The black bands have come off and the mourning period has ended, but it's still hard to believe that Chevrolet is no longer building Camaros.
That quintessential attainable sports car of the masses has-for now-passed into history and we, as inherently skeptical journalists, have to wonder about the lasting repercussions. Of course, the Camaro's place in automotive history is assured and, with the seemingly outrageous escalation in vintage musclecar prices, First-Generation models are leading the way in value.
But we wonder about the grassroots enthusiasts-the everyday drivers for whom the Camaro has delivered tremendous bang for the buck. Is their faith still as strong?
In some ways, it's as strong as ever, but we have started to see a few empty seats in the Church of Camaro. That was perhaps evidenced most acutely last summer at the annual Camaro SuperFest, where the attendance was visibly down-at least on the Saturday we attended-compared to previous years, and we've been going to the SuperFest longer than we'd care to admit.
One of the event's organizers, Barry Hensel, acknowledged the decline in participants, but attributed some of it to canceling the usual driving event, such as last year's circling of Michigan International Speedway.
"We got a lot of people who'd show up for the racetrack event and we wouldn't see them the rest of the weekend," says Hensel. "So, yes, I think that hurt us a little bit."
Admittedly, the driving events were big draws for us, too, but there may be another reason: no new Camaros.
Although 2002 was the final year for production, enough were built that they were sold well into 2003. With all but a handful sold off by the start of the '04 model year, there simply were no new Camaro owners attending the SuperFest-an event that has traditionally drawn a large contingent of late-model owners. In other words, attendance dropped in the first full year with no new Camaros.
Whether it was the lack of a driving event, the lack of new cars, or both, that conspired to lessen the participation at the Camaro SuperFest, the inescapable truth is the event-and Camaro clubs everywhere-face the challenge of recruiting and keeping enthusiasts of a car no longer in production.
It was perhaps only a couple dozen cars that didn't show, compared to the '03 event, which hardly makes the SuperFest a bust. Quite the opposite in fact; those in attendance carried the same sense of camaraderie and enjoyment that we've come to expect.
The truth is, we attend a lot of car shows each year, and they're not all strictly Chevy affairs. Compared to the cliquey, concours-driven Mustang crowd and what-the-heck-planet-are-you-from Mopar zealots, Camaro people are genuine enthusiasts who enjoy one another's company as much as the cars. And they drive their Camaros. (Vintage Corvette guys, are you hearing this?)
Ultimately, that's why we think the Camaro SuperFest will continue and thrive. Participants come from every corner of the United States and Canada and thoroughly enjoy themselves. It's as close as we've seen to the social aspect of the event taking precedence over the cars-a community unlike most others in the car hobby.
Maybe it has something to do with Camaro meaning "friend" in French, but just in case, we suggest re-instituting the driving events. That's what Camaros are for.