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The History of the Chevy Camaro

The Camaro is produced by Chevrolet, a division of General Motors. Designed as competition to Ford's Mustang, the first pony car on the market, it was first sold in 1967. For much of the Camaro's history, it shared its components and platform with the Pontiac Firebird. The car was in continuous production from the 1967 model year until the 2003 model year. After a hiatus, the car went back into production in 2009 for the 2010 model year. More than 5 million Camaros have been sold over six generations of the car.

Camaro Throughout the Years

1966: General Motors sent out a telegram to media outlets inviting them to a meeting of the "Society for the Eradication of Panthers from the Automotive World" on June 28th. The Camaro was code-named the Panther, and word of Chevy's answer to Ford's Mustang was out. Participants in 14 cities listened over the phone, making the press conference itself a technological leap forward. On Sept. 12, the Camaro was revealed at a press conference held in Detroit, Michigan. Later that month, Chevy hosted another press reveal in Los Angeles, and shortly after, the 1967 Camaros arrived at Chevrolet dealerships across the country.

The first-generation Camaros were built on a new rear-wheel-drive platform and were available as either a coupe or a convertible. A variety of engines were available for Camaro's first model year, ranging from a 230-cubic-inch V8 to a 396-cubic-inch V8. Initially, the Camaro was available in standard, Rally Sport, and Super Sport packages.

1968: Chevy introduced the Z/28 model. The Z/28 was only ever built as a hardtop, with one notable exception: The model had to be approved by Pete Estes, then general manager of Chevrolet, and Estes only drove convertibles. So one convertible Z/28 was built for Estes, so he would approve the package and its promotion.

1969: The final year of the Camaro's first generation saw a redesign of all of the car's sheet metal components except for the trunk lid and hood. The changes made the car look wider and lower, giving the vehicle a more aggressive profile. Due to a manufacturing issue with producing the second-generation Camaro, the 1969 model year stuck around a little longer than the others, running from September 1968 to November 1969.

1970: The first production year of Camaro's second generation didn't make it into showrooms until February 1970. Chevy no longer offered a convertible option, and the car was now bigger than the first-generation models; the body platform remained largely the same, but externally, it was wider.

1971: The Z/28's LT-1 350 V8 engine was downgraded from a 360 hp SAE gross to 330 hp (250 kW) SAE gross. In addition, sales were hit hard by rising insurance rates for pony cars as well as by production issues caused by a 67-day General Motors strike in the fall of 1970. Rumors began to circulate that the Camaro would be canceled.

1972: A strike at General Motors Norwood plant stopped production of the Camaro for 174 days. In addition, more than a thousand partially built Camaros had to be scrapped because they did not meet new federal bumper safety standards. This was the final year the Camaro offered a factory big-block engine and the final production year for the SS 350 and SS 396 models. Also, Chevy altered the Z/28 badge to Z28 this year.

1975: A catalytic converter was added to the Camaro, and new emmissions laws caused Chevrolet to downgrade the horsepower of its factory engines. Also, the Z28 was discontinued.

1977: The Z28 came back as its own separate model. The new Z28 met the new California emissions standards. Most Z28s were automatics and came with air conditioning.

1978: T-tops were introduced as a factory option for the Camaro.

1979: Chevy introduced the Camaro Berlinetta. The Berlinetta had high-end, luxury finishes and options and was designed to capture buyers of European sports cars.

1981: This was the final year for the second-generation Camaro. Production dropped from the 282,570 high of 1979 to 126,139 total units. The Computer Command Control (CCC) unit was added to Camaros for the first time, including a variety of sensors (oxygen, throttle position, coolant, manifold absolute pressure, and others), and Chevy introduced the check engine light to the dashboard. The goal of the CCC was to help meet new emissions reduction requirements, but the CCC also acted as a diagnostic tool.

1982: The third generation of the Camaro appeared radically different from the first and second generations. Advances in automobile glass production allowed the designers to wrap the back window in a completely new manner. Additionally, the engine now came equipped with fuel injection. Three models were available: the Berlinetta, the Sport Coupe, and the Z28. Motor Trend named the 1982 Z28 Car of the Year.

1983: The biggest changes in the second year of the third generation were in the transmissions. Four-speed manual transmissions were replaced with five-speeds, and Z28s with automatic transmissions moved from a three-speed to a four-speed.

1985: Chevy introduced the IROC-Z as an option package for the Z28. Named for the International Race of Champions, IROC-Zs sported lowered ride heights, better shocks, larger sway bars, the "wonder bar" frame brace, improved suspension, an optional tuned port injection system that was used on Corvettes, and a unique decal package.

1986: Chevy ceased production of the Camaro Berlinetta after the 1986 model year.

1987: The 20th anniversary of the Camaro saw the re-release of the convertible as a regular production option for the first time since 1969. Special anniversary editions were released that included a 20th-anniversary dash badge. These were the final Camaros produced in the Norwood, Ohio, plant; Chevy consolidated all Camaro production at the California Van Nuys plant.

1988: Chevy continued dropping models from the Camaro lineup. The base Z28 was discontinued. Now, only the base Camaro and the IROC-Z remained.

1991: Camaro's third generation received a major face-lift: All models received a ground effects package. The IROC-Z was dropped, but the Z28 badge returned. The Z28s featured non-operable hood "blisters" and a high-rise spoiler.

