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Monday, August 3, 2015

This 1979 Concept Camaro is One Rare Street Machine



The 1970s aren’t exactly remembered as “the best of times” for American performance cars. Generally speaking, styling took a backwards leap and engine power suffered an even worse fate. But despite the malaise era’s downward dive, a few champions arose from the ashes. 
The Chevrolet Camaro was one of them, and this iteration is perhaps the finest of that era…the “Concept Camaro.”
In short, it was a contemporary Camaro with the suspension it always deserved, but in essence, it was a streetable racer inspired by legendary racing driver Mark Donohue. This rare 1979 Concept Camaro recently appeared on eBay, and appears to retain much of its originality.


The Concept Camaro story begins with General Motors engineer Bill Mitchell–not to be confused with the famed GM designer of the same name. During his career at GM, Mitchell worked closely with Donohue (a chassis setup savant) in the development of the Camaro for its role in the International Race of Champions.

 Sadly, Donohue passed away in 1975 at the Austrian Grand Prix, but those work experiences left a lasting impact on Mitchell, as well as a desire to iron-out the faults of the contemporary American performance car.

So in 1977, he opened his own firm–Special Vehicle Developments in Cheshire, Connecticut–and got to work building a Camaro with responsive and compliant handling characteristics. These Concept Camaros thus featured specially tuned Koni adjustable shocks, upgraded sway bars, brake pads and lines, alignment modifications, Minilite racing wheels, rump-hugging bucket seats, and Racemark steering wheels.

 The Camaro’s aggressive air dam and “special vehicle developments” badges gave a hint that these were something truly special.


The “concept” wasn’t set in stone, however. Mitchell offered extra modifications, including a turbocharger. Bear in mind, this was 1979 when the Camaro mustered only 175 horsepower.

According to the seller, this Concept Camaro (one of less than 20 ‘79s claimed built) features the original non-turbo 350 cu. in. V8, along with the original four-speed manual and posi-traction rear end. It may not be the fastest from light-to-light, but the rare Concept Camaro holds an interesting benchmark in the history of the “pro-touring” muscle car movement.