The Camaro: GM’s “Mustang Killer”
In the mid-1960s, GM executives were shaking in their patent leather wingtips. The cause of their fear wasn’t the Vietnam War or the growing youth movement. It was a vehicle introduced by their arch-rival Ford. Called the Mustang, it captured both the imaginations and the bank accounts of millions of Americans, who fell in love with its all-American good looks, sporty handling, and its $2368.00 base sticker price.
To General Motors designers and engineers, their mission was clear: come up with an answer to the massively popular Ford pony car. By April of 1965 the Detroit rumor mills were buzzing with excitement about a mysterious car that Chevrolet was developing. The world’s biggest auto maker used the talk to its advantage, keeping the project under a cloak of security that even James Bond would have trouble piercing.
Auto lovers across the country waited over a year to get their first glimpse of the widely anticipated vehicle. Their patience was rewarded on September 12, 1966, when the Camaro was unveiled for the press. When mystified reporters asked GM managers what the name meant, they were told “it’s a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs!” General Motors had found its answer to Ford’s legendary pony car. By September 21 it was available at dealers across the country.
The 1967 Camaro came in two options for consumers. The RS series included a 230 cubic inch straight-6 engine rated at 140 hp, hidden headlights, bright exterior trim, and the RS badge.
For those with a little more cash and a need for speed, the SS package featured the buyer’s choice of either a 350 or 396 cubic inch behemoth of a V8, cosmetic air scoops on the hood, and special striping.
Though it never caught up to its Ford rival in sales, the Camaro enjoys a loyal following to this day. It was produced every year until 2002, when GM put it on hiatus until 2009, when production started on a new version to be released in 2010. In that year the Camaro was honored with the World Car Design of the Year Award, proof to its fan that while it may not have devoured the Mustang, it has certainly held its own over the years.