This page covers the first 2 generations of the Chevrolet Camaro (1967-1981). The Camaro, aside from obviously being inspired by the Ford Mustang, would, along with its Pontiac Firebird F-body twin, leave an unmistakeably positive and long-lasting legacy - not just in the pony-car race, but in the halls of GM history as well, and would become an iconic legend in its own right.
- Chevrolet Camaro
- Chevrolet Camaro 1982-2002 for info about the last 2 generations.
- Pontiac Firebird for info about the Camaro's twin.
|Body Style|| 2-Door Coupe|
|Transmission|| 2-Speed Automatic, RWD|
3-Speed Automatic, RWD
3-Speed Manual, RWD
4-Speed Manual, RWD
|Engine|| 3.8L (230 cid) I6 (1967-1969)|
4.1L (250 cid) I6 (1967-1969)
4.9L (302 cid) V8 (1967-1969)
5.0L (307 cid) V8 (1969)
5.3L (327 cid) V8 (1967-1969)
5.7L (350 cid) V8 (1967-1969)
6.5L (396 cid) V8 (1967-1969)
7.0L (427 cid) V8 (1969)
The Camaro's premier year, being introduced in November, 1966. Like its Mustang competition, the Camaro was also based on a compact, in this case the Chevy II (Nova). Unlike Ford's Mustang and Plymouth's Barracuda, the Camaro wasn't offered in a fastback version, just a hardtop coupe and convertible. The Camaro's construction was quite basic, having a unibody structure from the windshield and firewall back, with a separate steel rail front subframe. The front suspension was independent with double A-arms and a solid leaf-spring axle in the rear. And, like the Mustang, the options list on the Camaro could be quite dizzying with all the options and configurations available. Base engine was a 140 hp 3.8L (230 cid) I6, but a larger 155 hp 4.1L (250 cid) I6 could be had, but unlike the Pontiac Firebird's I6 engines, the Camaro's were a more conventional OHV version instead of Pontiac's OHC designs. A 210 hp 5.3L (327 cid) V8 was the base V8, with 2- or 4-bbl carb. A 295 hp 5.7L (350 cid) V8 was (naturally) standard in the SS-350, but the big kahuna was the big-block 6.5L (396 cid) V8, available in 325 or 375 hp guise. Transmissions included the 2-speed Powerglide and 3-speed Turbohydramatic transmissions, or a 3- or 4-speed manual.
Like its larger Chevelle and Impala brothers, the Camaro of course was available with the sport-oriented Super Sport (SS) package, but a Rally Sport (RS) package could also be had that included, in addition to a spruced-up interior, hidden headlights with parking lights below the bumper in the valance panel, and also had unique solid-red taillights with the reverse lights below the rear bumper in the valance. RS and SS packages could be overlapped, but unlike the SS, the RS was available with any engine, including the six-cylinders. SSs could have domed hood with simulated vents and a front "bumblebee" stripe design, or a side stripe. A Camaro RS/SS 396 convertible would pace the Indianapolis 500 this year, all being white with the requisite Pace Car decals and blue interior. Supposedly only 120 replicas were sold, making the 67 Camaro Pace Car one of the most sought-after Pace Cars ever.
Saving the best for last, let's not forget the Z/28. The Z/28 name came from the Z28 RPO code, and could also be had with the RS package. For its debut year, the Z/28's styling was very understated and quiet (unlike later versions in the late 1970s, which couldn't shout it loud enough) with no external badging anywhere, and was equipped with a unique (and underrated) 290 hp 4.9L (302 cid) V8 with a 4-speed manual transmission. This drivetrain was not shared with any other Camaro model. The 302 was produced by installing the crank from the smaller 4.7L (283 cid) V8 engine into the 327. Only 602 Z/28s were sold this year, making this the holy-grail of Z/28s with many collectors.
There were a few detail changes to the 1968 Camaro. First was the addition of federally-mandated side-marker lights. Front side vent windows were eliminated, thanks to the addition of the new "astro-ventilation" system. Grilles were different also - it now came to a small point in the center, and (on non-RS models) the parking lights were now oval instead of round. One mechanical change was the addition of staggered rear shocks (one in front, one in back) to help eliminate axle-hop under hard acceleration. Drivetrain choices were the same as in 1967, and the Z/28s now got "Z/28" fender badges.
