Some Camaro History
I have been privileged to work on or with the Chevrolet Camaro for many years. As a teenager growing up in a family-owned dealership, I clearly remember our dealership getting its first Camaro delivered prior to public announcement – that day was September 10, 1966 – and I thought the Camaro was the most beautiful car I’d ever seen – and it’s been a passion of mine for over 40 years.
For many years I worked at Chevrolet – always driving a Camaro when possible -- and I was blessed to be selected out of a pool of over 400+ people to work on the Camaro/Corvette Performance Car team in the 1990s.
It was a bittersweet time – we were building the best Camaros (in terms of performance/handling/fuel economy/quality) that had ever been built. However, as America’s tastes changed in transportation, the Camaro – and indeed the entire Sport Coupe market – went into decline as peoples’ choice switched to Sport Utilities and more practical sedans. It was particularly painful to hear in late 1996 that the Camaro would not, in all probability, be built after 1998. We were fortunate to keep the Camaro (and its cousin, the Pontiac Firebird) in the market-place through the 2002 model year.
Much speculation, finger-pointing, and blame has been placed and assigned as to WHY they went out of production. That said, there are many reasons why these very special nameplates were put on hiatus….some evident – yet I submit to you that there were many other reasons completely foreign to those who are not intimately involved within the auto industry. Suffice it to say that many people – both enthusiasts within the public domain – as well as many of us within the GM Family – were devastated when production of the 4th Generation cars came to an end in August of 2002.
As I write this preface in the final days of 2007, we have much to celebrate – as the Camaro WILL be back!
What you are about to read comes, primarily, from a pamphlet that I had produced and was included in a special 35th Anniversary Camaro Owner Portfolio This portfolio came with each of the 3,369 Camaro 35th Limited Edition Camaro SS’s. It allowed our Camaro enthusiasts to have insight into some of the ‘tidbits’ of Camaro history.
I hope you’ll enjoy a walk down memory lane!
General Motors Corporation
Tony Hossain wrote:
Fads come and go. Other things – Saturday nights, the classic sound of rock & roll, and a thrill ride called CHEVY CAMARO -- just get better.
It’s been over 40 years since the first Camaro roared to life, escalating the classic Chevrolet-Ford rivalry to a fever pitch. Enthusiasts have always loved that.
Right from the beginning – with its dramatic styling, 350 V8 and choice of coupe or convertible models – Camaro was the "closest thing to a ‘Vette yet." Terms like "SS," "Z28," and "Rally Sport" meant one thing: A VERY COOL CHEVY.
Through changing times and changing rules, Camaro has never been compromised. The Camaro has always meant a V8, rear-drive muscle car with DNA that dates directly back to the fall of 1966. Who could have imagined what would follow? Styling that has been consistently nothing less than an art form. Performance that has always blown away the competition. And the future? Well – based on the exciting new Camaro concept – it INDEED looks bright!
Thank you, Tony – for some great insight as to what makes Camaro special!
And now: a little Camaro History:
FIRST GENERATION 1967-1969
Though similar in size and style, Camaro differed from its main competition, the Ford Mustang, by offering a sub-frame attached to a unitized body for better road and noise isolation as well as better ride quality. There were a myriad of options and trim levels: from the "style" trim group, to the Rally Sport package; from the ultimate Super Sport to a special edition "Z28" which was developed as a contender for Trans-Am racing series. Because the series had a maximum displacement limit of 305 cubic inches, a special Chevrolet "small block V8" displacing 302 cubic inches was the engine powering the Z28. The 1967 Camaro offered purchasers a choice of 7 engines…from a 230 cubic inch in-line 6 to a "big-block" 396 cubic inch V8. Additionally, several dealers, such as Yenko and Berger, installed the 427 cubic inch engine for the ultimate in terms of muscle and performance. The Camaro would pace the 1967 Indianapolis 500. This distinctive pace car was painted Ermine White and featured a Bright Blue custom interior. A matching blue "bumble bee" stripe around the nose completed the look. Approximately 140+ replicas were produced making this pace car one of the most collectible - most valuable Camaros.
