Chevrolet Camaro – One of the Most Popular Cars for Modification in the Automotive History

The Chevrolet Camaro was a compact car introduced in North America by the Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors at the start of the 1967 model year as competition for the Ford Mustang.

Although it was technically a compact (by the standards of the time), the Camaro, like the entire class of Mustang competitiors, was soon known as a pony car.

Though the car’s name was contrived with no meaning, General Motors researchers found the word in a French dictionary as a slang term for “friend” or “companion.” Ford Motor Company researchers discovered other definitions, including “a shrimp-like creature” and an arcane term for “loose bowels”! In some automotive periodicals before official release, it was code-named “Panther”.

Four distinct generations of the car were produced.

Generation 1

1967

Sharing mechanicals with the upcoming 1968 Chevrolet Nova, the Camaro featured unibody structure. Chevrolet offered the car in only two body styles, a coupe and convertible. Almost 80 factory and 40 dealer options including three main packages were avaible.

* RS Package included many cosmetic changes such as RS badging, hidden headlights, blacked out grill, revised taillights and interior trims.

* SS Package included modified 5.7 L (350 in³) V8 engine (first 350 in³ engine ever offered by Chevrolet), also L35 396 in³ “big block” was avaible. SS featured non-functional air inlets on the hood, special striping and blacked out grill. It was possible to order both – RS and SS packages to receive RS/SS Camaro. In 1967 Camaro RS/SS Convertible Camaro with 396 in³ engine paced the Indianapolis 500 race.

* Z28 option code was introduced in 1966. This option package wasn’t mentioned in any sales literature so was unknown by most of the buyers. The only way to order Z28 package was to order base Camaro with Z28 option, front disc brakes, power steering and Muncie 4-speed transmission.

Z28 package featured unique 302 in³ “small block” engine, designed specifically to compete in the Club of America Trans Am racing series (which required engines smaller than 305 in³ and public availability of the car).

Advertised power of this engine was listed at 290 hp (216 kW) while actual dyno readings rated it at 360 to 400 hp (269 to 298 kW). Z28 also came with upgraded suspension and racing stripes on the hood. It was possible to combine Z28 package with RS package. Only 602 Z28’s were sold.

Generation 2

The larger second-generation Camaro featured an all-new sleek body and improved suspension. The 1970-1/2 Camaro debuted as a 2+2 coupe; no convertible was offered and would not appear again until well into the third generation.

Most of the engine and drivetrain components were carried over from 1969 with the exception of the 230 in³ (3.8 L) six cylinder — the base engine was now the 250 in³ (4.1 L) six rated at 155 hp (116 kW).

The top performing motor was a L-78 396 in³ (6.5 L) V8 rated at 375 hp (280 kW). (Starting in 1970, the 396 in³ big block V8’s actually displaced 402 in³ (6.6 L), yet Chevrolet chose to retain the 396 badging.) Two 454 in³ (7.4 L) engines – the LS-6 and LS-7 – were listed on early specification sheets but never made it into production.

Besides the base model, buyers could select the “Rally Sport” option with a distinctive front nose and bumper, a “Super Sport” package, and the “Z-28 Special Performance Package” featuring a new high-performance 360 hp (268 kW) 350 in³ (5.7 L) cid V8.
1972

The 1972 Camaro suffered two major setbacks. A UAW strike at a GM assembly plant in Ohio disrupted production for 174 days, and 1100 Camaros had to be scrapped because they did not meet 1973 Federal bumper safety standards.

Some at GM seriously considered dropping the Camaro and Firebird altogether, while others were convinced the models remained marketable. The latter group eventually convinced those in favor of dropping the F Cars to reconsider, and Chevrolet would go on to produce 68,656 Camaros in 1972, the lowest production numbers for any model year.

Generation 3

1982

The 1982 model introduced the first Camaros with factory fuel injection, four-speed automatic transmissions (three-speed on the earlier models), five-speed manual transmissions (four-speed manual transmissions in 1982, and some 83-84 models), 15 or 16-inch rims, hatchback body style, and even a four-cylinder engine for a brief period (due to concerns over fuel economy).

The Camaro Z28 was Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year for 1982.