Camaros were restyled this year, giving it the typical "longer, lower, wider" appearance theme that was popular back in those days. Fenders, quarters, grilles and taillights were all different, but dimensions remained largely the same. The interior got redesigned seats and a new dashboard. A new V8 debuted, a 200 hp 5.0L (307 cid) unit (no relation the the Oldsmobile 307 engine in the 1980s). The 327, 350 and 396 V8s were still available, and could still breathe plenty of fire if equipped properly. RS, SS and Z/28 models (with its unique 302 engine) also continued - the RS still had hidden headlights, but now they were hidden behind glass doors with 3 slats across them (this way in case a door failed to open, they still emitted some light, which was better than none).
The Camaro once again paced the Indianapolis 500, so a Pace Car was naturally offered again, which was white - but this time, however, instead of a blue interior, this one had an orange "houndstooth" interior and dual orange hood and decklid stripes. The Pace Car was based on the RS/SS convertible, and could have either the 350 or 396 V8 engine. The Pace Car is often known among Camaro'rs by its RPO code Z11, but during the model year, some northern-tier Chevy dealers complained that they couldn't move a convertible very easily... so Chevrolet offered a Z10 Pace Car hardtop coupe as an alternative to the convertible during the mid-year to satisfy their wishes. Other limited edition Camaros included the 7.0L (427 cid) V8 engine COPO 9561 models (Central Office Production Order), which included the Yenko, and the 425 hp COPO 9560 427 ZL-1 Camaros, in which only 69 were built, making this a true holy-grail Camaro among many collectors.
Due to the late introduction of the 2nd generation Camaros, the 1969 Camaros got an extended model year to the end of December, 1969. This would also be the highest-selling year of the first generation Camaro, and among many Camaro enthusiasts, the most desirable.
|Body Style||2-Door Coupe|
|Transmission|| 2-Speed Automatic, RWD|
3-Speed Automatic, RWD
3-Speed Manual, RWD
4-Speed Manual, RWD
|Engine|| 3.8L (229 cid) V6 (1980-1981)|
4.1L (250 cid) I6 (1970-1979)
4.4L (267 cid) V8 (1980-1981)
5.0L (305 cid) V8 (1976-1981)
5.7L (350 cid) V8 (1970-1981)
6.6L (402 cid) "396" V8 (1970-1972)
Despite the runaway success of the 1969 Camaro, GM, in a very bold move, nonetheless completely redesigned the Camaro (and Pontiac Firebird) for 1970. This would be an entirely different animal from the first generation model, this one taking many obvious styling cues from Ferrari and other European exotics which caught some people off-guard a little at first, but the buying public didn't take long at all to accept it, and it would ultimately be one of GM's most successful designs ever offered. Since this new design didn't debut until late in the 1970 model year (February), it is known by many as a "1970 1/2" model. A 2-door coupe was now the only bodystyle offered - no more convertibles, and the rear-seat room and trunk space would shrink a little compared to the 1st gens. The power window option would also be dropped (temporarily).
Base engine was now the 155 hp 250 cid I6, with the 200 hp 307 and 350 with 2- or 4-bbl carb as options - the 327 was no more. SS models had the 300 hp 350-4 as standard but could have a 350 hp or 375 hp 396 V8. 3- or 4-speed manual transmissions were offered or a 2-speed Powerglide on the I6 or 307 V8. A 3-speed automatic was available with any engine. This generation had an RS, but this time the RS consisted of a unique front clip with round parking lights beside the headlights and split front bumpers, instead of large rectangular parking lights below a full-length front bumper on standard versions. Taillights on both models were round with a matching round reverse light beside it, much like a Corvette.
The star of the show in this generation would be the Z/28, being promoted from a small supporting role in the last generation. The Z/28 would no longer have the high-winding 290 hp 302, but instead a 360 hp 350 LT-1, and unlike the previous Z could have an automatic transmission in addition to the 4-speed manual. Dual hood and decklid stripes were standard-fare, but they could be deleted if so desired.
