In June of 1966, General Motors held a press conference regarding their upcoming Ford Mustang beating muscle car, borne out of the 1964 XP-836 prototype. This car was codenamed “Panther”, but eventually, the name “Camaro” was chosen. This car would be based on the GM F-body platform shared with the Pontiac Firebird.
The first generation Camaro started production in September 1966 for the 1967 model year. Dimensionally, the Camaro was very similar to the Ford Mustang: the wheelbase for both cars was the same, at 108 inches (2743 mm); but the Camaro was longer and wider (184.7 in vs. the Mustang’s 183.6; and 72.5 in wide vs. the Mustang’s 70.9 in width). It was available in two body styles: hardtop and convertible. Besides the base model, the Camaro came available with SS and RS packages; a combination of both was also available as the SS/RS. Engine choices included the 350 (5.7L) small block V8 and the 396 (6.5L) big block V8. A Trans-Am racing spec Z/28 debuted with a 302 CI (4.9L) V8. Trans Am dictates that the participating race cars must not have engines larger than 305 CI (5.0L). The mill in the Z/28 was good for 290 horsepower. That year, 220,906 Camaros were produced, 64,842 of which were RS models. Only 602 Z/28s were produced.
1968 saw a slight update to the Camaro. The SS gained the 396 big block V8, which threw out 350 horsepower. The Z/28 became a regular option in the Camaro lineup. Despite that, the Z/28 was again outsold by the SS and RS that year.
The Camaro was refreshed again for 1969. Although initially the front end featured a hideaway headlight design like on prior models, the circular light models were redesigned to have the lights more recessed into the air intake. The delayed introduction of the then-new second generation 1970 Camaro meant that the 1969 Camaro would continue production into November that year, 243,085 units total.
When the second generation Camaro entered production in February 1970, it had started a false rumour that it was a “1970 1/2”. But with production starting early in 1970, that made it still a fully “1970” model. Model years for North American market automobiles begin the fourth quarter of the preceding year (usually the earliest on October 1st), and go on until September of the advertised year. That is why continued production of the 1969 Camaro into November 1969 caused public confusion as to if that model was a 1970, and the second generation being a 1970 1/2. This model retained its “egg-crate” grille front end design through 1973.
In 1972, Camaro production would suffer vastly due to a United Automobile Workers strike at the Norwood assembly plant in Ohio, and failure to meet federally mandated bumper safety regulations. This had forced the engineers to redesign the Camaro for 1974.
And redesign they did. It was given a sloped front end and protruding aluminum safety bumpers to meet federal 5-mph crash standards. Also, 1974 was the final year for the Z28, 13,802 produced out of 150,000 Camaros for 1974. 1975 would see a drastic change to the Camaro lineup. The energy crisis of the 1970s had caused the downsizing and/or discontinuation of many American sports and muscle cars. The Camaro did not change much, save for the addition of a catalytic converter, which reduced emissions. Catalytic converters were added to all GM vehicles, and electronic ignition was also introduced. Camaro sales for 1975 was at 145,770 units. Although not a regular production option, the 1977 Camaro saw the return of the Z28 package as a 1977 1/2. This model featured a 350 V8 producing 185 horsepower. Although a Borg-Warner Super T-10 4-speed manual transmission was available, most cars were equipped with a 3-speed automatic.
1978 saw a redesign which added body-color urethane bumpers in place of the aluminum bumpers, giving it a distinctly sportier look. A T-Top was added to the lineup, and the 1979 model saw an introduction of the Berlinetta. 1979 saw record sales of the Camaro: 282,571 units that year. The 1981 Camaro came with an emissions reducing unit called “Computer Command Control” (CCC). Canadian ’81 Camaros did not get CCC.
The third generation Camaro began production in October 1981 for the 1982 model year. Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for 1982 saw three variants in its lineup: Sport Coupe, Berlinetta, and Z28. The Sport Coupe would be available with a 2.5L 4-cylinder, 2.8L LC1 V6, or a 5.0L LG4 V8. The Berlinetta also came with these same engine options, save the base 2.5-liter.
The Z28 in the 1982 lineup was notably underpowered; its 5.0L LG4 V8 threw out 145 horsepower. The Z28 was a pace car for the 1982 Indianapolis 500, and 6,360 pace car replicas were produced for the public. In addition to the “Z28” badging, the car had a distinct two-tone livery, and the door panels had the 1982 Indianapolis 500 logo plastered on them, with “The Sixty-Six – May 30th, 1982” as the smaller-print tagline underneath.
The Z28 was updated in 1983, featuring a 5.0L “High-Output” V8. This engine produced 190 horsepower, and could be coupled up to either a Borg-Warner 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic.
1985 saw a refresh to the Camaro. The IROC-Z was a new model which featured low ride height and Tuned Port Injection. This brought increased power to the Camaro, with either a 215 horsepower 5.0L LB9 or a 4-barrel High Output 305 L69 good for 190 horsepower. Fewer than 2,500 IROC-Z’s were produced for 1985. In 1987, the Berlinetta was dropped from the lineup, replaced with the LT, and Camaro production in Norwood, Ohio was coming to an end. The new Camaro production facility had moved to Van Nuys, California.
In 1988, the Z28 was dropped, and replaced by the more popular IROC-Z. All models had fuel injection. The 1990 model year proved to be exceptionally short – not 30,000 or more made it off the assembly line before December 1989 had ended. This was because of the early introduction of the refreshed ’91 models. The IROC-Z was dropped from the lineup that year.
