Like the AMC Javelin, the Chevrolet Camaro is a popular “pony car” produced by the Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors. It was introduced in the 1967 model year as competition for the Ford Mustang and was classified as an “intermediate touring car, a muscle car or a sports car”. The Chevrolet Camaro has many similar components to the Pontiac Firebird that was also introduced the same year.
Production of the Camaro stopped in 2002 but not before four distinctive generations of the car were completed. This is not the end of the Camaro as a new one will be set for production in 2009. The name of the Chevrolet was not given with any specific meaning but a GM researcher found the word in a French dictionary and is a slang term for “friend” or “companion”.
The debut Camaro came with over 80 factory and 40 dealer options, including three main packages. One of the packages was the Z/28 that came out for the 1967 model year. This option wasn’t found in any sales literature and was relatively unknown to buyers. It came with many extras that were designed specifically to allow the car to race in the Trans Am series. It was only the 602 Z/28 that was sold in 1967 and 1968, which did not come with a raised cowl induction hood like the 1969 Z/28s.
In 1969 the Camaro came out with a sportier look. The grill had been changed to a heavy “V” cant and had deeply inset headlights. The changes made to the car also gave it a more wider, lower and more aggressive look. That year other changes were also available to the Camaro to increase the competitiveness in the Trans Am racing series.
The second-generation Chevrolet Camaro was introduced in 1970 and stayed in production for 12 years with the final model produced in 1981. The styling of this generation of Camaro was inspired by Ferrari and due to its size was no longer given a convertible option. The third generation of this car was introduced in 1982, continuing to use the General Motors’ F-body platform. The forth generation Camaro was in production for ten years and from there General Motors has put a stop to the car but a fifth generation car is on the books.
From 1962 to 1981 the Pontiac division of General Motors produced solid, intermediate-sized automobiles called the Pontiac LeMans. Then in 1982 the smaller Pontiac Bonneville model replaced the LeMans.
The LeMans was introduced as the top-line version of the smaller and more solid Pontiac Tempest and had more luxurious trimmings and a sportier look than the Tempest. In 1964 when the Tempest was restyled and enlarged in the form of the LeMans, it continued to have the same 326 cubic inch V8s and 215 cubic inch six-cylinder found in the regular Tempest.
Not long after the 1964 model was produced, the LeMans came out with an alternative performance package assigned as the GTO or the Gran Turismo Omologate. This version came with a lot of technical developments and upgrades, costing just under US$300. It was estimated that 5,000 GTOs would be sold that year but the sales ended up being 32,000, thereby accounting for a substantial portion of the Tempest and LeMans sales.
In 1996 the GTO was made separate from the other models, having the basic shape of the LeMans and Tempest models. The GTO kept the big-engined muscle car style where as the Tempest and the LeMans models received a new SOHC 230 cubic inch six-cylinder engine.
During the late 1960’s the Sprint-optioned LeMans and Tempest models were not as popular as the larger-engined GTO that was fueling the muscle car wars. Those that bought the normal regular LeMans and Tempest models mostly ordered V8 power, as the 326 and the later 350 cubic inch V8 version were the most ordered engines. In 1969 the SOHC six-cylinder engine and the Sprint option were stopped and replaced by an ordinary Chevrolet-built 250 cubic inch OHV six-cylinder engine, which became the base engine in most of the Pontiac intermediates.
When the LeMans was first produced it included a convertible and a pillared coupe with no hardtop option offered in the Tempest. Then in 1964 the hardtop coupe was added followed by the four-door pillared sedan a year later. In 1966 and 1968 the four-door hardtop and then a four-door Safari wagon replaced the previous versions. Over the decades the Pontiac continued to change its style, adding many amazing features and continued to be popular cars.
The very first Ford Mustang came off the assembly line in Michigan, in 1964. The public that attended the New York World Fair, caught their first glimpse of the Mustang, and it was viewed on television networks on 19 April 1964. The automotive industry would never see another product launch like this. Within the first 18 months, over a million Mustangs had been sold, and after revisions over the years, the Mustang is still in production today.
The years 1969 and 1970, saw the birth of the Ford Mustang Boss 302. Ford had attempted to combine the brute power of muscle cars, with the comfortable handling capabilities of a sports car. The press loved the Boss 302 Mustang, and even said that this car was everything that the GT-350 should have been. The Ford Mustang Boss 302 featured a 5.0 L V8 engine and cylinder heads that were used on 5.8 L engines. The combination of these parts, together with its manual four-speed gearbox,elevated the Boss 302 Mustang 290 hp into a class of its own. The Boss 302 Mustang was originally going to be named Trans Am, but that already applied to the Firebird by Pontiac.
Ford’s most competitive rival against their Mustang, was the Chevrolet Camaro. Ford had the lead in the “pony car” division, which was largely created by Ford, when they first introduced their Mustang in 1964. Unfortunately, the Mustang could not compete with the Camaro with regard to performance, which led to the development of the 428 Cobra Jet in 1968, and the design and production of the Boss 302 Ford.
The Boss 302 Mustang is also well known at drag racing venues. Ford made a Drag Pack option available, which was free of charge. All that was needed was to order the 4.3:1 rear axle ratio car. The conversion can be seen under the hood, with an oil cooler mounted in front of the vehicle’s radiator.
