The Real World:
Camaro V-8 Sport Coupe
This base V-8 F-body came to NPD from the original owner, an older gentleman who retired to Florida. He added the Rally wheels and decklid spoiler over the course of the car’s lifetime “to sport it up,” but the original hubcaps came with the vehicle when NPD acquired it. It’s been repainted once in the factory Mountain Green, and the top’s been been replaced, but according to Rick, “it wasn’t a lot of money and the deluxe interior was in great condition.” Other than the cosmetics, it’s all-original with 68,622 miles. Remarkably, it has the same build date as the Impala (June, fifth week), though it was born in the Norwood, Ohio, plant.
Power comes from a 327 two-barrel that makes 210 horsepower. Like the Impala, it uses a Powerglide to transfer ponies to the rear. In this era when seemingly every first-gen Camaro you see is an SS396 or 427 COPO clone, this represents what most Camaros actully were back in the ’60s. While you could order a fire-breathing hot rod with a big-block, four-speed and numerically high gears, most were simple, fun-to-drive runabouts like our test example.
“It’s not a big power car, not a big-block,” says Rick. What turned him on about it was, “the intrinsic quality of the car itself,” adding, “Being a little 327 car, most have been crunched, converted to drag cars, or heavily modified.”
Not this one. While the paint isn’t perfect, the rest of the body is. Options are few: power steering, AM radio, Powerglide and deluxe interior. About that interior: Wow. It’s pristine. To use Rick’s phrase, it’s a time capsule. Everything about it is so simplistic. Those who complain the fifth-gen Camaro’s interior is plain should spend an afternoon in here. It looks like it took three minutes to sketch it out. Both old and new are remarkably similar in design, though the new car has much softer surfaces. Visibility is definitely better in a first-gen, as the roof on the 2010-up cars definitely feels chopped by comparison.
In front of the driver are a speedometer, odometer, some idiot lights, and a fuel gauge—and precious little else. There’s a lot of chrome and brightwork throughout the cockpit to give it a more expensive feel and the three-spoke wheel is sporty enough, with its side spokes at the proper 9-and-3 position. The optional console and floor shifter give you extra flash and more utility.
As was the case with the Impala, you set the choke with your foot, turned the key, and the 327 is instantly humming. This is exactly how they ran when new and the folks at NPD are to be commended for maintaining their classics to the extent where they function like brand new vehicles, even though they rely on 1960s technology. Everything is set to the factory specifications.
For obvious reasons, the Camaro drives a lot smaller than the Impala. You can take it faster into a corner, but “faster” in this case is a relative term with those bias ply tires. The steering feel is almost identical to the bigger car, but the Camaro is more nimble. The handling is predictable even as the tires start breaking away. It definitely wants to push, but it’s fun to drive nonetheless. A set of modern radials would do wonders here. It’s definitely no Z/28, but it’s a perfect example of what someone looking for in a base ponycar would buy during the waning days of the Johnson administration. It’s simply fun to drive.
We’re happy to report the brakes are pretty sure. Pedal feel is good—very linear—even though there’s no power assist (or maybe because of it). It stops from speed in a straight line.
With a 327, it is certainly no drag racer, but with a two-barrel carb and single exhaust, it wasn’t designed to win races. It was engineered to be reliable, economical, and supply performance that was above and beyond that of the competition. In ’67, the base Camaro V-8 had 10 more horsepower, 38 more cubic inches, and 38 more lb-ft of torque than a comparable 289 2-bbl Mustang. Acceleration was brisk, though not breathtaking. We guessed low 18s in the quarter-mile, and in checking our archives, we were right. In the December ’66 issue, Motor Trend went 18.2 at 77 mph in a car with the identical powertrain.
That Camaro is pretty sweet, you have to admit. Even with the baby motor (well, except for the tiny 302), it’s pretty well sorted out. You are thinking of what it’d be like to spec this baby up with Rat power and a four-speed. You try to play it cool, but the salesman knows he’s got one on the line. He starts saying something about a two-month wait, though, which snaps you back to reality. That’s when you see them, side by side, a pair of Marina Blue Bow Ties. Your head just about explodes. On the left is an honest-to-goodness SS396 Chevelle ragtop, on the right a Marina Blue Corvette Sting Ray—with sidepipes no less.
You can feel the checkbook dancing around inside your sport coat pocket.
“Er, ah, how much for these two?” That’s what you say, stammering. “You know, what’s the price of each one?” The salesman runs inside and gets the keys to the Chevelle. It’s not a question of if he’s going to sell you a car—and he knows it. It’s just a matter of which one.