Muscle-car heaven: America’s 50-year love affair with the Camaro

From its days as Chevy's answer to the Mustang to its social media-heavy presence today, the Camaro has thrilled drivers for a half-century, reprorts Gogo Lidz.

The Camaro was born out of a volcano. We know this because 50 years ago, in the muscle car’s very first TV commercial, it rose from a caldera amid fountains of fire and a molten lake of lava. Fans of the sporty Chevrolet still debate how many martinis Don Draper downed while writing copy for that ad.

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Chevrolet Camaro 1967 to 2002

Code name Panther was the way Chevy referred to the “pony car” they planned on unveiling to compete with the Mustang. The first model hit the show room floor in September 1966- it was not a Panther but a Camaro that Chevrolet chose to call the new model. The first letter of the name was a “C” in keeping the tradition of other model names before it, such as Corvair, Chevelle, Chevy II, and Corvette. When the press asked Chevrolet spokesmen to define the meaning of Camaro, the management replied “It is a small vicious animal that eats Mustangs.”


The first generation Camaro was made from 1967 to 1969 and is available as coupe or convertible style only. Chevrolet wanted to put distance between the new model and the failure of the Corvair with its rear engine design. The new Camaro with the more conventional designed rear wheel drive engine in front configuration automobile is on the newly styled “F” body platform. The engine compartment was designed to hold a large variety of power plants and the engine choices were huge. The car could be ordered with four different 6 cylinder engines or six different V8’s from 302 cu in (4.9 L) all the way up to a high performance 427 cu in (7.0 L) power plant. This original cars design would be the inspiration for the fifth generation of Camaro released in 2010.


In February 1970 the second generation was on the show room floor. This car was produced until 1981 and is possibly the best designed Camaro ever built.  In 1971 Car and Track magazine said that the SS 350 Camaro was one of the top ten cars in the world. As a sign of the times the car became a bit larger with many visible design changes between 1974 and 1978 model years but still on the “F” body platform and with unibody. The Z28 design came and went but was reintroduced in the middle of 1977; it was the only Camaro to ever beat out its closest competitors - the Trans Am and the Mustang.


The third generation Camaro became available in 1982 and remained basically the same until 1992. At this time the first models became available that offered modern fuel injection instead of a carburetor. The third generation cars are 500 lbs (230 kg) lighter than the second generation counterparts. A standard transmission with a 4 cylinder engine was offered in 1982 and you could order that with a hatchback if it suited your lifestyle. The automobile could also be ordered with either 15” or 16”wheels coupled to a standard equipment five speed manual transmission or chose the optional four speed  automatic or the turbo hydramatic option to turn those wheels.

Chevrolet Camaro 1985 © Dikiiy | - Chevrolet Camaro 1985 Photo

The 305 cu in motor was standard equipment. In 1985 the IROC-Z(stands for international race of champions) this fast beauty was on the market until 1990.Also in 1985 a center high mount stop lamp became mandatory for legal and insurance purposes; this lamp was mounted either in the rear window or on models so equipped it was in the rear spoiler. The 25th anniversary heritage package came out in 1992 thus car came with a 305 cu in (5.0 L) high output engine. The 1 LE performance pack usedo n the track was an option on street models starting in 1988. The B4C model "police package" was a Z28 with the more subdued RS styling was the last new offering of its generation and made it available in 1991. The fourth generation Camaro was produced from 1993 until 2002 - it retained the same “F-body platform” as the original 1967 model coupe with the buckets in front and a rear bench for two.  In 1992 anti-lock brakes became standard equipment on all Camaro’s. The “T” roof and convertible models were available as options. The basic equipment motor from 1993 until 1995 was a 3.4 liter V6 with a push rod V6 and the V8 as options. Then in 1995 a 3.8 liter V6 became standard equipment with a small block 350 cu in V8 as standard equipment on the Z28 – this V8 was the same one introduced in the Corvette three years earlier.  A four speed automatic transmission was standard on the Z28 or you could choose a six speed standard transmission for performance. Either one had optional all speed traction control available. The SS version had a small block 330 cu in was also on the market for 1996 and 1997 model years. In 1997 the exterior took some styling changes with an arc shaped rear wing for down force on the Z28 style but the interior underwent a revision. The 5.7 liter all aluminum engine was offered – it came with a 305 horse power rating. The SS model had improvements on the intake and exhaust systems. Bigger wheels and tires with stiffer suspension were the order of the day as well. The last year of production for generation four marked the thirty-fifth year of continuous production for the Camaro.

4 thoughts on “Chevrolet Camaro 1967 to 2002”

    1. MR/Miss/Ms/Mrs When-ever:

      My My My some folks are critical-I changed the post but the Camaro was on show room floors in’66 so it is actually a ’66 1/2 but Chevy did call this Camaro a 1967

  1. Kind of like the 64 1/2 Mustang

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Camaro RS-SS-Z28 options 1967 to 1969 cont…

The Camaro for ’67 shares a platform with the Nova and is of semi-unibody design with the sheet metal adding to the frames structural strength. The RS is one of three appearance packages featuring hide away headlights, back up lights mounted in the bumper, revised tail light configuration, rocker panel trim, and RS logo’s. The SS package comes with a 350 cu in (5.7 L) V8 or you could option the 396 cu in (6.5 L) and choose either the L35 or the L78 version. The package also includes decorative hood mounted air inlets and special striping. The status is declared with SS logo’s on the gas cap, front fenders, grill, and the horn button. The two packages can be combined in ’67 and a RS/SS convertible Camaro powered by a 396 was the Indy pace car that year.


In 1967 there was an unadvertised and little known option of the Z28 ready to race version available from all dealerships. This version comes with a 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 small block with a 3 inch crankshaft, 4 inch piston bore, and an aluminum intake manifold mounted with a four barrel 780 cfm Holly carburetor. The power of the engine is underrated by Chevy at 290 hp (216 kW) which does occur at 5,300 rpm but the 302 is a high revving engine developing closer to 360 hp (268 kW) at higher revs with a single four barrel but with two four barrels puts out 400 hp (298 kW) at 6,800 to 7,000 rpm.

CaptureCapture6This is race ready for the Trans-Am series which require the model must be available for the public to purchase, an engine of less than 305 cubic inch displacement, and less than one horse power per cubic inch-the latter is also to keep insurance rates lower. The Z28 option also comes equipped with heavy duty suspension, front disc brakes and a close ratio Muncie four speed with posi-trac as an available option. The Z28 also included the 302 badging on front fenders, decorative racing strips for the hood and trunk, with an added choice of combining it with the RS package. There were 221,306 Camaro models sold in ’67 but of those only 64,842 were with the RS option and 34,411 SS units sold including 100 RS/SS pace car replicas but only 602 with the Z28 option.

Chevrolet Camaro Z28 1969 blower© Sigurbjornragnarsson | - 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 Photo

If you purchased an RS/SS Camaro in 1969 you would have been offered a choice of five engines from 350 to 396 inch displacement with horse power ratings of between 300 and 375. These engines are offered for the factory models but the dealers are also authorized to install the 427 cu in engine producing 430 hp if the customer prefers it. All the engine options are basically equipped with the three speed manual transmission but the automatic three speed and the four speed standard are both on the table as well. The ‘69 Z29 option has a further choice of the newly introduced cowl induction hood scoop. Earlier versions got air into the carburetor though either a simple hole in the side of the air cleaner or the new owner could opt for the cowl plenum pressurized ducting and receive air through the firewall from the cowl vents. All the earlier Camaro models are riding on 14 inch rims but the '69 Z28 is basically equipped with 15 inch Rally wheels

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