumvent the restrictions to build Camaros with over 6.5-liter engines.
In total, Chevrolet dealers managed to build 69 ZL1-powered COPO Camaros, one of the rarest Chevy muscle cars ever made. Although the COPO Camaro project stopped after 1969, Chevrolet revived it in 2012 and maintained a limited 69-unit production run. Ten years after the revival, the 2022 COPO Camaro boasts the biggest V8 from any American automaker.
8th The Camaro Introduced The 350 Small Block
Once described as the mouse that roared, the Chevy V8 small block’s ingenious combination of compact dimensions, impressive power, and easily-available aftermarket parts made it one of the most popular crate engines in the auto industry. Chevrolet first introduced the famous 350 small block unit to the automotive world as the high-performance L-48 option for the 1967 Chevy Camaro.
The original 350 may have put out just 295hp and 380lb-ft of torque, but it quickly became one of the most transplanted engine models in the history of automation. Over the years, it has featured in Corvettes, Novas, Caprices, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Cadillacs, not to mention some Chevrolet and GMC trucks. By the time Chevrolet discontinued the Chevy 350 in 2002, the marque had made over 100 million examples in 14 different unit variations.
7 The Camaro Kammback That Almost Was
During the design phase for the second-generation Camaro that hit showrooms for the 1970 model year, GM engineers had also toyed with the idea of a station wagon model. Interestingly, Bob Ackerman’s Kammback design was impressive enough to attract John Delorean’s attention, Pontiac GM at the time. The Camaro Kammback progressed as far as the prototype stage but constrained budget costs, plus the introduction of the 1970 AM Javelin ended the program.
When GM revisited the comb profile idea in 1977, it was for the Firebird K-Back concept, designed by Jerry Brockstein. This time, the project went as far as two Pininfarina-built concept models that made it to the 1977 Chicago Auto Show. Still, high production costs killed the production plans, and GM abandoned the wagon concept for both the Chevy Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird.
6 Design For The Second-Generation Camaro Was Ferrari-Inspired
Although the first-generation Camaro proved popular and set the ball rolling for the model, Chevrolet had built it hastily in a meager two years. However, the second-generation model cranked the Camaro’s appeal to eleven with more performance, features, track, wheelbase, and mass.
The biggest highlight was the Camaro’s attractive exterior design, inspired by the classic Ferrari Lusso 250 GT. The pony car employed the Ferrari’s grille and sleek body contours, including a striking fastback rear design that blended seamlessly with the rounded twin-taillights. The design made the Camaro achieves its highest peak in popularity, with the more refined European GT look attracting celebrities like the legendary Steve McQueen.
5 The Second-Generation Camaro Boasts The Longest Production Run
The second-generation Camaro faced a rough start to production. Unluckily for Chevy, the Euro-inspired sheet metal design came with a splitting problem that caused an initial delay in production. Furthermore, a GM-targeted UAW workers’ strike caused more trouble in the production plant.
But despite delayed production for the 1970 model year, the second-generation Camaro was so good that Chevy sold an impressive 124,901 examples in the 1970 model year. Furthermore, the second generation model recorded an 11-year production run, the longest run of all Camaro generations, with an estimated 1.9 million examples delivered to the public.
4 GM Made The Fourth Generation Camaro In Canada
In 1993, Chevrolet moved Camaro production from GM’s Van Nuys, California assembly plant, to Sainte-Therese in Quebec, Canada. The first Camaros from the plant marked the beginning of the fourth-generation model, which featured a new design that incorporated sheet molding compound, improved suspension, and a potent 275hp LT1 V8 engine.
The fourth-generation model ushered in a new era in muscle car performance with new efficiency, handling, power, value, and safety levels. Considered America’s first modern muscle car, the fourth-generation model narrowly avoided the mechanical and safety disaster that would have come with the stillborn GM80 platform. From 1993, Chevrolet made the fourth-generation Camaro exclusively in Canada until poor sales halted production in 2002.
3 The Second Most Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Runs
The first Camaro to feature as an Indianapolis 500 pace car was a 1967 convertible with a 325hp version of the 396 big-block V8 nesting under its hood. Chevrolet built 100 Ermine White Camaro drop tops specifically for the 1967 Indianapolis Motor Speedway run.
Since 1967, the Chevrolet Camaro has made eight appearances as an Indy 500 pace car, the second most runs behind the Chevy Corvette’s record-high 18 appearances. Unknown to the majority, only the Corvette and the Camaro have featured as Indianapolis pace cars since 2004.
2 The First Four Camaro Generations Used The Same Platform
Only two cars have been built within the GM extensive lineup using the F-Body platform, the Chevy Camaro and the Pontiac Firebird. The F platform utilized GM’s small rear-wheel drive automobile platform, and it lasted through the first four generations of the Chevy Camaro, from 1967 to 2002.
Throughout the production period, the F-cars notoriously featured in the racing world, dominating road courses, quarter-mile drag strips, and the boulevards of America. After the 2002 to 2010 hiatus, the Chevy Camaro made a second debut with the same Zeta architecture fitted in the Pontiac G8 sedan.
1 The Camaro ZL1 1LE Is The Fastest Camaro Ever
There have been some blistering almost Camaros over the years, but the Camaro ZL1 1LE wears the crown for the fastest of all time. Boasting chassis adjustability unlike any other model in its peer group, the 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE conquered the Nürburgring’s 12.9-mile track in 7:16.04, making it the fastest Camaro to ever lap the Green Hell.
The Camaro ZL1 1LE package currently stands as a firm reminder of the Camaro’s racing heritage through a legacy of street dominance and track-ready performance. The updated 2022 package features a 650hp 6.2-liter LT1 V8, 6-speed manual transmission with an optional 10-speed automatic, a track cooling package, more aggressive suspension, a dual-mode exhaust, and a performance data recorder.
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