Production for the 1967 model year totaled 220,906.
The '68 Camaro retained a similar appearance to the ‘67; however there were some subtle differences: vent windows disappeared with the advent of "Astro ventilation." Side marker lights were added due to government regulations. The first production cloth trims were offered -- the now-famous hounds tooth cloth made its debut. A revised grille and tail lights made the Camaro distinctive from the '67 model. Camaro SS had two distinctive hoods available, one for the 350 engine, the other with the 396 engine.
A total of 235,147 Camaros were built for the ‘68 model year.
Camaro was given a make-over for 1969 with new sheet metal that gave the car a decidedly lower, wider stance -- hence the name "Hugger." Production started on September 26, 1968 and ended on February 26, 1970 -- effectively making (to some) the next Camaro a 1970-1/2. The options list grew as well as the color palette. A "halo" vinyl roof was an option that gave the Camaro a distinctive look all its own. For a second time, the Camaro paced the Indianapolis 500 -- a Dover White convertible with orange hounds tooth upholstery and the now-famous “Hugger Orange” stripes made this pace car memorable for years to come. Approximately 3,675 replicas were produced.
A grand total of 243,085 1969 Camaros were built.
SECOND GENERATION 1970-1981
The second generation Camaro was introduced to the public in the spring of 1970 -- along with a slightly revised corvette. While it shared the “semi-unitized” body concept with the first generation car, virtually every part was new. The new body had a definite European influence. Front end treatments were distinctively different based on whether or not the Rally Sport package was ordered. Because SCCA Trans-Am rules changed and allowed “destroking” larger engines, the new Camaro Z-28 came with a 350ci engine developing 360 horsepower. The ultimate SS Camaro offered an optional 396ci engine with 375hp. The convertible was dropped for the second generation.
Due to a short model year, only 124,901 1970 Camaros were produced.
While the ‘71 was considered a “carry-over” due to a short 1970 1/2 build, there were differences -- from wheel trim to exterior and interior colors. A new seat design featured “high back” buckets. Horsepower ratings changed in 1971 -- from “gross” to “net” -- and with the coincidental drop in compression ratios, it appeared the power loss was greater than it actually was.
Production was down to 114,630 units -- primarily due to a long strike at General Motors in the fall of 1970.
Grilles on the non-Rally Sport models gave a new appearance with a coarser mesh. Vinyl roof covers now had a “wet” look. The 1972 Camaros were the last Camaros to offer “big-block” engines and, in fact, only 930 were produced with the big block. This would be the last year for the “SS” until SLP Engineering and Chevrolet introduced a new Camaro SS in the 1996 model year. Camaro production was reduced to 68,651 due to a 120 day strike at the Norwood, Ohio assembly plant.
When the strike was over – and this is shocking -- nearly 1,100 partially assembled 1972 models were scrapped because they could not be brought into compliance with 1973 bumper requirements!
New for ‘73 was the “Type LT” which offered a more luxurious interior and standard V8 engine (among other things) the “LT” model could be ordered by itself or with Rally Sport or Z28 or any combination thereof. This would be the last model year to offer the distinctive Rally Sport (split bumper) front end treatment. Power windows became an option late in the ‘73 production run -- an option missing since 1969. The 2-speed “Powerglide” automatic transmission was no longer offered. Solid lifter engines were no more on the Z28 -- replaced by hydraulic lifters instead.
A total of 96,751 units were produced in the ‘73 model year.
A major facelift was in store for the ‘74 model year -- primarily due to federal bumper impact standards. New extruded aluminum bumpers were featured both front and rear -- and added nearly seven inches to overall length. The Rally Sport package disappeared for ‘74 -- only to reappear later in the decade. Radial tires were now an option. Am-fm stereos were now offered as an option -- missing since 1969. Sadly, the Z28 would disappear in the ‘74 model year -- but it would return!
Production of the Camaro was up, despite gasoline shortages and substantial price increases -- 151,008 were built for the ‘74 model year.
