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October 09, 2009

Camaro Style, Original and Retro

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'm not sure whether or not there's any light at the end of General Government Motors' tunnel, but there is a speck of sales light in the initial reaction of customers to Chevrolet's latest iteration of its sporty Camaro line. As this Wikipedia entry indicates, Camaros were phased out after the 2002 model year, but allowed to return for 2010.

It remains to be seen if the initial buyer enthusiasm represents the start of long-term popularity or was simply nothing more than a short burst fueled by a small number of Camaro enthusiasts. I'm inclined to think the second hypothesis is the case, though I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

Styling of the new Camaro was intended to harken to that of the original 1967 version. The question is, How many of today's drivers were enthralled by the original styling which last saw production 40 years ago? If you count teenagers alive at the time, the original Camaro crowd has to be around age 55 or older now. If to this might be added the teenage-boys-who-drive-cars-as-old-as-they-are group, the bottom age is pushed down to 40. Let's call it age 50. Fifty-plus-year-olds (if they haven't been hit by the recession) tend to have the kind of money to buy Camaros, and this works in the marque's favor for a while anyway.

Marketing conclusion: We Shall See.

Now let's look at the styling.


2010 Ford Mustang
2010 Dodge Challenger
2010 Camaro

Above are the "pony cars" (a nickname inspired by the original, fabulously successful 1964/65 Ford Mustang) currently offered by U.S. based car companies. All evoke styling of the original versions (the Challenger first appeared for the 1970 model year).

The cars share a number of styling themes. Each has two air intake openings, a short, wide one high on the front end and a lower one below the bumper -- the latter probably being the major source of radiator cooling air, the former more of a styling touch. The Camaro and Challenger have a proportionally large lower body compared to the relatively small top. This arrangement has the advantage of emphasizing the engine compartment and wheels -- features suggesting high performance. And the wheels/tires are large relative to the height of all three the cars, again suggesting high performance (see my article here on automobile proportions).

Now for some comparisons of 1967 and 2010 Camaro styling.


Three-quarter rear views show that the 2010 model borrowed heavily from the 1967 even though body proportions are different. Note the shape of the back windows, the rear quarter windows, the wheel cut-outs, the horizontal crease midway on the sides, the shape and number of tail lights and the direction of the lower side-panel creases. A major difference is the flatness of the 2010's trunk that is emphasized by the aerodynamic spoiler mounted at its rear. This flatness -- from the photo, the trunk top seems almost scooped out or dished in (take your pick) -- is repeated on the hood, as we shall now see.

Chevrolet Corvette, current series

These frontal view indicate that, indeed, the 2010 Camaro borrowed heavily from 1967 styling. As noted, the hood of the new version is flatter. The photo of the Chevrolet Corvette at the bottom was added to indicate that the new Camaro shares a bit of its styling spirit -- a near-subliminal halo effect that I believe was intentional. Like the new Camaro, the Corvette's hood and especially the trunk seem almost dished-in -- more apparent when seen on the street than in the photo. (The Corvette profile suggests that the rear, trunk area, of the car is shaped to act as a spoiler. This Corvette functionality is probably reduced to largely cosmetic status on the Camaro.) The "smile" created by the Vette's front air intake shape is apparent on both the front and rear of the '10 Camaro.

Compared to its two rivals, the Camaro presents a crisp, aggressive look that will probably increase its appeal to the hardcore retro-pony set. It's certainly more aggressive looking than the 1967 model which was designed to appeal to a wider range of buyers including women who wanted to drive something stylish, not a male-oriented performance-car. I haven't gone to a Chevrolet dealer and sat in a new Camaro (though I did rush out to Philadelphia's City Line Avenue area to inspect the new '67s) so I don't know what they might be like to live in. But I suspect that the low top and small vertical-dimension window areas make for questionable visibility for the driver, a feature I came to dislike in my old Chrysler 300.



posted by Donald at October 9, 2009


New Camaro= Ugly

Posted by: slumlord on October 9, 2009 9:43 AM

The new Camaro is by far, the least attractive of the three.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on October 9, 2009 12:22 PM

I prefer the Challenger myself, but honestly I'm not a fan of the "beefiness" factor common to all three. I suppose it's a sign of the times, but if the old muscle cars with their classic lines were lean, yet muscular panthers, this new line of copycats are more like overweight lions. Eh.

Posted by: Tupac Chopra on October 9, 2009 6:19 PM

Oh, yeah, one of my first boyfriends drove a '67 Camaro., what were we talking about again?

Posted by: Bradamante on October 10, 2009 9:24 AM

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