Pontiac Firebird

Although John Z DeLorean had a hard time getting the 1964 Pontiac Banshee concept (codenamed XP-833) greenlit for production, a joint effort on the “F-body” platform for both the Chevrolet and Pontiac divisions made it abundantly clear to GM that they would need a pony car lineup to compete in production and sales against the Ford Mustang and Mercury Cougar.  Thus, 1967 marked the beginning of GM’s endeavour into producing four generations of both the Camaro and Firebird over the next 35 years.

1968 Firebird convertible

The first generation Firebird entered production in February of 1967.  The wheelbase sat at 108.1 inches (2746 mm) and exterior length at 189 inches.  This made the Firebird dimensionally similar to the Camaro, down to the same 108-inch wheelbase.  Power for the standard model came from a 230 CI (3.8L) inline-6.  This engine was similar to Chevrolet’s inline-6, but featured a unique cast iron block and aluminum valve cover.  With a single barrel carburetor, this engine developed 165 horsepower.  A four-barrel “Sprint” model developed 215 horsepower.  Detroit’s performance specials for the Firebird were four V8 engine options: the 326 (5.3L) Pontiac V8, a 326 “high output” (HO), a 400 (6.6L) Pontiac V8, and the 400 Ram Air V8.  The 326 was capable of 250 horsepower and its “high output” counterpart developed 285 horses.  Although both versions of the 400 V8 developed 325 horsepower, the Ram Air gave the Firebird functional hood scoops, low-end torque and high redline.  In 1968, the 230 engine was replaced by a 250 CI (4.1L) engine for both the standard and Sprint models.  A new 350 CI (5.7L) V8 replaced the 326 and power ratings for the 400 went up.  The base 400 jumped up to 330 horsepower, and the Ram Air and High Output developed 335 horsepower.  Soon though, Pontiac decided to axe the Ram Air engine option, only to return it to the lineup and give it more power.  The revised “Ram Air II” now made 340 horsepower.  In 1969, an appearance and handling package called Trans Am was introduced.  The Trans Am’s power was delivered via a 400 CI Ram Air V8; good for 335 to 345 horsepower.  That year, a total of 689 Trans Am coupes and 8 Trans Am convertibles were produced.

The second generation Firebird was met with design and production delays, meaning there would be no 1970 model per se.  Thus, the “1970 1/2” debuted in February 1970.  Production started off well, with 48,739 units in 1970, and 53,125 for 1971.  New was the 455 (7.5L) V8, which packed 325 horsepower.  A high-output Ram Air IV packed 335 horses.  A labour strike in 1972 resulted in vastly reduced production of the Firebird.  1972 production remained mainly unchanged from 1971, with the exception of a slight restyle.  The 455 engine was upgraded in 1973, and was called “Super Duty 455”.  This SD-455 featured a strengthened cylinder block, forged crankshaft, forged rods, and forged aluminum pistons.  The Firebird was facelifted in 1974 to feature a “shovel-nose” front-end and crash safety components.  The addition of mandated safety features also added curb weight.  A wrap-around rear windshield was implemented into the 1975 model.  To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Pontiac brand, the Firebird for 1976 gained some “Limited Edition” anniversary models.  This was the first time a Trans Am would feature black with gold accents as a livery option.

1978 Firebird

1977 saw a restyle to the Firebird; mainly, a restyled front end which now featured rectangular headlights.  Although the front fascia was similar for both the 1977 and 1978 models, they featured slightly different grille designs.  The 1977 had a honeycomb design and the 1978 had a crosshatch.  The most popular Firebird trim for both these years was the Trans Am, which got power from a 400 CI (6.6L) V8.  Power output for 1977 was 200 horsepower, but increased to 220 in 1978.

1980 Trans Am 4.9

The Firebird was redesigned again in 1979.  This was the last year a Trans Am featured a 6.6-liter as its engine.  For 1980, the 400 was replaced by a 301 CI (4.9L) unit.  Although the T/A did feature either a naturally aspirated 4.9-liter or a turbocharged variant, some models were supplied with a 305 CI (5.0L) Chevy V8.  The naturally aspirated T/A drew 155 horsepower and turbocharged models could develop 210 to 220 horsepower.  Models with the Chevy engine developed 150 horsepower.  The 1979 redesign was kept intact until the end of the second generation’s run in 1981.

