Car History Year 1967
Date: Monday, September 27 @ 00:40:45 UTC
Coming second to Ford is something that
Chevrolet has never liked and, when the Mustang proved to be such a runaway success in 1964, the heat was on to find a way of redressing the balance. Chevy supporters will tell you that there were all manner of reasons why the GM division didn't have an equivalent to Ford's pony car - the Corvair Monza was selling well, they had too many different models already on offer - but the plain fact of the matter is that Ford had got there first, and so it was down to Chevy to play catch-up.
Wisely, the Chevy hierarchy appreciated that arriving second in the market place meant that they had to produce more than just a Mustang clone - a new model had to be perceived as something better. Ford and Chevrolet fans will debate forever about which is best, but there is no doubt that the Camaro provided a more than adequate riposte to the Mustang and, even if it did take until 1977 to outsell the Ford, the Chevy Camaro was definitely here to stay.
Taking advantage of the example provided by Ford, Chevy abandoned the rear-engined layout of the Corvair and returned to the conventional front engine, rear-wheel-drive arrangement for their new car. Henry Haga was put in charge of the styling and, in addition to the Mustang, his influences came from a clandestine 1962 project by Chevy design director Irwin Rybicki that used a Chevy II as the base. Certain similarities can also be seen with the Corvair Monza. Due to a management reshuffle, David R. Hollis took over as chief designer and, after four months intensive work, in December 1964, a full size clay model was constructed and photographed against a Mustang for comparison.
Initially, the "Chevy Mustang" project was given the Experimental Project code number XP-836. Later on it got christened the "F-Car" (the "F" supposedly referring to Ford), and subsequently carried the name Panther, which many assumed would be the final model name. However, General Motors was locked in a battle with Ralph Nader and his safety crusaders during this period, so it was decided that using the Panther name was too provocative, and so a search began for an alternative. Chevrolet's head man, Elliot M. "Pete" Estes reckoned that the name should start with a "C" and, for a while, the name "Chevette" was under serious consideration, but merchandising manager Bob Lund and vice president Ed Rollert searched through Spanish and French dictionaries and picked out the word Camaro in one of them. Estes liked the name and it was announced to the Press in June '66, well in advance of the car itself being previewed. Chevy publicists said Camaro translated from French as "comrade" or "pal", but other researchers noted that in Spanish it could be interpreted as a type of shrimp or even
"loose bowel movement" - but the fuss soon died down and the name became established as quintessencially Chevrolet.
When the Camaro was announced, on September 29, 1966, it was immediately apparent that Chevrolet's designers had taken the Mustang concept to heart and yet had added their own distinctive ideas. Where the Mustang's body lines were straight and aggressive, the Camaro's were curved and flowed ("fluidity" was a term used a lot by GM's designers) and the Chevy shape had been the subject of wind tunnel testing to prove its superior aerodynamic performance.
But it wasn't only in the bodywork design that the Chevy differed from the Ford. The basic understructure consisted of a front subframe attached to a unitary bodyshell, instead of the complete unitized construction used on the Mustang. In many ways this configuration gave the Camaro an advantage and, because the front chassis could be isolated from the rest of the body with rubber bushings, the ride quality was improved. In addition, the design had better space utilization, improving the room allocated for rear seat passengers and the trunk capacity.
But despite these improvements, the Chevy Camaro was not without its teething problems. While the attractive 2-door coupe body could happily rival both that of the Mustang notchback and fastback models, the convertible suffered from body flexing, door sagging and rattles - all of which required fixing. Also, the single leaf Mono-Plate rear springs used were okay with the base six cylinder engine and Powerglide automatic transmission, but the more powerful V8 cars suffered from axle tramp and all '67 Camaros would bottom out on the rear suspension with a very alarming ease.
Like the Mustang, the Camaro could be specified with any number of additional options selected from a huge list. In fact, the list was so comprehensive and so complicated that it was suggested that few people really understood all the available possibilities. Apart from the bewildering array of engines, transmissions, colors, interior trim and special packages on offer for the standard specification car, the potential Camaro owner could also select from some serious high performance options - notably the Super Sport (SS), Rally Sport (RS) and the now legendary Z-28.
Once you got into the SS and RS models (which, to add to the muddle, could also be combined together on one car), the Camaro came with hidden head lights and a special paint stripe around the nose plus various other items. But the "bumble bee" stripe proved to be so popular that it was quickly made available on any Camaro model. Then, when the big block V8s were introduced, the SS package came as a mandatory part of the deal. Confusing? You bet!
Despite this apparent minefield of choice, nearly 65 of the 220,906 '67 Camaros produced were base model V8 Sport Coupes and there can be few people who would argue that this was, indeed, a pretty shrewd selection for just about any form of motoring. Whether cruising down to the corner drive-thru burger joint or high speed touring cross-country on the Interstate, it was all the same and the Chevy proved a match for the Mustang in just about every department.
"Long-awaited and much-speculated, the youthful Chevrolet Camaro has arrived on the domestic automotive scene with a fine pedigree and high promise," wrote Car Life magazine in October 1966, continuing: "Though a follower in a field pioneered by others, the Camaro nonetheless seems exciting in looks and performance, is particularly well-suited to its intended market and will be sold and serviced by the world's largest dealer body." This emphasis on youth and excitement reminds us that these were indeed the heady days of the Sixties - 1967 being the so-calied "Summer of Love" when everything went psychedelic and the Monterey Pop Festival heralded the hippie culture taking over San Francisco.
There were plenty of dark clouds in the purple haze, what with continuing Vietnam War protests, race riots in the Motor City of Detroit and the tragic deaths of three astronauts - Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee - when their Apollo spacecraft caught fire on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral. Despite the harrowing events of this year, however, memories of '67 will, for most people, be of a highly colorful and supercharged period that welcomed the arrival of the Camaro as a small part of the more positive trends in society.
Cast iron - 6 Cylinders in line
230 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
Hardtop coupe; Convertible coupe
No. of seats
2,770 Ibs - 3,025 Ibs
$2,466 - $2,704
V8 - cast iron block
327 cu. ins. (427 optional)
Bore and stroke
4.00x3.25 ins. (4.25x3.76 in 427)
300 (350 in 427)
Body styles: Coupe; Convertible coupe
No. of seats
$4,663 - $4,320
PONTIAC LE MANS
Cast Iron - 6 Cylinders in line
230 cu. ins (V8 options to 285)
Bore and stroke
165 (max with V8-326)
Coupe; Hardtop coupe; Hardtop sedan; Convertible coupe
No. of seats
3,155 Ibs-3,265 Ibs
$2,585 - $2,881
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