1985

In 1985 Chevrolet introduced a new Camaro model – the famous IROC-Z, called after popular racing series. IROC-Z Camaro featured upgraded suspension, special decal package and Tuned Port Injection system taken from the Chevrolet_Corvette Third generation Camaros also had a suspension system that was more capable in corners than the previous generation.

The Camaro IROC-Z was on Car and Driver magazine’s Ten Best list for 1985.

Engines

* 1978-1981 5.7 L (350 in³) Small-Block V8

* 1982-1985 2.5 L (151 in³) Iron Duke L4

* 1982-1984 2.8 L (173 in³) LC1 V6

* 1985-1989 2.8 L (173 in³) LB8 V6

* 1990-1992 3.1 L (191 in³) 60 Gen II V6

* 1982-1992 5.0 L (305 in³) Small-Block V8

* 1985-1992 5.7 L (350 in³) Small-Block V8

Generation 4

1993

1993 began the fourth and last generation of Camaros, lasting through the 2002 model year. Production of the fourth and final generation was moved from GM’s Van Nuys, California assembly plant to one in Ste. Therese, Quebec in 1993.

Though the car would no longer be produced in the US, the new design which incorporated lightweight plastic body panels over a steel space frame, and a better suspension, further improved upon the Camaro line.

From 1993 to 1997 the Camaro was available with the LT-1 engine, the same Generation II small block V8 used in the Corvette, although in slightly de-tuned form.

In 1996, the long-discontinued “SS” option was resurrected and in 1998, the all-new LS-1 engine Generation III small block was offered on the SS and Z28 Camaros, marking the end of the Generation I small block V8 that had its roots in Chevrolet’s 265 in³ engine of 1955. Unfortunately, sales were below expectations, and production of the Camaro ceased in 2002.
1998

1998 saw a new head light design for the Camaro. The new design removed the previous recessed-light design present in the 1982-1997 Camaros. The faux air intakes on the hood were also eliminated. In addition the LT1 engine was removed and instead an LS1 in its place.
Engines

* 1993-1995 3.4 L (208 in³) 60 Gen III V6

* 1995-2002 3.8 L (231 in³) 3800 Series II V6

* 1993-1997 5.7 L (350 in³) LT1 V8

* 1998-2002 5.7 L (350 in³) LS1 V8

2002

2002 marked the last year of the Chevrolet Camaro and was also the 35th anniversary for the Camaro. This milestone was celebrated with a special anniversary car modified from the factory by SLP. The anniversary package was only available on the SS (Super Sport).

Engine modifications were available in addition to the 325 hp (242 kW) engine which all Super Sports produce. Silver racing stripes down the hood and trunk lid made the car more noticeable than ever–especially against the Bright Rally Red paint (the only color available with the anniversary package).

The car also had the slogan attached to it “Leave a Lasting ImpreSSion” and had the logo embroidered in the seats. The car was only available as a convertible or with T-Tops. 3,000 Camaros with the anniversary package were produced for the United States and 152 for Canada.

Though production Camaros were never as fast as the flagship Corvette, the car cost less than half as much and was easily modified. If its frequent inclusion in automotive enthusiast magazines is any indication, the Chevy Camaro is one of the most popular cars for modification in the automotive history.

Throughout its history, the Camaro shared its internal body and major components with a sister car – the Pontiac Firebird.

Lexus Supercar Climbs to the Top

Ever since I’d learnt to pronounce the word ‘car’, I became very passionate about all things on four wheels and latterly motor racing and all things two wheel related!

Thanks in part to my late grandfather, Saturdays were spent listening to him recount the articles in the motoring section of The Daily Telegraph newspaper.

We didn’t have the same taste in cars mind, he was an avid Lexus owner, while I was more into my Mercedes Benz…albeit not a owner, well just yet!

So imagine my delight at winning a competition and being invited down to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, to be driven up the famous hillclimb in the Lexus Supercar, the LFA.

I’d been to the festival a couple of years back, but somehow knew this experience was going to be slightly different after being told I would be treated like a VIP.

So off I headed down to Sussex, I should maybe mention that I was flown down to London and put up in a hotel by the Thames overlooking the Houses of Parliament, while being filmed by my own film crew. For someone being more used to being behind the camera and always doing things on the cheap, this was really out of my comfort zone.