The third generation Firebird debuted in model year 1982.  Like the Chevrolet Camaro, its wheelbase was shortened to 101 inches.  The bodywork resembled that of the then-new third generation Camaro.  The trim levels for the Firebird were Base, S/E, and Trans Am.  The base model was powered by a 90 horsepower 151 CI (2.5L) “Iron Duke“; the S/E got the 173 CI (2.8L) Chevy V6; and the Trans Am got the 305 CI (5.0L) V8.  Depending on setup, the Trans Am could develop either 145 or 165 horsepower.  The first option, codenamed LG4, was the 4-barrel carb variant.  The LU5 option added 20 horsepower to the 305 V8, replacing the 4-barrel carburetor with Cross-Fire Injection; a system also seen in the Corvette that year.  In 1983, the S/E came available with a “high output” 2.8L.  This unit now made 125 horsepower.  As for the Trans Am, power went up to 150 horsepower.  The 25th Anniversary Daytona 500 Limited Edition amped that power up to 175 horsepower.  In 1984, the Trans Am was also available with a “high output” version of its 5.0L V8.  This engine produced 190 horsepower.  In 1986, the base model transitioned to V6 power and the Trans Am got tuned-port fuel injection (TPI).

1987 Trans Am
1988 Trans Am GTA

In 1987, the S/E was dropped from the lineup and replaced with the Formula.  The Formula model got power from a 5.0L V8, a feature on past Trans Ams.  This 5.0-liter developed 155 horsepower.  The Trans Am could throw out 165 horsepower from the same 305 V8.  New for 1987 was the Trans Am GTA (Gran Turismo Americano).  The GTA utilized a 350 Ci (5.7L) V8 with tuned port injection, which developed 225 horsepower.  1989 saw the addition of a Corvette-sourced 5.7L TPI and a Buick-sourced 3.8L V6 in the Trans Am models.  The TPI threw 230 – 240 horsepower, and the Buick V6 developed 250 horsepower.  In 1991 the Firebird lineup was given a facelift.  The new design made the vehicle look more rounded and aerodynamic.  Convertible versions of the V6 and V8 base and Trans Am were available.  The third gen Firebird soldiered on until 1992.

The fourth generation Firebird reflected styling cues from the 1988 Banshee IV concept.  This meant the new-for-1993 Firebird had a more aerodynamic contour, in leu of the Camaro’s redesign that year.  Also, the production facility relocated to Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec (Canada).  The base model got power from the 3.4L L32 V6, developing 160 horsepower.  This was the base engine for the Firebird across the board, except for California.  California models were installed with the Series II 3.8L Buick V6.  A new-generation LT1 (also referred to as LT1 350) was the sole power for the Trans Am.  Following tradition, the LT1 was a 350 cubic inch (5.7-liter) V8; also installed in the Corvette.  Power ratings for the LT1 were detuned from the Corvette variant, making 200 horsepower for the Trans Am.  Depending on the model, the transmission options ranged from 4-speed automatic, 5-speed manual, and 6-speed manual.  The Turbo-Hydramatic 4L60/4L60E was the automatic transmission available in the Firebird for its entire generational production.  The Borg-Warner T-5 was the 5-speed manual that was available in some V6 models, and the T56 6-speed manual was installed in the Trans Am.  For 1994 only, a special version of the Trans Am, called Trans Am GT, was produced.  The GT retained the look of its base counterpart, and some GT models could be had with an “uplevel spoiler”, coupe, targa, and convertible tops.  While these weren’t official Trans Am GT packages, but were installed anyway.  The majority of the available equipment on the 1994 GT would become standard on subsequent Trans Ams.  In 1996, OBD-II (onboard diagnostics) became standard on all vehicles.  This included the Pontiac Firebird.  The Series II Buick V6 previously available only in California models were now the base engine for the Firebird.  In 1997, all models got air conditioning, daytime running lights, digital odometer, and compact disc (CD) players as standard equipment.  In conjunction with SLP Engineering, Pontiac produced 29 examples of the LT4-powered Firehawk.  The Firehawk was named after the Firestone Firehawk tires installed on the car, and the LT4 was a 350 cubic inch (5.7-liter) Small-Block V8.