Not a whole lot of changes in store for 1971. High-back bucket seats replaced the lower-back seats with adjustable headrests, and the Z/28 would now share the larger 3-piece spoiler with the other Camaro models, losing its unique low-style one piece unit. The LT-1 350 unfortunately suffered a 30 hp drop to 330 hp (an unfortunate sign of things to come), but other engines would continue as before with subsequent drops as well, due to lower compression ratios. The front side-marker lights now flashed in unison with the turn signals. Even though Pontiac would now have its big-inch 455 V8 in its Trans Am this year, Chevrolet resisted the urge to put its big-block 454 V8 in the Z28 or SS - it was still reserved only for the Corvette and Chevelle SS.
A United Auto Worker's strike hugely hampered F-body production, almost prompting GM to drop the F-body entirely. This severly crippled overall 1972 sales, even causing many models to ultimately be scrapped because they couldn't be updated to pass the new front-bumper crash standards. It is for this reason that 1972 is the rarest of the 2nd gen Camaros, which of course is a boon for collectors. All horsepower rating were rated under the net rating (as opposed to the gross rating), resulting in more horsepower drops across the board. The SS hung in for one more year, and still could have the big-block 396 (really a 402 by now, but still called 396) but was now rated at 240 hp - actually a bit lower than the top 350 that was now rated at 255. All models got a slightly revised grille but were otherwise identical to the 1971s.
Another slightly revised grille and stronger front bumpers were changes for this year, even though the bumpers still mostly looked the same. SS models were gone, the Z/28 was now the top dog, and would remain so until the SS would return in 1996. The 402 (aka 396) was also gone, as was the LT-1 350, replaced by a 245 hp L48 350. A new model was added, the Type LT, which had an upgraded interior and some fancier trim - it was basically a Camaro version of Pontiac's luxury-oriented Firebird Esprit. Air conditioning was now available on the Z28 for the first time. The 2-speed Powerglide transmission was no longer available. Speedometers now read to 130 MPH instead of 150 MPH, the console automatic shifter became a single-rod design with a push-button atop the shifter, replacing the previous "horseshoe" design (or giant staple, depending on your point of view), and power windows became available for the first time in this generation when the center console was ordered.
Camaros underwent a restyling this year, sporting a new nose and tail. The front end sloped rearward and incorporated new larger federally-mandated 5-MPH aluminum bumpers. Parking lights were round and beside the headlights much like the previous RS model, which was now discontinued (temporarily). In the rear, taillights were now a single rectangular units that wrapped around and doubled as the rear side marker lights. Rear bumpers were also now the larger type. Base engine was still the 100 hp 250 I6, but the 307 was no more, the base V8 was now a 145 hp 350-2, with a 160 hp 350-4 as an option (and standard on the Z28, which incidentally no longer used the slash). The new bumper design added weight, but Chevy at least should be credited for incorporating their new bumpers on the Camaro much better than many other manufacturers did, many of which looked like afterthoughts. Z28s had a different decal scheme than before, cars so equipped had a large single stripe down the hood and decklid with "Z28" at the ends. 1974 models are instantly identifiable by the large front and rear bumpers with the flat rear window of the earlier models, since this is the only year of this particular style.
Camaro enthusiasts were in for a shock this year as the Z28 was officially dead (or on hiatus, actually), even though Pontiac continued its Trans Am. Biggest visual change this year was a new rear window that wrapped down into the roof sail panels, greatly improving rearward visibility. Catalytic converters were the order of the day also, which mandated the use of unleaded gasoline. Inside, the door panels were redesigned. There were now base, Type LT, and the Rally Sport model reappeared this year, but by now it was merely a two-tone paint, stripe and decal package. Base engine was still the 250 I6, with the 350 2- or 4-bbl V8 as options.
Not many changes in 1976, the Type LTs now had a brushed-aluminum panel between the taillights. A new engine debuted, the 130 hp 5.0L (305 cid) 2bbl V8. The 110 hp 250 I6 was still the base engine, but the 165 hp 350 could now only have a 4bbl carburetor, which surely was fine with most folks. Power brakes were now standard (which most had anyway except the basest of base Camaros), and cruise control became a new option on automatic models.
No doubt inspired by the Trans Am's success over on the Pontiac side, Chevy surely wanted to cash in on some of that success, so the big news this year was of course the return of the Z28 mid-year. The 170 hp 350 V8 was still the top option, and it was now a separate model instead of an option package. Since this Z28 didn't have the ground-pounding power of its predecessors, it concentrated more on handling prowess and luxury features as its claim to fame. Other models continued with little change, delay wipers became available for the first time.