February 1990 saw the early introduction of the 1991 Camaro. This would be the year the B4C “Special Service” option was introduced. The B4C was a performance-boosting law enforcement package much like what was used in the Ford Mustang SSP highway patrol car. From 1991 to 1992, fewer than 1,200 B4C police Camaros were produced. The Van Nuys assembly plant in California ended production of the third-gen Camaro in August 1992, and Camaro production moved to another plant.
The fourth generation Camaro began production at the new assembly plant in Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec, Canada in November 1992, and sold to the public starting January 1993. This new rounded Camaro, designed by Ken Okuyama of Ken Okuyama Design, had the same 101 inch wheelbase as the previous Camaro, but was longer (193.2 in) and wider (74.1 in), and featured an optional T-Top and 2+2 seating. The 1993 Camaro came in two trims: base and Z28. The Z28 featured the same 5.7L LT1 small-block V8 as in the Corvette. This threw out 275 horsepower and 325 lb/ft of torque, and was coupled to a Borg-Warner 6-speed manual transmission.
In 1995, the 3800 Series II V6 was introduced as the engine option for base Camaros sold in California. This same engine would replace the 3.4L L32 as the base engine in 1996. The Z28 saw a power boost to 285 horsepower. Returning to the lineup that year were the RS and SS. In 1997, the Camaro turned 30, and to celebrate, a “30th Anniversary Limited Edition” debuted which featured a unique white and orange stripe exterior paint livery. A total of 979 “30th Anniversary” Camaro SS models were produced for 1997, with 108 additional models available with the modified LT4 small-block which produced 330 horsepower.
1998 saw a refresh to the Camaro, which featured a front-end redesign and a new engine. The 5.7L LS1 replaced the LT1 found in earlier Z28s of this generation. The LS1 (also found in the Corvette) threw out 345 horsepower. The Camaro remained largely unchanged throughout its production run for the next few years. However, 2001 would see the lowest production volume for this generation, as preparation for its 35th Anniversary Edition for 2002 was already underway. The new engine option for the SS and Z28 models were the LS6, replacing the LS1. This unit was good for 310 to 325 horsepower. Production for 2001 barely made it past 29,000 units, and the 2002 models totaled 42,098. The final F-body Camaros ended production in Boisbrand, Quebec, Canada in August of 2002.
General Motors had proposed a rebirth of the Camaro in the form of the 2006 Camaro concept shown at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in January that year. The concept featured a retro body style that resembled early Camaros of the 60’s, and it rode on GM’s Zeta platform shared with the Australian Holden Commodore full-size sports sedan. After teasing several more concept Camaros (including a convertible version), General Motors announced in March 2008 that they would begin production of the long-awaited Camaro.
The long-anticipated fifth generation Camaro entered production at the Oshawa plant in Ontario, Canada in March 2009, exactly one year after GM’s Camaro production announcement. Like the 2006 concept, this car rode on the Zeta platform, and somewhat retained the concept’s retro outfit. Measured against the previous generation produced from 1993 to 2002, the new Camaro had a wheelbase longer by 11 inches (112.3 in versus the previous gen’s 101.1 in). It was shorter (190.4 in) but wider (75.5 in) than the 4th-gen model. Measured against the first-gen 1969 model, its wheelbase was longer, with the ’69’s being at 108 inches (2,743 mm). The 2010 was nearly 4 1/2 inches longer than the 1969, and 1 1/2 inch wider.
At its introduction, the 2010 Camaro was available only as a coupe with LS, LT, and SS trim levels. For engine options, the LS and LT got the 3.6L LLT V6 throwing 304 horsepower @ 6400 rpm, and the SS got either the LS3 or L99 V8. While both measured at 6.2 liters, the L99 was the lesser V8, throwing 400 horsepower while the LS3 produced 426 horsepower. While the same Hydra-Matic 6-speed automatic transmission was available for all models, the 6-speed manual transmissions were different for each. The LS/LT got an Aisin unit, while the SS complimented its V8 with a Tremec TR-6060 unit. Model year 2011 saw the introduction of the convertible. It could utilize the 3.6L V6 like the LS/LT models, and the 6.2L V8 as in the SS. The 2012 Camaro ZL1 debuted at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2011. This model featured a supercharged 6.2L LSA V8, making a great 580 horsepower @ 6000 rpm, and 556 lb/ft of torque @ 4200 rpm. The high performance of this ultra Camaro was complimented further with a MagneRide suspension and six-piston Brembo brake calipers. The Camaro was given a cosmetic update in 2014, which made the Camaro’s headlights thinner, as well as revised taillights. These were one-piece strips, as opposed to the 2010-2013 block type lights. Hardly much had changed for the 2015 model due to the upcoming debut of the sixth generation 2016 model.
The sixth generation Camaro was introduced to the public in May 2015 as a 2016 model. This time, it rode on the Alpha platform shared with the Cadillac ATS and CTS. The LS/LT trims were equipped with the 2.0L LTG Ecotec and 3.6L LGX V6. The latter was available only for the LT. The 1SS/2SS got the 6.2L LT1 V8 shared with the Corvette. This engine threw out 455 horsepower @ 6000 rpm, and 650 lb/ft of torque @ 4400 rpm. 2017 saw the introduction of the revised ZL1 model. This time, it threw out 650 horsepower from its 6.2L LT4 V8. From here, the Camaro would be little changed, save the 2019 model year cosmetic update.