In 1998, the Firebird received a mid-cycle refresh.  Notable changes included a more aggressive body kit with wide air intakes and circular fog lights inserted into the front splitter.  The Formula and Trans Am switched to the all-aluminum LS1 engine.  Although the Corvette-sourced units produced nearly 350 horsepower, the Trans Am produced 325 horsepower.  2002 was the Firebird’s final model year.  To celebrate, a “Collector Edition” Trans Am was produced.  Features included special exterior paint colors, pin-striping, decals, and a WS6 performance package.  Power mirrors and power antenna were standard equipment for the Firebird in 2002.

In the wake of the 2008-2009 economic recession, General Motors began to consider phasing out some brands, including Pontiac.  After chapter 11 bankruptcy was filed, Pontiac’s fate was sealed.  Pontiac manufactured its last ever vehicle (a G6 sedan) in January of 2010.  The Pontiac brand was officially defunct in October of that year.  Although the Chevrolet division had announced a comeback of the Camaro after an 8-year hiatus, Pontiac couldn’t afford to bring the Firebird back – not even for 2010.  Thus, it can be said that the Firebird/Trans Am lives on in spirit in the form of its former platform cousin the Chevrolet Camaro.

Chevrolet Corvette Part One: Harley Earl, Duntov, and Stingray

The Chevrolet Corvette is a sports car produced by General Motors (GM) since 1953.  In its first generation from 1953 to 1962, the Corvette was a convertible, and since 1963 has been available also as a coupe.

The first generation Corvette, dubbed C1, debuted as the EX-122 at the GM Motorama in New York in January 1953.  Chevrolet’s amateur reputation at the time gave them little guarantee that they would ever build an all-American sports car for cheap, as the sports car market in the 50’s was comprised of expensive high-end Alfas, Jaguars, and Healeys.  However, the presence of 45,000 attendees at the GM Motorama and their fascination with the EX-122 prototype convinced GM that they should start production of the Corvette right away.  The Corvette rolled off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan in June of 1953.  Cosmetically, the production vehicle differed very little from the prototype; its wheelbase at 102 inches (2600 mm), and exterior length at 167 inches (4250 mm).  Power came from a 235 CI (3.9L) Blue Flame inline-6, which produced 150 horsepower.  Due to the Corvette’s rushed production and poor decisions on discount parts, only 300 units were built for 1953.  In 1954, Corvette production moved to St. Louis, Missouri, with the hope that Corvette production would total at least 10,000 units annually.  Unfortunately, only 3640 Corvettes were produced for the 1954 model year.  Even more abysmal was the 700-unit turnout in 1955.  These poor production figures almost killed the Corvette project.

It was the then chief engineer Ed Cole who revived the Corvette and kept the ideal image of the “sports car” in the public mind.  In order to retain the flair it had when it debuted at the 1953 Motorama, it needed more finesse.  The Belgian-born engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov had the idea of installing the 265 CI (4.3L) Small-Block V8 into the 1955 Corvette.  Low production numbers aside, the Corvette was an improvement from the two years before: not only did it have the original Blue Flame inline-6, but the new V8 was much more powerful.  In fact, more Corvettes had the V8 rather than the inline-6.  The Corvette was redesigned for 1956, and the six-cylinder was dropped from the engine lineup.  The Small-Block V8 was upgraded to deliver 210 to 240 horsepower.  Exterior length was increased to 168 inches (4300 mm).  The Corvette was little changed for 1957, except for the updated 283 CI (4.6L) V8, which produced 283 horsepower.  This made the Corvette to be the first vehicle to feature an engine with “one HP per cubic inch”.

1958 Corvette
1959 Corvette

The Corvette was given a dramatic facelift in 1958.  It featured a wealth of chrome – all the rage that year – and a four-headlight design.  This was a predominant design feature on GM’s 1958 passenger vehicles.  Exterior length was increased to 177 inches (4500 mm).  The 283 V8 was rated for 290 horsepower.  The 1959 Corvette, although largely unchanged, featured less chrome.  The chrome was removed from the louvers and the rear trunk.  This gave the Corvette a smoother and sleeker look.  This design was kept until 1960.

1961 – 1962 Corvette

In 1961, the Corvette received a fine-mesh grille and a  “boat-tail” rear end with quad-taillights.  The 283 Small-Block was fuel injected to deliver up to 315 horsepower.  In the C1 Corvette’s final year, the Small-Block V8 was enlarged to 327 cubic inches (5.4L), and rated between 250 and 360 horsepower.  More than 69,000 Corvettes were produced in the first generation.

