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Reagan Era Redux - May 2009 Camaro Concepts

Chris Brown May 1, 2009
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It’s the 1980s. Van Halen was transitioning from Roth to Haggar, America’s muscle cars were making around 200 horsepower, and Marty Mc Fly was saving the future by changing the past.

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Chevrolet’s Camaro began its third generation with the 1982 model year. A fresh, chiseled shape took a couple of styling cues from the end of the second-gen, but for the most part it was a contemporary design. While the third-gen cars represented 10 years of Camaro history, they don’t seem to get the respect that the earlier, or later cars do. Customizing these cars is a bit of a challenge. The retro theme is being applied to every current muscle car, but it’s a little too predictable to apply to a car that isn’t old enough to be a “cool old car” and isn’t new enough to be accepted as modern. Although this era was the beginning of body kits, we would suggest avoiding the Fast and the Furious add-ons to keep it clean.

The 1985-1990 factory ground effects are the cleanest of this body style, so that is what we are going to use in this example. An SS-style ram air fiberglass hood can be found from a variety of suppliers and is a tasteful alternative to the overused cowl induction hood. A factory rear spoiler is better than a wing because it doesn’t look like it's compensating for lack of power.

We contemplated a whole new one-off front fascia, but that would be too easy to draw, yet too difficult for most people to create. A little surgery and fabrication changes the front end of the car by creating a mesh grill where there once was a license plate mount and [possibly] fog lights. This gives the grill opening a little more of a performance look. Square headlights really age the car, but the aftermarket alternative full headlight covers don’t look any less ’80s. Unless your girlfriend has Jersey hair and legwarmers, we’d advise against it. Fabricate angled covers that are halfway between all and nothing. Light smoke acrylic covers don’t completely cover those big sugar scoop light pockets, but instead accent what is intrinsically part of the identity of the car. A small amount of black mixed in with clearcoat sprayed evenly (make sure you count the coats) on the turn signals and taillights tones them down. Don’t go totally black, just darker. (check local laws)

Speaking of color—there are sooo many of these Camaros out there in every color, so try something fresh. We have chosen light blue, but it could be light green or orange, as long as it has a lot of pearl. A not-so-simple semi-gloss black stripe covers the nose. What makes it complex is the slightly glossier black pattern that is created with a vinyl cut paint stencil. The graphic should be a contemporary pattern. It could be leafy or ornamental (think details on a dollar bill or stock certificate). The layered texture that is created breaks up the standard-issue flat graphic in a modern way. An old set of wheels will date a car in a heartbeat. While we don’t advocate the “Donk”-sized gigantic wheels that raise the car off of the ground, a contemporary set of 18 or 19-inch wheels will fill the wheel openings better than the black donut-clad rollers that came on the car from the factory. In this case, a set of ID Luxury Wheels’ ID:321’s with semi-gloss black centers and color-matched hoops follows current trends and accent the monster brakes with natural finish calipers.

With a little work and imagination, even an ’80s Camaro can be as contemporary and eye-catching as a new Lamborghini. For more ideas, or to get your project down on paper, go to



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