Before the Ford Mustang launched in 1964, executives at General Motors knew they were going to need another sports car other than the Corvair. It became clear when in ’64, 100,000 Ford Mustangs were sold in six months, and half a million by the end of the year. The Corvair on the other hand, was only moving 200,000 yearly. Thus, the Chevrolet Camaro was born. And on September 29, 1966, the first Camaros hit the road.
The idea entered reality under the code name XP-836, but internally was known as the Panther. Mock-ups of the car began testing with the Chaparral name, borrowed from the success of Chevrolet’s Trans-Am racers.
Finally in 1966, the final name was revealed, with much pent up anticipation as details began to trickle out about Chevrolet’s new sports car. Executives decided on the Camaro name ultimately, a loose and obscure translation to “friend” or “companion” in the French language. Little did they know when the car hit US roads in that same year, a legacy was born.
The first generation of the car was offered with a total of eight engine choices including a monster 427 V8, alongside three trim levels. The iconic Z/28 trim would arrive at dealers a year later. A timeless design, designers drew on the original to inspire the reboot of the nameplate decades later in the fifth generation Camaro, remaining relevant to this day. When a Chevrolet executive was confronted about the strange name choice for the car, he was quoted saying “It’s a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.” The rivalry continues to the present day, with no end in sight for the pony car wars. Ford has just launched its entirely knew 2015 Mustang, and Chevrolet readies its answer with the 2016 Camaro riding on the alpha-platform.
Happy Birthday Camaro, and many, many more.