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Camaro Retrospective Part 2

How Super Chevy helped popularize the Camaro

Doug Marion Jul 27, 2007
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01 Chicago's Mike Alberts has owned and raced his '67 Camaro for 27-plus years! It has been featured or pictured over 70 times and it holds the wheelstand record at about 440 feet with a 598ci all-Chevy motor! Best performance: 8.18 e.t. at 170 mph.

In Part One, we touched on Super Chevy's 1973-1985 coverage of wild and wooly Camaros. Virtually all were either a modified street machine, show car or a drag car. Being with Super Chevy since 1976, we never saw very many "stock" high-performance Camaros, or ones loaded with options in the '70s. If we did, it was usually a Z28. The SC readership then was almost totally absorbed with increasing their Camaro's performance or making it an extension of their own personality-to fix up and stand out. As dumb as this sounds, many Camaro owners did not attend the drags-hence never saw and knew little about an RPO big-block version or a COPO.

All we were concerned with up to the mid-'80s was the continual growth of Super Chevy. It was successful then by "mirroring" what was going on in "enthusiastville."

During this same time period, while we were going to Super Chevy Sunday and other street machine and drag racing events, many other enthusiasts were quietly beating the bushes for nice Camaros to buy ... quietly, one at a time ... hush, don't tell anyone! The same can be said for Chevelles, Novas, 409s and Corvettes. And buy they did!

One guy named Jim Wirth formed the United States Camaro Club in Dayton, Ohio. He owned a nice white 1967 Camaro SS and had a small advertising agency. Life was good. Many enterprising individuals like Jim Wirth also started their own Camaro reproduction and NOS parts companies. To gain national attention and exposure, virtually all of them either attended a Super Chevy Sunday event and/or advertised in Super Chevy magazine. The entire '70s and early '80s were really wild times! Much new stuff was being created in the Chevrolet hobby.

We thought it proper to end the Part One story in 1985. Why? We went through every issue of Super Chevy as well as the Super Chevy Sunday event winner lists and came up with the following conclusion: Camaros were tops in e.t. bracket and class drag racing. But their stock counterparts had yet to make a commanding statement. Why? It took time and finances to restore or refurbish one for show competition. It seemed as if everyone had the same idea at the same time. When 1986 arrived, all kinds of Yenkos, Baldwin-Motion, Dana, Nickey and other factory COPO big-block Camaros invaded Super Chevy Sunday's car show. Call it a meeting place! Most serious enthusiasts back then read Super Chevy, so it made sense for them to bring out their Camaros when it was done. (Note our cover photos and corresponding captions.)

Because Super Chevy was a high-performance magazine, it gave keen coverage to the IROC series as well as specific SCCA machines. It also covered lots of buildups, including Jerry Shumard's beautiful S/G Camaro buildup, which went on to win many NHRA Division VII events including the NHRA World Finals in Pomona. During the 1985-1989 time period, both Super Chevy and this writer were able to photograph many of the very best Camaros on the planet. The January 1987 issue was a first-ever all-Camaro issue. It's still fun to read to this day.

The late 1980s saw the mint original Indy Pace Cars-yes, the actual ones used in the 1967, 1969 and 1982 Indianapolis 500 events. All were at the Super Chevy Sunday at the Indianapolis Raceway Park one year for everyone to admire. The same goes for the coveted ZL1 aluminum 427 race car Camaros. Of the 69 originally built, more than 31 are known to exist today. About half of these-or just about all those known in the late eighties-were at a special gathering hosted at SCS-Indy and sponsored by Ed Cuneen and his COPO Connection organization in Lombard, Illinois.

From 1990 to present, most remaining stock Camaros have blossomed back to their former glory and beauty. Drag cars have continued to lead the way. Brand new reproduction, first-generation Camaro bodies have recently made the scene-much to the delight of most.

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02 Wisconsin's Jim Parks came to SCS, Indy with his 1-of-54-sold 1967 Yenko 427 Camaro. Many said that Yenko Chevrolet never produced a '67. We knew otherwise. This sign appeared on his second trip.

Seeing each and every Camaro brand new since the very inception, Super Chevy was always fully aware of its yearly attributes. Hence stories through 1989 have mostly been aimed at its history and performance-so no one will ever forget. We can't lay claim to helping create its vast popularity. It did it day by day, all on its own.

The Camaros' popularity came back full circle in the '80s. Well-designed, well-built, well-pampered and continually well-received-that sums up the last 40 years of Camaro.

When the next ultra-awesome regular production edition is introduced, Camaro Performers will give it the coverage it rightfully deserves. No doubt, it will probably be better than all the previous Camaros put together, give or take a few.

Finally, we believe it might be a good time in your high-performance life to buy one new (or used) and thus add your own mark to Camaro history. Make ours silver, thank you.



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