There are very few cars that define the era they’re created in. I’ve focused on a few of them up until this point, but this blog wouldn’t be a car blog if I didn’t give a nod to one of the most famous American muscle cars of all time. Hitting dealerships for the first time in September of 1966, this car was put out by General Motors to compete directly with the Ford Mustang. It’s a car that gave onlookers whiplash as they craned their necks to try to get a glance. A car that makes just as big of a statement today as it did in ’66: The Chevy Camaro.
The Camaro was introduced as a muscle car that packed a punch. Taking the place of the Nova, a car that was supposed to be a family grocery getter, this car was true 100% true American muscle from day one. The first standard Camaro put out 140 hp backed by a three speed transmission. The car was almost entirely built within the United States, most coming from Norwood, Ohio and Van Nuys, California. If its speed, sound, and place of production didn’t make it true American muscle, pacing the 1967 Indie 500 certainly helped.
Today the choice seems to be between the Mustang and the Camaro and as far as the modern versions of this car go, the Camaro is by far the superior vehicle. From its sound to its horsepower to its pissed-off-looking grill the Camaro still screams American muscle in a way that Mustang doesn’t. The Mustang seems to have lost its way, becoming almost what the VW Jetta is to 16 year old girls. The Camaro without all the bells and whistles is still a Camaro: it still looks, sounds, and feels like an American muscle car. The mustang without all the bells and whistles looks like a nice coupe, sounds like a Focus, and feels like the grocery getter that its become.
The choice wasn’t so easy in the 60’s, in fact when Shelby had ahold of the Ford Mustang my opinion flips exactly 180 degrees. The engines ford was putting into cars in the 60’s were simply unmatched by any domestic automative company. Aesthetically, the classic cars are neck-and-neck. Both look mean, both make a big statement about American muscle, and both have the attitude that only being the best can carry successfully. In this case, the Mustang gives the Camaro a run for its money.
The Camaro has had a huge impact on the American automotive industry. Not only did it pose a constant threat to the Ford Mustang, but it put a new spin on what an American muscle car should be. As a replacement for the Nova, GM put the Camaro out as one thing and one thing only: American muscle. The response of a GM executive to the question of what the meaning behind the word Camaro was made their goals very clear: “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs”.