With the fifth generation of the Chevrolet Camaro in its final year of production, Chevrolet spoke to designers who contributed to the iconic car’s design and styling cues through each generation. As the years have passed we’ve seen the Camaro experience a slim down, don sporty curves, as well as a rebirth of a previous generation.
A Short, Sweet Beginning
The first generation of Chevrolet’s Camaro began in 1967. Despite only lasting three model years, this generation of Camaro stood out with its muscly, sleek, and aggressive design features.
The body lines were defined and discernible, complemented with wide rear fenders to give the Camaro a wider stance. Moreover, the placement of the cowl-induction hood signified there was a sizable engine lurking under the hood. Not to mention, the engines available at the time were small and big-block V8s, all without emissions laws.
“The Camaro should not have been a design success, as it was based on an existing architecture and admittedly hurried to market to address the personal coupe revolution occurring with Baby Boomer customers,” said Ed Welburn, vice president of General Motors Global Design. “However, the first-generation Camaro delivered a pure, classic proportion that will forever be regarded as one of the best-looking cars of its time.”
Furthermore, Welburn noted the first generation Camaro was very lean yet muscular simultaneously. Although the first-generation Camaro wasn’t as beefy as its competitors such as the Dodge Challenger or Pontiac GTO, the Camaro’s design still maintains its timeless looks today.
Moving on, the second generation of the Camaro spanned from 1970-81. This Camaro’s design featured clear-cut body lines, which gave the notion of forward movement.
“For the first time, it was built on its own dedicated architecture, which gave the design team the freedom to create a pure expression,” said Ken Parkinson, executive director of design at Chevrolet Trucks and Global Architecture.
“What that team created was a powerful expression of American muscle, influenced by a European grand-touring aesthetic.”
The single characteristic that made the second-generation Camaro appear immense was its upper portion of the design, which was placed more towards the rear on the body to simulate a long body. With the elongated look of the body it gave way to make the hood space seem large. This gave an exaggerated look and insinuated that a hefty engine was concealed underneath.
“The second-gen car is pure Camaro, with a dramatic proportion and lean, muscular form,” Parkinson said. “You won’t confuse it with the first generation, but it is unmistakably a Camaro from every angle.”
All About Digital And Aerodynamics
The third generation of the Camaro, which lasted from 1982-92, ushered in a new era and considerable design changes. Straying away from solely raw power, this Camaro was the first mass-produced American car to feature aero-enhancing and racing-inspired ground effects.
The body’s curvature and wide rear window were revolutionary achievements during its production years. Not to mention, the 80s introduced a small sized vehicle that is popular today; the hatchback. This Camaro was the first generation to have a hatchback design.
Adding onto the 80s, this Camaro featured big, multi-colored taillights and a digital dashboard. The advent of technology is evident in this generation of Camaro with its high-tech inspired design cues.
“The third-generation Camaro will always be a cultural symbol of the 1980s because its design epitomized the era’s high-tech cultural trends,”
said John Cafaro, executive director at Chevrolet Global Car Design. “It also grew into more of a serious sports car and with that, its form was wrapped around a chassis system designed for a new level of function.”
However, with technology constantly evolving Chevrolet needed to reinvent their iconic sports coupe.
The fourth generation of the Camaro, spanning from 1993-2002 saw monumental changes in body design. Piggybacking off the previous generation, this Camaro was extremely aggressive in design, featuring smooth body sides and a low-set front end.
“It was a very aggressive design intended to evolve the proportion from the third-generation car with a provocative exterior and greater aerodynamic performance,” said Kirk Bennion, Chevrolet Camaro exterior design manager. “It has a very sculptural form vocabulary that was definitely all-new for the Camaro.”
Features that made the fourth generation Camaro stand out include 17-inch five-spoke wheels and a 68-degree windshield, which served as a primary element of the car’s sleek proportion. The inclusion of four, mini-halogen headlamps helped this Camaro achieve a lower, more aerodynamic looking front end.
“Having a low front end was important to the design,” says Bennion. “It really worked with the high deck lid rear spoiler to enhance the appearance of motion. All these years later, it still looks contemporary – and fast!”
Resurrecting The Past
Clearly inspired by the first-generation Camaro, today’s Camaros are a combination of sleek design and high-performance. From the rear quarter gills to the cowl-induction hood, the design of the current generation Camaro gives musclecar enthusiasts chills.
“Distilling the timeless essence of the design and translating into a fresh, contemporary Camaro was a challenge,” said Tom Peters, Chevrolet Camaro exterior design director. “The final design perfectly straddled that razor-sharp line between heritage and retro – and with five straight years at the top of the segment, clearly the fifth-generation Camaro connected with a whole new group of enthusiasts.”
Awaiting The Next Generation
As the fifth generation is coming to a close, we looked back at the Camaro, where it all started and its impact in today’s automotive market. The Chevrolet Camaro remains a mainstay in American car culture, influencing other American companies to refresh their classics from yesteryear.
From the current Dodge Challenger to the newest Ford Mustang, each of these borrow from their predecessors. Their predecessor’s design aesthetics and mass appeal still hit home in our hearts today.
What do you think Chevrolet is envisioning with the next generation Camaro? Share your thoughts below.