A new wrap-around rear window gave better rearward vision on the ‘75 Camaro. While a consumer could not order a Z28, there was one 1975 Z28 built -- however, it was used within the GM corporate fleet and was never resold -- rather, it is believed that the vehicle was scrapped. Power door locks became an option as did cruise control. The Rally Sport appearance package became available late in the model year but was, frankly, paint and stripe package, rather than a separate front end treatment or sporting hideaway headlamps.
Total '75 model year production came to 145,770.
Styling for the 1976 model year was pretty much carryover. A bright aluminum fascia panel was added to type LT models between the taillights – replacing dual moldings. Simulated leather replaced woodgrain on the instrument panel. The optional vinyl roof cover had a new “landau” appearance in that the cover stopped short of the rear window leaving a painted band between the vinyl top and rear window. For the first time in Camaro history, no striping package was available – although many Chevrolet dealers would paint them on for you for an additional charge.
A total of 182,959 units were produced this model year.
Camaro enthusiasts rejoiced upon hearing news that the Z28 would return to production during the spring of 1977. The Z28 could not be ordered with either the Rally Sport equipment or with the “LT” trim. However, a special “custom interior” for Z28 was available. Colors available for the Z28 were limited to black, brown, orange, light red, silver, antique white or bright yellow.
Production rose to 218,853 units.
The ‘78’s featured the third and last face-lift for the second generation cars. Body color fascias gave the front and rear ends a cleaner, more aerodynamic look. This was the first year for option RPO “CC1” removable roof panels -- better known as “t-tops.”
The two-millionth Camaro rolled off the Van Nuys (Los Angeles) assembly line on May 11, 1978. That particular Camaro is still owned by a loyal Chevrolet dealer (who is also a Camaro enthusiast) in Las Vegas, Nevada. As of this writing, the 2-millionth Camaro has less than 500 miles on its odometer!!
Production of the 1977 model year was 272,631.
While exterior styling remained the same, the ‘79 Camaros received a new instrument cluster design. The type LT was now replaced with the “Berlinetta.” The Z28 received changes to the air dam and several modifications were made both mechanically and appearance wise. A new electric rear window defroster was now available replacing the forced air type used previously. This would also be the last year for an ‘in-line’ six cylinder engine.
Sales of the Camaro continued to climb -- production for the 1979 model year reached 282,571 – an all-time high.
While styling changes were minimal, the big change concerned engines. For the first time, a V6 engine was available in a Camaro. While 49 states received a 229ci engine, California received a 231 cid engine built by Buick. Z28s received a new hood that featured a rear facing hood scoop with an intake door that was solenoid controlled and enthusiasts loved it! The optional aluminum wheel was of a new design. As with the ‘79 model, customers could order a variety of radios -- including an integral “CB” radio -- which was a popular option on automobiles in the late 70’s and early 80s.
Production dropped to 152,005.
Appearance changes for the last year of the second generation cars were limited to color and trim. At 126,139 units sold, this was the lowest volume Camaro model since the ‘73 -- due in large part to a recession in the United States economy. The Rally Sport model was no more -- leaving the Sport Coupe, Berlinetta, and Z28 as models to choose from. Manual transmissions were finally -- once again -- available in California after an absence of 4 model years. All ‘81 Camaros were equipped with Chevrolet’s “advanced computer command control” for enhanced fuel economy and better drivability.
THIRD GENERATION – 1982-1992
The third generation Camaro was launched in the fall of 1981 as an ‘82 model. Motor Trend magazine awarded Camaro “Car of the Year.” For the first time in Camaro history, a 4-cylinder engine was available in the sport coupe – yet the 3-speed manual transmission disappeared with the 3rd generation – leaving the base transmission as a 4-speed manual. The all new body styling was futuristic -- looking like nothing else on the road! The body now featured “hatch” styling rather than a traditional trunk. Models included the Sport Coupe, Berlinetta, and Z28. For the third time in history, Camaro was selected to pace the Indianapolis 500. The pace car was silver with blue and red accents.
189,747 units were built for the ‘82 model year and 6,360 pace car replicas were built for public sale.