For those of you that haven’t been to Goodwood, it is a definite must for any petrolhead. Not only does it ooze high-octane fun, but all the racing legends past and present turn up to take part in this motoring garden party. You can get close up to cars and bikes: mingle with the stars whilst soaking up the smells of the methanol fuel.

Current F1 World Champion Jenson Button wowed the crowds driving a turbocharged V6 McLaren-Tag MP4/2C up the hillclimb, a car nearly as old as him, while the only two and four wheeled World Champion, John Surtees got a round of applause from the fans as he parked up the Ferrari 158 he was driving. For a man that has had to experience his son Henry being killed racing last year, he is the true British racing gent, polite, humble and made time for every person that came to chat to him.

Adding some pizazz from across the pond was World Rally star, Ken Block. Known worldwide for his Gymkhana videos, I overheard the king of slide being told to not do anything too over the top in his Ford Focus RS WRC as he exited the assembley area. But the showman couldn’t help himself and infront of the huge crowds showed why he is adulated the world over by doing one of his smoke burning doughnuts!

The bikes weren’t too be outdone by the cars and a whole host of current world racers took to the track including British stars, Leon Haslam, James Toseland and Leon Camier. Italian legend Giacomo Agostini also entertained the fans aboard an MV Agusta 500, a bike which won him seven consecutive world titles.

Add some hair raising displays from the Red Arrows and a couple of Apache helicopters to the mix and it was a definite feast for the eyes.

But apart from all the entertainment, I was there for one reason only and that was to experience the Lexus LFA.
I must admit, when I first saw it, as aesthetically gorgeous as it looks, it didn’t take my breath away as much as the Mercedes Benz SLS AMG or the Bugatti Veyron. But in its understated looks it hides what lies beneath.

So here’s the technical jargon. The 4.8 litre V10 has caused quite a lot of fuss since its arrival on the world scene. It has a top speed of 202mph, does 0 – 62mph in 3.7 seconds and how many cars produce an exhaust note tuned by the music division of Yamaha? Obviously don’t expect to hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony playing from the exhaust, but what you will experience from this carbon fibre built supercar is a sound inspired by the F1 cars.

So after having a look around it and jumping into the passenger seat, it was time to head down to the assembley area before my dalliance on the circuit.

Japanese SuperGT driver and supercool 50 year old, Takayuki Kinoshita was to drive me up the hillclimb. He didn’t really speak much English, but from our broken English conversations it was his first time at Goodwood and he even drives a Mercedes Benz SL500 back in Japan and not a Lexus! I loved how he was taking photos of the satnav in the LFA showing the distance between Goodwood and the Nurburgring.

Sat in the low slung cockpit the interior is typical Lexus, superior high quality finish, a touch of 21st century gadgetry in its LCD panel and seats that make you feel so cocooned I felt it had been designed for my frame.

Just to add to the whole experience, the exhaust sounds are channeled into the cabin, so make you feel like you’re at home encased in 3D surround sound rather than in a supercar. Even Hollywood movie scores don’t come much better than this.

Once parked up waiting to go out to the track, I was surrounded by some of the world’s most expensive cars. Bugattis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis were all waiting alongside and this was definitely supercar heaven!

We seemed to end up waiting rather a long time and then a Mercedes 4×4 appeared and out stepped F1 racer, Lewis Hamilton. OK seeing him, I didn’t mind the wait! He jumped into the new McLaren MP4-12C, not a patch on the LFA I might add, and headed the supercars down to the start of the hillclimb. After some showboating from the former F1 Champion, it was our turn to arrive at the start line.

Was I nervous? Maybe just a little bit, but also very excited. As much as I am passionate about all things that involve engines, plenty of speed and are thrilling to watch, I have never been out on a circuit.

Takayuki asked me if I was OK, something he was to repeat during the entire duration of the hillclimb and I was definitely OK! Off we went, my body thrust back into the seat on every gearshift. There was a beeping noise from the rev limiter every time Takayuki went up through the gears on the paddleshift, but my ears were more attuned to the musical inspired exhaust sounds emanating through the cabin.

Now the climb may be 1.16 miles in length and rise 300ft, but the tree lined roads went past in a blur, as did the hay bales and crowds. Was I scared at any point? Maybe slightly, when the flint walls suddenly appeared and we seemed to be approaching them rather too quickly. But fear not, I was in good hands.