The second generation “C2” Corvette began production for 1963.  Seemingly overnight, the Corvette received some radical changes, such as more rigid structural steel and independent rear suspension.  The “Sting Ray” was designed as a sleek fastback with a split rear windshield; however, the split rear design proved controversial, and was changed to a singular piece in 1964.

The wheelbase was shorter, at 98 inches (2500 mm); and exterior length measured 179.3 inches (4554 mm).  Power came from the carried-over 327 V8, which produced 250, 300, 340, or 360 horsepower, depending on the engine compression ratio.  Chevy produced 199 race-oriented models called Z06, an option priced at $1818.  These cars were nicknamed “Big Tanks” or “tankers” due to their enormous 36.5 gallon (138 liter) fuel capacity.  For 1964, the Corvette was slightly restyled.  The hood louvers and split rear windshield were deleted, and the engine produced 365 horsepower (up 5 horses) in stock form.  The options price was jacked up to $538 for a fuel-injected version, which produced 375 horsepower.  New for 1965 was a “Turbo Jet” 396 CI Big-Block V8.  This unit was carbureted, and capable of 425 horsepower.

1966 Corvette coupe

1966 saw a slight change yet again to the Corvette.  The front grille gained an egg-crate design, and coupes gained simplified rear pillars.  With 10.25:1 compression, the Big-Block could develop 390 horsepower; and 11:1 compression gave 425 horses.  With more Big-Blocks selling, demand for the Small-Block 327 waned.  The Small-Block in the 1966 Corvette developed either 300 or 350 horsepower.  GM’s Corvette engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov, held next-generation production at bay.  The C3 Corvette was originally planned as a 1967 model, but the C2 stayed for a year longer.  Although little changed from the year before, the wildest Corvette employed a “Tri-Power” Big-Block, which could throw out 435 horsepower with 11:1 compression.  Throughout its entire production run, the C2 Corvette totaled 117,964 units.

The third generation “C3” Corvette was introduced for 1968, and it featured exterior styling much like the 1965 Mako Shark II concept.  Other than that, the Corvette kept pretty much all else the same with the chassis, still sitting on a 98-inch wheelbase.  The base engine to power the Corvette was a 327 (5.4L) Small-Block V8, distributing 300 to 350 horsepower.  However, the big guns to really put down lots of power were the various forms of the 427 (7.0L) Big-Block: a 390 horsepower 4-barrel; a 400 horsepower Tri-Power; a 430 horsepower 4-barrel carb; and a 435 horsepower 3X2 barrel carb.  For 1969, the Small-Block was bored out to 350 CI (5.7L).  Although the displacement went up, power remained the same at 300 and 350 horsepower.  The “Sting Ray” model had “Stingray” written as one word for the front fender emblems.  It should be noted that the “Stingray” name would be limited to this generation before it went on hiatus for several generations.  Also, 1969 saw the first sales ratio in favour of coupes: 22,129 coupes versus 16,633 convertibles.

1971 Stingray

“Four-barrel carburetor” was the name of the game in 1970, when the redesigned Corvette gained a 4-barrel-carb version of the 350 Small-Block, and two Big-Blocks (LS5 and LS7).  A two-month labour strike in 1969 caused Corvette production to decrease by half: only 17,316 were produced for 1970.  Also putting a damper into Corvette production was the recently passed “Clean Air Bill” which required all vehicles produced to meet emissions requirements.  The new 4-barrel carb Small-Block was codenamed “LT-1“, and it developed 370 horsepower.  The Big-Block was bored out to 454 CI (7.4L), and it produced 390 horsepower.  Although a 460 horsepower LS7 Big-Block was rumoured to be in the lineup, it proved environmentally unfriendly; none are known to be produced for sale.  Thus, the LS7 was not offered again.  All engines were detuned in 1971.  The 350 Small-Block dished out 270 horsepower for the base, and 330 for the LT-1.  The 454 Big-Block came in two forms: the 365 horsepower LS5 and the LS6.  The LS6 was a detuned LS7 which produced 425 horsepower.  This helped Corvette sales to recover somewhat.

