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Old vs. New - Thunder Road

Jim Campisano Dec 20, 2013
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From the moment the fifth-gen Camaro arrived in showrooms in the spring of 2009, there has been a lot of spirited banter about it. Some think it’s the best Camaro ever. Others think it pales in comparison to previous generations. A select few are outraged that it doesn’t totally mimic the styling of the ’69 Camaro the way the ’05-up Mustang apes its progenitor from the same year. There’s a love it or hate it vibe about the latest F-body that’s never far from the surface.

When the ’14 SS and Z/28 were introduced at the New York International Auto Show this past March, the Internet exploded with comments, some positive, some negative, some completely hilarious. The biggest point of contention was the Z/28’s taillights, which were said to resemble that of an old Honda Prelude. Some responses were so hate-filled that a well-known GM employee penned a response in an attempt to quell the uproar.

I understand how both sides feel. The fifth-gen has never been perfect, but that has not stopped it from being the best selling vehicle in its class since its introduction. It’s outsold the Rustang three years in a row and in some months has outsold the Ford and the Dodge Challenger combined. I personally love the styling on the ’10-up F-body. If you see one in your rearview mirror, it is unmistakable and aggressive looking. If I want a car that looks like a ’69 Camaro, I can buy a ’69 Camaro (or through the miracle of modern manufacturing, buy a reproduction body and build one). Moving forward, I don’t think the sixth-gen should look like any previous Camaro. It should be a total original, like the first-, second-, and third-gens.

Is the ’10-up car perfect? No. Does it have lousy outward visibility? Absolutely. So did many classic cars. My ’72 Corvette coupe has worse blind spots than Ray Charles, and you know what? I don’t care. At least the new Camaro has very good side mirrors. The fact that the base SS hasn’t had a horsepower increase since Day 1 is a total “fail” on Chevy’s part. It seriously needs one.

Nor is the new Camaro very efficient from a size/usable space standpoint. The coupe should be a hatchback, and the trunk on the convertible’s a bigger joke than government. The steering was too heavy at first, but it’s now much improved. The goofy show car steering wheel has also been pitched for a more usable design that also improves feel. The Camaro’s been on a steady upgrade plan since day one and the SS, 1LE, ZL1 and (soon-to-be) LS7-power Z/28 offer more performance than has ever been available from the factory in a Chevy ponycar. Handling on the ZL1 is so good it ran Virginia International Raceway’s road course 3.5 seconds a lap faster than the Shelby GT500, despite having 82 less horsepower. That’s not even in the same league. Even the base V-6 car can run mid 14s in the quarter-mile. That’s not something some fabled muscle cars from the ’60s could do.

Is it too expensive? Depends on whom you ask. It’s priced similarly to its competition, but if you can’t afford even a 1LT base model, it’ll be too much no matter the cost. Not everyone had the scratch for SS350 or even a base six-cylinder Camaro in 1967, either. That’s why they didn’t sell a half-a-million of them a year.

What puzzles me, however, is the animosity directed towards the new Camaro from some fans of other generations. I polled the editors of our company’s four Mustang magazines and similar angst is not present in the Mustang hobby. Some prefer the ’60s models to the new ones, others feel the best were built from ’87-’93, but this constant in-fighting just doesn’t exist in that niche. I suppose when people are as passionate about their cars as Camaro lovers, the possibility for it exists. Heck, I’m old enough to remember when many F-body enthusiasts absolutely hated second-gens, including RS, Z28 and SS models. “The ’69 is the best! All the rest suck!” Or so they said. Yet now those ’70-’73 cars are considered especially desirable. Times have changed.

Frankly, I’m thrilled when I see one, two or even three dozen new Camaros at a Super Chevy Show. While some of these were purchased by older enthusiasts, many are owned by younger 20-somethings. For them, the Camaro is not only a great car, it’s their ’68 Z/28 or SS396. For many, it is either their first new car or first good one. They love them. A few may have never would have considered buying American before. They pamper them, race them, modify them, and autocross them—just like we did in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. These folks are the future of our hobby. If Chevy does it right, they’ll be buying new Bow Ties for decades.

If you don’t like a new Camaro, don’t buy one. But why rail against it? This thing of ours should be all-inclusive. Welcome to the wonderful world of Chevrolet, I say.



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