Since about 1978, the Chevrolet Camaro has been the car of choice for guys with a mullet, a handlebar mustache, and a pack of Kools rolled up in the sleeve of their Molly Hatchet T-shirt. It's too bad, because when you really look at the cars through their five generations, the original designs were all clean, muscular and cemented in their period in time. On the day Chevy launches the all-new sixth-generation 2016 Camaro, here's a look at the cars throughout history.
First Generation: 1967 to 1969
For the last 48 years, the first generation Camaro has unfortunately been the target of people who frequent the cheap chrome accessories aisle at Pep Boys. It's hard to believe, but the very first Chevrolet Camaro was only on the market for three short model years. It was a rush job for Chevrolet designers, and as BestRide.com noted in a story on the original Camaro's design, Chevy styling boss Irv Rybicki never liked it all that much. "The original Camaro was not satisfying for anyone here in this building," he said in an interview in the 1980s. Regardless of what the entire Chevy styling staff thought, the original Camaro's design has been a favorite for generations, to the point that the current fifth generation Camaro drew heavily on it for inspiration.
Second Generation: 1970 to 1981
The first-gen car only lasted three years, and then the second-gen car stretched out for more than a decade. Where the first-generation Camaro was boxy and upright, the 1970 Camaro got low, thanks in part to its body essentially being channeled over the frame. It's a much more aerodynamic profile with a complex sail panel mating the roof and the rear quarter. With every passing year, though, the Camaro got saddled with fake air ducts and goofy stripe kits that took away from the car's original design. By the last year, they looked like a 50-year-old dude with a "dad bod" trying to fit into the parachute pants he wore in high school.
Third Generation: 1982 to 1992
The official car of places like Massachusett's blue-collar, clam-shack-filled Revere Beach, these were the cars that prompted Tom and Ray to ask every woman named Donna, "How's the Camaro running?" The 1982 Camaro was a wild departure from 1981. There were a lot of firsts for the third-gen Camaro: First hatchback. First five-speed manual transmission. First use of fuel injection. First four-cylinder. The new body in 1982 allowed the Camaro to drop 500 pounds, meaning that a 1982 Camaro with the biggest 305-cu.in. V-8 could out-accelerate and out-handle a 1981 Camaro with a 350-cu.in V-8.
Fourth Generation: 1993 to 2002
Fourth generation cars used an updated version of the F-body platform, but featured a much more aerodynamic body than the third-generation cars. They also marked the point where real performance returned to the Camaro nameplate. In 1998, the 5.7-liter LS1 V-8 arrived, marking the first time a Camaro had anything but a cast-iron engine block since the ultra-rare ZL-1 Camaro arrived in 1969. The all-aluminum LS1 churned out 325hp through -- eventually -- a six-speed manual gearbox. Yet, it also marked the end for the Camaro, at least temporarily. Sport coupes momentarily waned in popularity, and Chevrolet jettisoned the nameplate citing overcapacity at the plant. The car they decided to build instead? The horrid Chevrolet SSR. Hey, everybody wants a convertible two-seat pickup truck with a bed you can't put a yard of mulch in, right?
Fifth Generation: 2010 to 2015
After a seven-year hiatus, the Camaro returned in 2010, and went right back to its roots, at least in terms of design. Like the retro-styled Ford Mustang, the idea was to capture the essence of the first-generation Camaro with rear fenders, a cowl-induction hood, rear fender gills and kicked up rear fenders that all evoked the 1969 Camaro. Even base-level, six-cylinder Camaros developed 312hp. Spend more money, and you could get tire-blistering performance out of any number of limited production variants: the 426hp SS in 2010, the 580hp ZL-1 in 2012, the return of the Z/28 with 505hp in 2014.
Sixth Generation: 2016 and beyond
Chevrolet has been sneaking photos of the 2016 Camaro ahead of its launch today. Here's what to expect:
We'll have more photos next week after the official launch today.