1972 Stingray

Power ratings for 1972 transitioned to the SAE net system.  The LS6 was discontinued, leaving only the base Small-Block, the LT-1 and the LS5.  With a “net” power rating, the LS5 was vastly detuned, now producing only 270 horsepower.  The LS5 Corvette was not available in California.  Despite all this, Corvette sales for 1972 saw a rise to 27,000 units.  The Corvette gained a new “soft” fascia in 1973.  Now equipped with body-color urethane bumpers, it adhered to federally mandated crash safety standards.  Also a sign of the times, the Corvette’s engines were detuned to meet emissions and fuel economy standards in the wake of the Arab Oil Embargo.  For 1973, the 454 Big-Block threw out 275 horsepower, but detuned to 270 for 1974.

1975 Stingray

The Corvette was transformed into an “economy car” for 1975.  Such updates included slightly newer fascia and further detuning of its engines.  The 454 was dropped, leaving only two 350s.  The base engine developed only 165 horsepower, and the L-82 option threw out 205 horsepower.  Having worked at General Motors for over two decades, Zora Arkus-Duntov resigned from his position as chief engineer.  Replacing him was Munising, Michigan born Dave McLellan.  Despite his retirement from GM, Duntov was not indifferent towards the Corvette.  In fact, for the rest of his life he was passionate about his project.  The Corvette was altered again in 1976, this time gaining a steel floorpan in place of fiberglass.  This achieved weight reduction and reduced interior road noise.  Due to decreasing popularity and sales, the convertible was discontinued, leaving only the coupe.  The engine lineup for ’76 and ’77 saw more healthy power output figures: The base L-48 developed 180 horsepower, and the L-82 developed 210 horsepower.  The “Stingray” moniker was discontinued in 1977.

1979 Corvette

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Corvette, a Silver Anniversary edition was produced for 1978.  The Corvette benefited from an aerodynamic redesign including a fixed-glass fastback and an aircraft-inspired interior center console.  The optional L-82 engine was tuned for 220 horsepower.  The Corvette was slightly restyled again in 1979.  Aesthetic enhancements included blacked-out rocker panels and window trim.  Some models gained a front and rear aero kit much like from the 1978 Corvette pace car.  Brand new hardware included halogen high-beam headlights, AM/FM radio, and an anti-theft alarm system.  The L-82 engine developed 225 horsepower.  1979 was the year of highest sales figures of the Corvette: 53,807 units; a record that’s yet to be beat.

1980 Corvette t-top

For 1980, the Corvette was radically transformed – in favor of gas mileage.  It was aerodynamically redesigned and lightened in several parts, such as doors, hood and glass.  A shocker when it comes to straight-line performance is the federally-mandated 85 mph (136 km/h) maximum speed speedometer.  1980 was the last year for the L-82, and this year it produced 230 horsepower.  Corvette sales dropped to 40,614 units.  In 1981, the lone engine option, the L-48, was renamed L81.  This motor threw out 190 horsepower.  The L81 had magnesium rocker covers and a stainless-steel exhaust manifold.  This drivetrain was paired up to a Computer Command Control engine management system.  Corvettes had always been produced in St. Louis, but in mid-1981 the production line moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky.  By means of Cross-Fire Injection, the engine in the 1982 Corvette developed 10 more horsepower.  GM built many “Collector Edition” models as well.  The Collector Edition featured unique two-tone silver/beige exterior paint, bronze-tint glass T-top, and a lift-up rear glass hatchback.  It also had turbine wheels like on 60’s Vettes.  With a ludicrous base price of $22,357 resulting in a decade-low sales figure, the time was soon coming for a new generation of Corvette.

Chevrolet Chevelle

In 1964, General Motors debuted its new mid-size version of the A-platform.  Included in the A-body family besides the El Camino and Malibu SS was the Chevelle.  This vehicle was designed to compete in sales against other compacts and mid-sizers like the AMC Rambler, Ford Falcon, and Ford Fairlane.  Throughout its entire production run, the Chevelle would see a variety of body styles, even including a 4-door sedan and station wagon.

The first generation Chevelle had a wheelbase of 115 inches (2921 mm).  In its initial season, the Chevelle was available in three trims: Chevelle 300, Chevelle Malibu, and Chevelle Malibu Super Sport (SS).  The base Chevelle (the 300) could be had with a 194 CI (3.2L) inline-6, good for 120 horsepower @ 4400 rpm.  The Chevelle was updated in 1965, with a “Deluxe” model added to the 300 lineup.  The Chevelle Super Sport (SS) debuted with a Malibu SS badge.  Thus, this car is also called Chevelle Malibu SS.  A 327 (5.4L) Small-Block V8 was a regular production option (RPO) on the 1965 SS.  This Small-Block turned out 350 horsepower.