Then we sped across the finish line and that was it. It took just over a minute, but it was one of the most exhilarating experiences ever.

Lexus have produced a supercar to rival all its main competitors. It may be costly with a hefty price tag of over £300,000, but with only 500 being made and they have already being snapped up, the Japanese marque definitely has a legend on its hands in the luxurious, fast and automotive treat that is the LFA.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X-Rated

As I am an only child I have a bit of a problem when it comes to attention – I’m always seeking it. This however is socially accepted as ‘only child syndrome’ so I think I can get away with it. Unfortunately I can’t seem to get away from the fact that I am the most un-photogenic person on the planet, so I won’t be draped over the bonnet of a new Mitsubishi anytime soon. In any crowd, at any party or social occasion you can think of I’m there, in the front gurning uncontrollably in front of the camera.

Just a few years ago this wouldn’t have been much of a problem as the photos would be condemned to the family photo album or remain imprisoned on a friends’ memory card. Nowadays with the advent of social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook I’m splattered all over the place looking ugly as sin.

Short of some drastic facial surgery or being pinned to the ground and forced to remain solemn I’ve been struggling to think of how to get attention whilst maintaining my dignity and not pulling stupid faces in public. The good news is I’ve found the answer, it comes from Japan and is now in its tenth incarnation: the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X (That’s ten in roman numerals to the uninitiated).

The Mitsubishi is undoubtedly a brilliant car as it appears on the showroom floor, but I’m a big fan of history and heritage and the Evolution models have a more extensive and impressive lineage than most. Formula One has always been accused of lacking excitement and being controlled by computers more and more as the years go by. The world of rallying however couldn’t be more of a polar opposite, sheer cliff drops, mud splattered cars and windscreens, sheep causing spectacular crashes and the only navigation the drivers have is a petrified co-driver reading the directions from a clipboard.

This is where the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution models come in. For years the Evo and its arch rival the Subaru Impreza slugged it out on the rally circuits before resuming round two on the public roads. For me though it was always Mitsubishi who I waved the flag for and in particular Tommi Makinen, who won the World Rally Championship four times in 1996, ’97, ’98 and ’99 – every time in his Mitsubishi. It was a time when I was a young teenager developing my love of cars and the sight of Makinen winning the championship in Wales of all places will stick with me forever.

Perhaps now you can see why I’m so passionate about the latest Lancer Evolution, although it’s not purely based on my boyhood memories. In recent years the Mitsubishi/Subaru battle has moved firmly into Mitsubishi’s favour with Subaru’s stylists’ seemingly going blind judging by the exceedingly ugly cars it’s produced. Mitsubishi on the other hand has toned down (ever so slightly) its aggressive styling, made the Evolution one of the best handling cars money can buy and then stuck a price tag on it that undercuts anything that could rival it by at least £40,000.

The Evolution X is pure PlayStation generation styling with big wheels and spoiler, a front grill that could plough through snow and headlights that give the car the look of Mike Tyson in his prime. However it is still a more subtle offering than previous models and the more grown-up feel continues inside. Yes it’s not the most inspiring cabin I’ve ever seen, it’s a typical workmanlike Japanese offering rather than Italian flair, but crucially everything on the X is far better quality than its elders.

Whereas build quality may have been in question previously, performance certainly wasn’t. Needless to say, the latest model doesn’t disappoint, with the snappily titled Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X FQ-360 GSR the one in the range to plump for. In fact it’ll get from 0-60mph in a mere 4.1 seconds, which is a damn sight faster that 99 percent of the competition and much faster than you can say it’s name.

Yet despite this Ferrari beating performance the Mitsubishi’s best feature is how it handles. The most accurate way I can describe it other than that overused word ‘perfection’ is to say it manages to handle like a rally car should but won’t break your spine on the shopping run either. It is a racing car for the everyman (or woman). Well if the everyman (or woman) has £37,999 spare. Yes it’s not cheap initially but when you’re beating Ferrari’s with the wife in the front, two kids in the back and your shopping in the boot having paid at least £70,000 less than Ferrari man you’ll see where I’m coming from.

Besides with the credit crunch I’m hoping the prices will plummet on used versions. I just hope I can cope with all the attention I’ll get.