Following a short production year due to an all new “F-body” few changes were made to the ‘83 models -- and those changes were primarily color and trim. A 5-speed manual transmission became available on Camaro. A 4-speed automatic was also offered for the first time. The 8-track tape player disappeared for the ‘83 models and in its place: the cassette tape player. A new 190hp V8 was introduced midway through the model year. Known as the 5.0 liter h.o. it was available only with a 5-speed manual transmission -- and a total of 3,223 units were built with this powertrain.
Total production reached 154,381 for the ‘83 model year.
A renewed emphasis was placed on the Berlinetta model for 1984 as Chevrolet went after more ‘non-traditional’ customers. A brand new futuristic dashboard distinguished the Berlinetta from Sport Coupes and Z28s. It featured digital readout for speed, a very graphic electronic tachometer and adjustable control pods on either side of the instrument gauges. The turn signal lever was located on the left control pod and was activated by a “paddle” of sorts. The radio was located in a swivel pod mounted to the console and could be rotated for use by either driver or passenger. The Berlinetta also featured a roof console that was also optional on all other Camaro models. Road and Track magazine named the ‘84 Camaro as one of the ten best cars in the world. Car and Driver magazine called the ‘84 Camaro the best handling car built in the U.S. While Camaro’s cousin, the Corvette, had higher road holding capacity on the skid pad, when all factors were considered, including acceleration and handling -- Camaro came out ahead of his “big brother!”
Production for the ‘84 model year totaled 261,591 units.
New for ‘85 was the IROC sport equipment package (named for the International Race of Champions -- which at the time featured identically equipped special Camaros for this prestigious race). The IROC package was an option on the Z28 model and allowed the Camaro to pull .92g’s on the skid pad. Moreover, many people would refer to Camaro as an “IROC” – so strong was the branding. On all models, new air dams, grilles, front fascias parking lamps and tail lamps were new. The V6 engine received multi-port fuel injection for 1985. Top horsepower for 1985 came with the LB9 Tuned Port Fuel Injected 305 cid engine which was rated at 215 HP. Ten of the twelve Colors available on Camaro were new this year as well as revised interior fabrics and colors.
Production totaled 180,018.
All 1986 Camaro Sport Coupe models received a host of new standard equipment that added greatly to the appearance of the base model. This included, among other things, styled wheels, dual tailpipes with tuned exhaust, black sport mirrors, power steering and brakes, lower body accent color, and an upgraded sport suspension. Available from the factory was option “DE1” rear window louvers. All models received a standard 5-speed manual transmission replacing the 1985 model’s 4-speed manual. The Berlinetta model was discontinued during the model year due to low sales volume (only 4,479 units). All Camaros for 1986 received “base coat - clear coat” paint -- and eight of the twelve colors were new -- although all paint codes were changed due to the new paint process. All ‘86 Camaros received a Center High Mounted Stop Lamp which were mounted to the outside forward edge of the rear hatch window.
Production totaled 192,219 units.
The convertible model returned for the 1987 model year -- the first since 1969. Convertibles could be ordered as base, Type LT (which, incidentally, replaced the Berlinetta model), Z28 or IROC. Units were converted by ASC Incorporated. The 350 cid “Corvette” engine was available on the IROC as option “B2L.” However, Camaro’s heads and exhaust manifolds were iron, instead of aluminum and stainless steel like on Corvette. This engine was rated at 225hp. The Norwood Assembly plant would close on August 27, 1987 -- at the end of the ‘87 model run. A limited RS model was offered in California and parts of Arizona and Nevada.
A total of 137,760 units were produced for this model year.
The Z28 model once again disappeared as did the LT option. Replacing the Z28 was the IROC Z model. While all Camaros offered 15 inch wheels, a 16 inch wheel option was offered on IROC Z models. The sport coupe model received the Z28 style fascia from the previous year –due to the hugely successful “California” model offered in the 1987 model year. The 350 cid “B2L” engine received more horsepower and was now rated at 230hp.
Production totaled 96,275 units -- all built at Van Nuys.