1966 Chevelle SS 396

1966 saw an update to the Chevelle and Malibu SS.  In the United States, the Chevelle and Chevelle SS became their own lineup, while the Malibu SS remained in the Canadian lineup.  The SS396 was equipped with a 396 CI (6.5L) Big-Block V8, which produced 325 horsepower, or an upgrade option which saw power amped up to 360 horsepower.  Another option above that, still using the 396 Big-Block V8, was the L78, which threw out 375 horsepower @ 5600 rpm.  The 300, 300 Deluxe, and Malibu remained in the lineup for 1967.  Included in the lineup, other than in the SS, was the 396 Big-Block V8.  This turned out the same 325, 350, and 375 horsepower levels as in the SS.

1969 Chevelle SS 396

1968 saw the introduction of the second generation Chevelle.  The wheelbase for the coupe now sat at 112 inches (2845 mm), and the sedan and wagon sat at 116 inches (2946 mm).  The base models were the 300 and 300 Deluxe.  The latter was available as a 2-door hardtop.  1969 saw a slight cosmetic restyling to the Chevelle lineup.  The lineup consisted of the Nomad, 300 Deluxe, Greenbrier, Malibu, Concours, and Concours Estate.  The base 300 was dropped from the lineup.  The SS 396 still turned out 325 to 375 horsepower from its 396 Big-Block.

1970 saw a more rectangular profile to the Chevelle, as opposed to the “coke-bottle” styling it had in the 60’s.  The SS came with two options: the SS 396 with the 402 CI engine, and a new 454 model.  The optional LS6 added an 800 CFM Holley carburetor to the 7.4L Big-Block, turning out 450 horsepower and 500 lb/ft of torque.  1971 saw a cosmetic redesign to the Chevelle lineup.  It was rectangular like the 1970 model, but the lights had changed.  The front fascia was designed to have two headlights flush with the grille, whereas earlier Chevelles had four headlights.  The 454 Big-Block was exclusive to the SS.  Because of the low-octane gas mandate, all engines produced lower amounts of power.  For 1971, the 454 Big-Block in the Chevelle SS turned out an advertised 365 horsepower.  That figure was dropped to 270 horsepower in 1972, the last year of the cowl induction 454.

1977 Chevrolet Chevelle

1973 saw a dramatic redesign to the Chevelle lineup.  The convertible and 4-door hardtop was discontinued, leaving the 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan, and station wagon in the lineup.  The coupe was referred to as “Colonnade Hardtop”, and it had a shorter wheelbase than the sedan and wagon.  Only the latter two shared the same 116-inch wheelbase with the Monte Carlo, with which the Chevelle shared the A-body chassis.  The base engine for the Deluxe and Malibu models was a 250 inline-6.  The Deluxe model was dropped in 1974, leaving the Malibu as the new base.  In 1976, the headlights on the Chevelle models were redesigned: more rectangular accents outlining the round lights like brackets, flush with the redesigned grille.  The two coupes (formerly Colonnades) were now the Malibu Classic Landau, with the vinyl roof; and the Malibu SS, the “hardtop”.  The top-of-the-line was a 350 V8.  The Chevelle ended production in 1977, except for the Malibu model, which remained in production as a downsized model many years after that.

Chevrolet Camaro

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.

1967 Camaro SS

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 Camaro SS

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.

1969 Camaro

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.

1970 Camaro

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.

1973 Camaro Z28

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.

1977 Camaro

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.

1981 Camaro

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.

1982 Camaro Z28 Pace Car
1982 Camaro Z28 Pace Car (rear view)

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.

1983 Camaro Z28

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.

1988 Camaro

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.

1991 Camaro Convertible

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.

1996 Camaro

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.

2016 Camaro Convertible

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.

Plymouth Barracuda

The Plymouth Barracuda (called “Plymouth Valiant Barracuda” in Canada) was a muscle car produced by Chrysler Corporation from 1964 to 1974.