The Ford Mustang Boss 302 is still very popular with the reproduction of muscle cars, and can be seen in the diecast model toys available in the Matchbox, ERTL American Muscle and Hot Wheels ranges. The “hockey” side stripe on the car, the chin spoiler and the rear louvers distinguish this muscle car which is still popular and much loved.
Plymouth is a division of Chrysler Corporation, and were responsible for the productin of the two-door Plymouth Barracuda between 1964 and 1974. Originally, the Barracuda was constructed on an A-body chassis. This chassis was extremely common in the vehicles that were being manufactured by Chrysler, which included the Dodge Dart. It had the characteristics of the Valiant. The Valiant is believed to be the very first pony car, to reach the market, as it was available two weeks before the Ford Mustang.
The Plymouth Barracuda was made famous by the massive fastback rear window, that basically wrapped around, and was the largest automotive glass part that was ever installed at that time. The Barracuda’s performance was at first extremely modest, with a 180 horse power V8 engine, that would improve over the years, but also stood out due to its push button shifter that was mounted in the dashboard. All 1964 automatic Barracudas were fitted with this feature.
The year 1965 was an interesting year for the Plymouth Barracuda as two new options were introduced. The 4.5L Commando, which was a 235hp V8 engine, and the performance package that was called Formula ‘S’, and included the engine together with a standard tachometer, and upgraded wheels, tires and suspension. Over the following years, the Plymouth Barracuda would undergo various facelifts and engine changes, to remain competitive in the changing market. The 1966 model is considered unique, with the Barracuda Fish emblem being added, new grills and redesigned, chiseled features. The Plymouth Barracuda was completely redesigned in 1967. The models that followed had convertible options and notchbacks.
Engine options were improved as the competition grew. With the 7.2 L RB single four barrel carbureted engine being available, on the floors of the showrooms. In 1969 the limited addition 80 Super-Stock was released. It was a Hemi-powered Barracuda, built in 1968, that was not street legal, as it was built for racing and was often used in drag racing. A few Savage GT’s were also manufactured, that came off the second generation Plymouth Barracudas. The 1971 Hemi-powered Plymouth Barracuda and the 426 Hemi are considered extremely rare and almost priceless amongst collectors. There were only 14 Hemicuda’s manufactured in 1970, and at an auction in 2006, one was sold for US$2.16.
Production of the Plymouth Barracuda ended after a successful, ten year run, during the 1973 oil crisis. The third generation was a failure in the market, and after hanging on until 1974, the Plymouth Barracuda was discontinued. The rarity of some of the Plymouth Barracuda models is due to the public not being interested, sales being low, and therefore, not many were produced. Today, it is a classic muscle car, with many collectors just waiting for the opportunity to find one.
The Plymouth Road Runner was a muscle car built by Plymouth to be the crowning glory over the following cars by the same manufacturer: the Satellite, the Fury, the Belvedere and the Volare. These cars were all coupes, and it was the opinion of many, that muscle cars had been improving, but also losing the true muscle car feel and characteristics. Plymouth had already built the GTX, which was a high performance car, but they decided to go back to the basics of a muscle car, and bring the original muscle car back to life. They envisioned an affordable car that can also hit the 14 seconds mark in the quarter mile, and the Plymouth Road Runner was all they had aimed for, and its success in the market outranked the GTX.
Plymouth had to pay Warner Brothers $50,000, to enable them to use the Warner Bothers’ Road Runner name and cartoon character. The Plymouth Road Runner would have increased handling and performance abilities, and all the little luxuries that had crept in over the years, and that were not essential to the car, were left out of the design. Even the carpets were left out, which left the car with a Spartan interior. The standard engine for the Road Runner, would be a 383 CID, or 6.3 L, Roadrunner V8. This engine had 425ft-lb of torque and 335 bhp. If you were prepared to pay an additional fee, you could have a 426 CID Hemi engine fitted, which had 490ft-lb torque and 425 bhp. This engine would prove to be the best in the era of muscle cars, and could run a 13.4 second time in a quarter mile, at 105 miles per hour. Plymouth estimated their Plymouth Road Runner sales to be approximately 2,000, but to their delight, sales numbers soared to about 45,000.
In 1969, a few cosmetic changes were made, and a convertible Road Runner added, of which only 2,000 were manufactured in a year. And even more rare, is the fact that only nine convertibles were fitted with a Hemi engine. The standard engine for the Road Runner would remain the 383, but the 440 Six Barrel (440 CID engine that has three two-barrel carburetors) was released specifically for the drag racing class. Six Barrel Road Runners did not feature any hubcaps or wheel covers. Plymouth was slingshot to dragstrip icons, thanks to the 440 6-BBL and the 426 Hemi.
After “Motor Trend” magazine named the Road Runner as the Car of the Year, in 1969, the vehicle sales sky rocketed to 82,109 units. In 1970, the Road Runner underwent a facelift to the front and rear, and together with the GTX, both cars remained very popular. In the following years, the Plymouth Road Runner would go through cosmetic and engine changes, the convertible would be cancelled in 1971, and the 426 Hemi era would come to an end in 1972. The Road Runner would eventually become part of the Volare line, until it own discontinuation in 1980.