Success with a regionally offered RS model in 1987 and 1988 led to the offering of an RS model nationwide in 1989. This would become the base model. Visually, the change was primarily a set of body colored ground effects panels which were not offered on the 1988 Sport Coupe. An electronic “pass key” theft deterrent system was now standard on all Camaros which aided in insurability. Chevrolet built a total of 111 “1LE’ Special Performance Package Camaros for the ‘89 model year -- targeted for the SCCA Showroom Stock racing series. To get the “1LE” package was quite an exercise! An IROC coupe had to be ordered with the “G92” performance axle and then Air Conditioning had to be deleted. This then triggered the “!LE” option and included an aluminum drive shaft, larger front brakes from the Corvette, fuel tank baffles, specific front and rear shocks and different jounce bumpers. Furthermore, Fog Lamps were deleted for weight savings and better airflow to the radiator. The “G92” axle also forced an engine oil cooler, 4 wheel disc brakes, dual converter exhaust and P245/50ZR16 tires.
A total of 110,739 ’89 Camaros were produced at Van Nuys.
The V6 Engine for 1990 was increased in size (from 2.8 Liters to 3.1 Liters) and gained additional horsepower -- now rated at 140hp. All 1990 Camaros received a driver’s side airbag along with standard tilt wheel, tinted glass, intermittent wipers, and halogen headlamps. Yellow instrument graphics replaced white in ‘90. Because the ‘91 models would be in dealers’ showrooms in March of ‘90, the ‘90 model year was cut short.
A total of 34,986 were built at Van Nuys.
The Z28 model returned when Chevrolet did not renew its agreement with IROC. (Curiously, most people have no recollection of a Dodge manufactured IROC – which tells you how strong the Camaro brand coupled with IROC had become). Four models were offered: RS Coupe, RS Convertible, Z28 Coupe and Z28 Convertible. All ‘91 Camaros featured new ground effects. Z28 coupes received a much taller rear spoiler, while RS coupes had the same spoiler as 1990 but the center stop light was relocated to the upper inside of the hatch window. Convertibles retained their unique spoiler. The Special Service Package (B4C) better known as the Police Package essentially got you a Z28 – in base coupe form.
Production for the ‘91 model year was 100,838.
The 1992 model year marked Camaro’s 25th birthday - thus, all ‘92 Camaros featured a 25th anniversary plaque on the instrument panel. A special “Z03” heritage package was available that featured a body color grille, heritage stripes, and badging. This package was available in white with red stripes, bright red with black stripes, purple haze with silver stripes, black with red stripes, or polo green with gold stripes. This would be the last year for the third generation. Sadly, the final Camaro coming from the Van Nuys plant was built on August 28th, 1992 – after which the Van Nuys plant was shuttered – and eventually demolished.
Camaro and production at Van Nuys would reach 70,007
FOURTH GENERATION – 1993 TO Present
An all new fourth generation Camaro as introduced to the world. Production was moved to the Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec assembly plant (located in a suburb of Montréal) though the size remained similar to the ‘92 model, Camaro had an all new interior and exterior – including new short arm/long arm front suspension. All models included dual airbags (a Chevrolet first) a conventional glove box along with analog instrument displays and tachometer. The V6 increased from 140hp to 160 hp. The V8 was now an LT1 (bringing back a hallowed rpo code to Camaro) rated a 275hp and standard in the Z28. The new models used a non-ozone depleting cfc-substitute air conditioning refrigerant referred to R-134a (a Camaro and Chevrolet first).
For a fourth time, Camaro was chosen to pace the Indy 500 -- the pace car was a striking black-over-white exterior with special multi-colored stripes and interior seat covers that featured a very special weaving process. Of those 633 pace car replicas – all featured a 4-speed automatic transmission save for one – which was built with a 6-speed manual transmission for Jim Perkins, who is not only an avid Camaro enthusiast – but served as general manager of Chevrolet Motor Division at the time – and further, drove the Camaro pace car for the race!
A total of 633 pace car replicas were produced for the public.
