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The Chevrolet Camaro Turns 50 in 2017…ish

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by Dave Ashton

I say ‘ish’ in the title simply because the 1967 Camaro which was the official model year, was actually released on September 29th, 1966 and now has its own 50th anniversary model available in coupe, convertible 2LT and 2SS versions.

“Through the course of its iconic 50-year history, Camaro has been a reflection of the times, forging in passionate influences from customers, development teams and racing technology,” said Tom Peters, director of exterior design, Chevrolet Performance Cars.

Two years after the release of the Mustang the Camaro, which was codenamed XP-836 or the Panther, was set to take on the Mustang head-on with over 120 options and available in both coupe and convertible formats. Hard to think that six generations later the model would still be in production.
The name Camaro originated from the French word meaning friend or comrades and to keep the car names beginning with the letter C but the official Chevrolet meaning also came out as ‘a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.’ The Camaro was initially shown at a press conference in Detroit on September 12, 1966, then released on September 29th, 1966.

The Camaro was based on the new F-body platform with a variety of engines ranging from a 230cu six cylinder up to the rarest COPO 427cu, but many opted for the 396cu. for top performance.
The performance minded opted for the RS, SS or RS/SS versions with those in the know ordering the rarest Z28 version. The Camaro Z/28 packed 400 HP and had racing suspension, front disc brakes, dual exhaust and racing stripes. Only 602 Z/28’s were sold in its first year compared to 64,000 RS versions and 99,855 in total. Hard and fast marketing campaigns at the time and the inclusion of being a pace car at the Indy 500 made sure the public knew about this new vehicle and clearly this was the vehicle to own over a Mustang.

The first-generation model, which lasted from 1967 to 1969 had a few design tweaks along the way. In 1968 the Astro Ventilation fresh air system was installed and the side vent windows deleted. Side marker lights were added with a more pointed front grille and divided rear tail lights. The 69 model got all new sheet metal, apart from the hood and trunk lids, with the grille getting a V shape and inset headlights. Upgraded rear quarter and valance panels, along with new door skins gave a more sporty look and straighter lines than the 67 and 68 counterparts. The 1969 year also saw the Central Office Production Orders (COPO) being utilised by the likes of Don Yenko who were able to use the system to drop-in 427 cu.(7.0L) engines amongst other upgrades to produce the most powerful Camaros around. Only 201 infamous Yenko Camaros were ordered with around 1,000 of these COPO Camaros having this L72 engine option.

Today’s Camaros bridge the gap between muscle car and sports performance and show no sign of letting up for being one of the original American muscle cars. Here’s to another 50 years.

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