1992: A 25th anniversary "Heritage Edition" was planned to commemorate Camaro's 25th anniversary, which would have included a six-speed manual transmission, tubular exhaust headers, and cylinder heads from Corvettes. However, this plan was scrapped, and instead, all 1992 Camaros were given a 25th anniversary dashboard badge and a Heritage Package was offered, including special badges and rally stripes. This was the final year for the third generation, and it was also the final model year produced at California's Van Nuys plant. The last third-generation Camaro, and the last Camaro produced in Van Nuys, was a 1992 red Z28 signed by all the production workers.

1993: Camaro's fourth generation hit dealerships in January. The cars were no longer made in the United States; production had moved to Canada. Sheet molding compound, made from polyester resin and slivered fiberglass, was used to make the doors, hatch, roof, and spoiler. New and improved front and rear suspensions were added, and the Z28 gained rectangular dual exhaust tips to differentiate the performance model from base Camaro models. A pace car edition was also available; 633 pace car editions were produced.

1994: An electronically controlled 4L60E automatic transmission replaced the previous mechanically controlled 4L60 transmission3. The use of an electronic transmission required changes to the car's computer system, which had only controlled the engine in 1993. Chevy installed the Assembly Line Diagnostic Link (ALDL) under the dashboard on the driver's side, offering a new tool for technicians working on these vehicles.

1997: Chevrolet commemorated Camaro's 30th anniversary with a special trim package and a special edition of the car. The 30th Anniversary Limited Edition trim package was installed on 979 cars and was only available on Z28 and Super Sport models. In addition, around 100 were handed over to SLP Engineering, which added LT4 engines to create the fastest factory-built Camaro ever produced. It was also the most expensive, at around $40,000.

2001: In the lowest production year for Camaros, fewer than 30,000 were produced.

2002: The 35th anniversary of the Camaro marked the end of an era. It was the last model year for the fourth-generation Camaro, and it was also the final year for all Camaros. Chevrolet retired the brand, and the Canadian plant closed down.

2005: General Motors started creating concept cars for a fifth generation of the Camaro.

2006: Designer Sangyup Lee, born in South Korea, designed the 2006 Camaro concept car. It featured a V8 engine with active fuel management, a six-speed manual transmission, and a state-of-the-art suspension package. Chevrolet introduced the concept at the 2006 North American International Auto Show, where it was unanimously proclaimed Best in Show.

2007: The convertible variation was announced at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. Along with the convertible top, other notable exterior changes included the angle of the fender lines and a reworked rear spoiler. The interior underwent significant changes as well, with the houndstooth interior of the 2006 concept being replaced with leather seats with stitching the color of the exterior. And the seat belt buckles were redesigned to resemble the GM belt buckles of the late 1960s. This interior would more or less be used when the fifth generation entered production.

2008: General Motors revealed a few more fifth-generation concept Camaros. The Camaro Black Concept had tinted glass, a dark grille, dark taillight lenses, dark wheels, and a matte black hood. The interior was also done in black. A 304-horsepower V6 engine powered the car. The Camaro LS7 used what would become a standard 2010 Camaro SS and replaced the engine with a GM Performance Parts LS7 7-liter engine rated at 550 horsepower. The Dale Earnhardt Jr. Camaro was produced in partnership with the NASCAR driver and tweaked to run on E85 gasoline. The car was painted gray and white with orange trim. Other modifications included a dovetail spoiler, a different grille, and five-spoke wheels.

2009: The 2010 Camaros went on sale at Chevrolet dealerships. The cars were produced in Canada, and the fifth generation included five trim levels: the LS, 1LT, 2LT, 1SS, and 2SS. Only coupes were available. The cars had variable-rate power steering, active fuel management, four-wheel disc brakes, and the StabiliTrak stability/traction system. The fifth generation would feature yearly special-edition Camaros.

2010: One of the special editions produced in 2010 was the Indianapolis 500 pace car, which was introduced at and paced the 2010 Indianapolis 500. Based on the 2010 Camaro 2SS automatic edition, it featured Indianapolis 500 badges and logos. The car came in Inferno Orange with white rally stripes. A special heritage grille was produced for the car. Also in 2010, the production of the Camaro Z4Z began in April.

2012: For the 45th anniversary of the Camaro, Chevy offered the 45th Anniversary Special Edition, which was based on the standard 2LT and 2SS offerings. However, the special edition came with red and silver rally stripes on a Carbon Flash Metallic body. The interior was jet black and featured the 45th anniversary logo.

2013: Significant changes to the fifth generation were made in the 2013 model year. Chevrolet MyLink systems were now standard, the ZL1 shift knob was used on all cars with manual transmissions, new wheel designs were offered, new interior and exterior colors were introduced, and the 1LE performance package was offered.

2016: The sixth-generation Camaro was available at dealerships in 2016. Like the fifth generation, it was available as a coupe and a convertible. Production returned to the United States.

2017: For the 50th anniversary of the Camaro, Chevy released the first special edition of the sixth generation. Available as an option on the 2LT and 2SS models, the 50th Anniversary Special Edition featured special wheels, an orange exterior decal package, Nightfall Gray Metallic paint, and a special interior. All 2017 Camaros had a special "FIFTY" badge on the steering wheel in honor of the anniversary.

2019: The Camaro received a mid-generation refresh. The exterior and interior were revised, new colors became available, and new wheel designs were added. Additionally, the cars received the third-generation MyLink infotainment system.

2020: The 2020 Camaro SS front bumpers were redesigned, and the Chevy emblem moved to the upper grille of the car. A new V8 trim package known as the Camaro LT1 V8 was offered as an option. The V6 Camaros now also offered ten-speed automatic transmissions.

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