Many people could hardly wait to get their hands on a new “4th Gen” convertible – and in 1994 that was finally possible! The top was power operated and included a full headliner and heated rear window. Sequential fuel injection was added to the LT1 V8 engine. The Z28 standard 6-speed manual transmission featured “computer assisted gear selection” (much to the chagrin of enthusiasts) to improve fuel economy. New options included a keyless entry system, and leather seating surfaces in either graphite or neutral.
Units produced for the 1994 model year reached 119,799.
A much needed traction control system was now optional for Z28 models and a new all-season tire could be ordered to complement the system. A 200 hp V6 was optional on all base coupes and convertibles. It was the first year for RPD D42 – whereby customers could have roof and mirror color match the body color on coupes with the t-roof option. New exterior colors included purple, Sebring Silver, and Mystic Teal. Optional Delco-Bose stereo now had 5 speakers—based on customer input -- up from three the previous year.
122,738 units were produced for the ‘95 model year.
Two new models were added, the Rally Sport coupe and Rally Sport convertible. They included front and rear fascia extensions, ground effects along the sides, and a three piece rear spoiler extension. This option was actually added after the vehicle was completed at Sainte-Thérèse. Cars would be shipped to a division of ‘magna – decoma’ to have the RS package installed - then the vehicle would once again return Sainte-Thérèse for final inspection before being turned over to gen-auto for shipping. The 3.8 liter 200hp engine was made standard on all base models and was available with 5-speed manual or 4 speed automatic transmissions. The SS package made a come-back and was available to dealers from arrangements with Chevrolet and SLP Engineering of Troy, Michigan. The SS featured a 305 hp engine, special hood featuring a functional scoop and forced induction, restyled rear spoiler, revised suspension, corvette-style wheels and special badging. As with the RS package – vehicles would be shipped to the SLP Engineering facility in nearby LaSalle, Quebec for conversion to Camaro SS – then returned once again to Sainte-Thérèse for final inspection. Once all was approved, Camaro SS would be turned over to gen-auto for a train-ride to the United States. (or a truck-ride to select Canadian cities).
Production for the ‘96 model year was 61,362. Of those, 2,410 were of the new SS model.
Camaro turned 30! To celebrate, Camaro was chosen to pace the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August of ‘96. The pace car was a t-roof coupe in Arctic White with “Hugger Orange” heritage stripes – similar to the Indy 500 pace car of 1969. A special white and black hounds tooth interior fabric was featured – part of Camaro’s early heritage. Three pace cars were specially prepared for the race, but curiously, they were all 1996 models in 1997 anniversary trim. While all ‘97 Camaros featured a 30th anniversary logo on the front seats, a special “Z4C” anniversary package was available as a replica of the Brickyard pace car. The package was available as a Z28 coupe or convertible as well as an SS coupe or convertible. A total of 4,534 of these anniversary models were built. Interiors on all Camaros featured a new instrument panel and front seats. A new premium sound system was offered as was a 12 disc cd changer.
Camaro SS production reached 3,038 of which 958 were “Z4C” anniversary models. A total of 60,201 1997 Camaros were produced.
In addition to a completely restyled front end incorporating new reflector optic headlamps, fenders, hood, grille, and bumper fascia, there were between 650 and 1,000 new parts and components in the ‘98 Camaro versus the ‘97 models.
The biggest news was the all new, all aluminum Gen III 5.7 liter V8 engine. This Corvette inspired engine developed 305 horsepower in the Z28 and 320 horsepower in the Camaro SS performance/appearance package. All ‘98 Camaros now received a new Bosch 4-wheel disc brake system with integral abs. Cloth interior fabrics were new as was the edition of white leather which was now available on all Camaro models. The SS package was now produced for the most part at Sainte-Thérèse assembly -- with SLP Engineering adding the air induction hood and special SS rear spoiler (as well as any additional ‘second sticker’ content) SS production was down slightly to 3,017 – largely due to a GM strike. Further, with the additional changes to the Camaro, it took much longer to perform engineering validation on the new SS model.
Total Camaro production for the ’98 model was down to 48,490 again, largely due to the strike.