1966 Barracuda

 

When Chrysler Corp developed the first generation Barracuda from 1964 to 1966, they based it heavily on the Valiant model in the Plymouth lineup, sharing the same A-body platform.  Thus, the Canadian version of this car was named “Valiant Barracuda”.  The base engine choices for the United States and Canada were different: the Canadian Barracuda got the 170 CI (2.8L) Slant-6, while the American base had the 225 CI (3.7L) version.  An amped-up version of the Barracuda could have the 273 CI (4.5L) 90-degree V8 (codenamed “LA“).  The 273 in the 1964 Barracuda produced 180 horsepower, and could also be had with the optional Torqueflite automatic transmission.  In 1965, Plymouth introduced the “Formula S” package to the Barracuda, which included an upgraded version of the 273 V8, nicknamed Commando.  The Commando was capable of producing 235 horsepower, thanks to its 10.5:1 compression ratio and strengthened camshaft.  The Barracuda was restyled in 1966 before the debut of the second generation model.

1967 Barracuda

 

In 1967, Plymouth debuted the restyled second generation Barracuda, still based on the Valiant model, like the previous model.  A notable cosmetic feature on the ’67 model was a larger front-end air intake (grille) and a much curvier shape.  The chrome bumpers were also revised.  From this generation onward, a convertible was available in the lineup.  The 225 Slant-6 engine remained as the base engine, and in 1968, the 273 V8 was ditched and replaced with a larger 318 CI (5.2L) V8.  This 318 was also an “LA” engine, like the smaller 273 it replaced as the base V8.  Among one of the most powerful V8s produced for this generation was the 426 CI (7.0L) Hemi V8, developed for Super Stock drag racing cars assembled by Hurst Performance.  1969 saw the final year of production of the A-body Valiant-based Barracuda.

1970 Cuda
1971 Cuda convertible

Plymouth’s ultra muscle car was about the get more ultra: the 1970 edition of the Barracuda abandoned the tradition of being based on the Valiant (A-body) and instead shared the E-body platform with the Dodge Challenger.  Thus, this created a much larger vehicle than the previous compact size Valiant-based Barracudas.  Very often, this generation of Barracudas is nicknamed to a shortened “Cuda“.  The two base Slant-6 engines for the 1970 Barracuda were the then-new 198 CI (3.2L) and the 225 CI engines.  The “LA” V8 engines were 318 CI, 340, and 360.  The top-of-the-line V8 was the 426 CI Hemi, throwing 425 horsepower.  1971 saw a slight update to the Barracuda; namely, a cosmetic update which featured a four-headlight design for the front end.  The V8 engine options (including the 426 V8) remained the same from the year before.

The oil crisis of the early 1970s had inflicted upon the Plymouth Barracuda lineup (as well as other popular sports and muscle cars) a drop in engine and transmission options and power output.  The 1972 ‘Cuda went back to the two-headlight front end design like the 1970 model.  The diluted versions of the previously famous and powerful ‘Cudas had only three engine options for 1972, a 225 6-cylinder and two V8s: the 318 and a detuned version of the 340.  The 1973 Barracuda was available only with the 318 and 340 V8s, as that year, the 225 six was dropped.  Due to dropping sales, as well as the devastating effects of the oil crisis, the ‘Cuda ended production in April 1974.

AMC AMX

In 1966, American Motors introduced two prototype vehicles dubbed “AMX” and “AMX II”.  “AMX” stood for “American Motors experimental”, and in mid-year 1968, started production on the high performance AMX sports hatchback. The AMX was intended to be a cash-in for the popular muscle car market in the late 1960s, sporting high-power four-barrel V8 engines, a “four on the floor” 4-speed manual transmission, and a drivetrain configuration of front engine, rear wheel drive.  The first two years of this model would see the same fascia; however, 1970 saw a drastic redesign.

The engine choices for 1970 were the 360 CI (5.9L) four-barrel V8 and the 390 CI (6.4L) four-barrel V8.  The 360 was the smallest engine option for 1970, as it replaced the 343 (5.6 L) available years prior.  A December 1969 road test by Motor Trend saw a 390 AMX start to 60 mph (100 km/h) in 6.56 seconds and reach a quarter mile in 14.6 seconds at 92 mph (148 km/h).  The top speed is 110 mph (177 km/h).

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) named the AMX “best engineered car of the year” for both the 1969 and 1970 model years.  Counting all engine and transmission options, AMC had produced 4116 AMXs for 1970, and 19,134 units for the overall 3-year run.  The AMX lived on in 1971 as a Javelin model.