Even though the Camaro was entering its 9th model year in the same form, it was still fast becoming one of Chevrolet's most successful selling models (Pontiac was having the same success with its Firebird line). Camaros this year sported another new nose and tail, up front was a body-colored urethane bumper with a second faux grille below, and parking lights were square with rounded edges. In the rear was a similar body-colored urethane bumper as well that now housed the license plate assembly. Taillights were now larger and tri-colored with a separate amber turn-signal lense. Z28s got louvered front fender vents and a fake hood scoop and smaller, less pronounced decals than last year. T-tops became available this year, 2 years after they became available on the Firebird, and were available on all models.
The Camaro might have been getting slower and slower, but it kept getting hotter and hotter in the sales department - an unprecedented 282,571 models sold this year, which was the most ever for the Camaro for any generation. There were a few changes this year - inside there was a new flatter dashboard that no longer wrapped around the driver, but the gauges and instruments were still in the same locations as before. An electric rear window defroster became available for the first time this year. Base, RS and Z28s continued as before, but a new model, the luxury-oriented Berlinetta, replaced the Type LT. Engines and drivetrain choices were the same as 1978.
There were a few detail changes to the Z28, as it now had the lower front air dam and front and rear wheel well fender flares that the Trans Ams had (hey, they worked well for the Trans Am, so why not the Z28?). Also a new fin-spoked turbine-style rim debuted, available on the Z28 or Berlinetta, but the body-colored 5-spoke 15" rim was still available on the Z28. Z28 decals now started at the front fender flares and ran across the bottoms of the doors. There was also a Z28 stripe at the bottom of the rear spoiler.
A few changes for the 1980 model, at the low end was the 250 I6 being dropped in favor of a new 110 hp 3.8L (229 cid) V6 (the Buick 231 V6 was standard on California models). A forgettable 120 hp 4.4L (267 cid) V8 became available on all versions except the Z28. The 305 now had a 4 bbl carburetor, and the 350 got an hp increase to 190, but it was reserved for the Z28 only this year. As an unfortunate sign of things to come, all speedometers now read a depressing 85 MPH. Z28s got a new unique horizontally-louvered grille, revised decal graphics and a new 5-spoke aluminum rim design (which would later be used on the 1986-88 Monte Carlo SS), but the older body-color 5-spoke was still available. The front fender vents were no longer louvered, they were now flat. Base, RS and Berlinetta otherwise continued and also got new grilles. F-body sales took a nasty nosedive this year, selling nearly half of what they did just the year prior. Another middle east oil embargo resulting in spiking gas prices were surely to blame, but the Camaro was also in its eleventh year without a whole lot of change, and was quickly becoming a shadow of its former self and an old-fashioned gas-guzzler in much of the public's eyes.As a special note.1980 also had funtional air induction with a trap door located in the hood scoop.
Camaro's final year of this generation, it didn't change much at all as an all-new 3rd generation was waiting in the wings - and it was clearly time. 1981s were virtually identical to the '80 models, but the 81s did get the all-new GM Computer Command Control for its engines, which certified all engines for 50 states. The 350 engine in the Z28 could no longer be had with a 4-speed manual transmission - if you wanted a 4-speed Z28, you had to settle for the smaller 305 (Canadian models could still have the 350/4-speed combo, however). RS models were also gone this year, although the RS designation would reappear in 1989. Base and Berlinettas continued, but overall sales dropped drastically again to just over 70,000 units - most Camaro fans were undoubtedly waiting for the all new redesigned 1982 model debut.
But one has to admit... for as long as this bodystyle stuck around, it was overall immensely popular, and the 2nd generation Camaro (and Firebird), after decades of being mere used cars, are now fast appreciating in value and becoming darlings of collectors, especially early (and even late) model Z28s. If you're looking to perhaps purchase one before the prices go up, better not wait too long to grab one.
- AMC Javelin
- Dodge Challenger
- Ford Mustang
- Mercury Capri (1979-1981)
- Mercury Cougar (1970-1973)
- Plymouth Barracuda
To be continued...