For 1999, traction control was now available on all Camaro models which assisted traction in inclement weather—something most Camaro customers were pleased to see. Gas tanks were enlarged to 16.8 gallons, new colors offered were “heritage” colors and included bright blue metallic, “Hugger” Orange as well as Light Pewter metallic -- of which pewter would become one of the best selling Camaro colors. SS production once again hit a high of 4,826 units – still not enough to meet demand.
Total Camaro production was 45,461 in the ’99 model year.
The two thousand model year brought several cosmetic changes to Camaro. The aluminum wheels – both 16” and 17" were restyled to give Camaro a fresh look. Interior fabrics were revised as were interior colors. A new color, Monterey Maroon, was introduced...and all colors were renamed to feature “descriptive” names. Once again, Camaro was used extensively at raceways country-wide as festival cars or pace cars – including 50 white Camaro SS convertibles which were used at the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis. Berger Chevrolet in Grand Rapids, Michigan celebrated their 75th anniversary by offering 30 limited edition 375 horsepower Camaro SS’s to the public — bringing back the nostalgia of the late 60’s and the C.O.P.O. cars offered by Berger, Yenko, Fred Gibbs, Nickey, Dana, and Baldwin Motion. GMMG of Atlanta, Georgia – and GMMG owner, Matt Murphy worked to produce limited edition cars for Berger, as well as Dale Earnhart Chevrolet – Tom Henry Chevrolet – Hot Rod magazine -- and Carl Black Pontiac (Firebird) SS production soared to 8,913 units.
2000 Camaro production was 45,417.
For 2001, Camaro offered even more horsepower and torque. The Z28 was rated at 310 hp and the SS at 325hp. The Camaro remained a low-emissions vehicle based on U.S. EPA regulations. Suspension changes improved ride compliance without sacrificing the legendary handling what is the essence of Camaro. Sunset Orange metallic was a new color for 2001. SLP Engineering added several additional “Second sticker” options - among those: Center mounted dual exhaust; a special Camaro SS grille insert; and a distinctive Camaro RS package on the 6 cylinder models that increased horsepower by 10 to 210hp (using ‘take-off’ Z28 exhaust systems) and dual black or silver racing stripes on the hood and deckled – along with RS emblems and optional 5-spoke “ZR1” style aluminum wheels. Camaro continued to receive accolades from the press and owners alike. The 2001 model year was cut short in order to start production of the 2002 model, which would be the last Camaro to be built for some time to come. In August of 2001, it was announced that Camaro – and its cousin the Pontiac Firebird – would go on "hiatus" for the foreseeable future after the 2002 model year -- and that the Sainte-Thérèse Assembly plant would be shuttered indefinitely.
2002 model year Camaro SS 35th Anniversary special edition coupes and convertibles were produced with RPO “Z4C” and included, among other things: A distinctive set of dual silver stripes that faded into a checkered flag effect on the hood and deck lid; a two-tone leather trimmed interior in ebony with pewter seat inserts; black painted wheels with machine finished facing; anodized brake calipers; 35th Anniversary emblems on and in each car; an embroidered trophy mat; and a special owner’s portfolio. Each of these cars was painted Bright Rally Red. These distinctive 35th Limited Editions were featured at the 2001 NASCAR Brickyard 400 in August of 2001 -- where Camaro had been the featured ‘Festival Car’ since the inaugural race in 1994.
In August of 2002, Camaro made a final appearance at the Brickyard when 57 Special Camaro SS Convertibles were built to serve as Festival Cars (once again!) Each of these cars featured RPO “Z7D” “Brickyard 400 Appearance Package” on the window label. They were distinctive in that they were painted Sebring Silver Metallic and featured the black painted 17 inch wheels with machine-faced finish wheels –lifted straight from the 35th Anniversary package.
All other 2002 Camaros featured a special dash plaque identifying it as a “35th Anniversary Camaro”. No other major changes were made the 2002 Camaro.
2002 model year, Chevrolet produced a total of 3,369 special Camaro SS’s to celebrate Camaro’s 35th Anniversary.
On August 27, 2002 at just after 9a.m. local time, the last Pontiac Firebird (a Bright Red Trans Am Convertible bearing VIN 22172466) rolled off the assembly line at Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec – followed closely by the last Camaro (a bright red Z28 convertible bearing VIN 22172467). Both cars were ordered as “non-saleable’ and are a part of the GM Heritage Collection. It was truly a very dark day for Camaro enthusiasts worldwide. The third car from the end of the line was a Bright Red Z28 Coupe (bearing VIN 22172461) that was, indeed, the ‘last saleable 4th generation Camaro.’ It was donated to S.A.V.E. (Students Against Violence Everywhere) – and auctioned off at the Kruse Fall auction in Auburn, Indiana over the Labor Day weekend of 2002. Among both cheers and tears, a Camaro enthusiast from Michigan had the winning bid of $72,500.
Camaro and Firebird enthusiasts waited patiently (but mostly impatiently!) for a 5th generation Camaro. No matter what the press event or enthusiast event – the first question to anyone at General Motors would be “And WHEN are you going to bring back the Camaro???”
You might say that many prayers were answered and on the morning of January 9, 2006, a Camaro Concept Coupe was unveiled to the world at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. Among the thousands to witness (in person) this dramatic unveil were 250 Camaro/Firebird enthusiasts from around the world. Many tens of thousands also watched the unveiling in real-time on the Internet. From the moment that the Silver Camaro concept stuck its nose thru the doorway onto the stage, the world was captivated by the thoroughly modern style with Camaro heritage cues.
In August of 2006, in front of thousands of Camaro enthusiasts, GM employees and GM suppliers, the announcement was made that the Camaro had just received a ‘green light’ to proceed with development. In early September, another announcement was made at the GM Assembly Plant in Oshawa, Ontario that, indeed, the new Camaro would be built at Oshawa – and once again, Camaro enthusiasts from Canada and the United States were on-hand to hear the good news.
In July of 2007, the Camaro concept became a true movie star when "Bumblebee" became the star of the movie Transformers. Two identically prepared Camaro concepts (on GTO chassis) were built in record time for the movie. They currently tour the United States and Canada and captivate audiences of all ages. (after all – it’s not exactly easy to help save the world!)
The 5th Generation Camaro will go into production in the 4th quarter of 2008 and be available as a 2010 model in the first quarter of 2009. The production Camaro is very close to the concept from which it has been borne. There ARE differences, but the changes are so slight that the average person would be hard pressed to tell the concept from the production car at 50 paces.
For over 40 years, Camaro has captured the hearts and minds of people world-wide. It’s one of the most recognized nameplates in the automobile industry. Each weekend, Camaro enthusiasts gather around the nation – indeed, the world – to celebrate what we like to call "Performance – American Style!" -- the Beloved Chevrolet Camaro.
The author would like to thank some very special Camaro enthusiasts for their very valuable input to this article:
Mr. Mike Antonick – who is the author of The Camaro White Book and The Corvette Black Book. Over the years, Michael has taken great care of the production records we’ve provided to him. He’s taken many pounds of paper and put them into an easy-to-carry format: that being the books mentioned above! I can’t tell you how many times The Camaro White Book has made my life much easier – allowing me to simply reach into my briefcase to answer a question – versus spending hours in file cabinets! THANK YOU, Mike! More information on these books can be found at www.corvetteblackbook.com.
Mr. Tony Hossain – a long-time employee of Chevrolet’s Advertising Agency: Campbell-Ewald. Moreover, Tony is a ‘dyed in the wool’ Camaro enthusiast that not only has owned Camaros for many years – but has written the verbage you read in the Camaro sales brochures for many years. He also wrote the beginning paragraphs of the Camaro History that you just read. Tony and I have worked closely over the years – and he’s my great friend. Tony – THANK YOU – for all you do – and for ‘keeping the faith!”
And finally – a "THANK YOU" to each and every man and woman who has worked so diligently to make Camaro – over 40 years -- a part of "Americana".