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Chevrolet Camaro turns 50… or maybe 51 #throwbackthursday

The 1967 Chevrolet Camaro might have trailed the Ford Mustang to the muscle car party, but it quickly became an icon, and this year turns 50, or 51…

#THROWBACKTHURSDAY The Chevrolet Camaro celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, although some purists might argue that it’s real 50th was last year… The 1967 model year car (hence why we’re claiming its 50th anniversary) was released on 29th September 1966 and was Chevy’s hurried answer to the Ford Mustang (it arrived two years after the Mustang).

The Camaro, like the Mustang, had that typical muscle car look with a long nose and a short boot. Based on the soon-to-be-launched 1968 Chevrolet Nova, the Camaro was available in both coupe and convertible forms and could be tweaked with more than 120 options (both factory and dealer).

1967 Chevrolet Camaro Sport Coupe
1967 Chevrolet Camaro Sport Coupe

Buyers could choose either RS or SS variations, offering things like bigger engines, blacked out grilles and hidden headlights. You could even choose a combination RS/SS variation which included all the good bits from both variants. And then there was the most famous Camaro of all, the Z-28 which was added to the line-up in 1968.

According to the history books, almost no-one knew about the Camaro Z-28 which was built to homologate the Camaro for the Club of America Trans Am racing series. The Camaro Z-28 packed almost 400bhp, although the sales brochure suggested just 290, got special racing suspension, dual exhaust, front disc brakes, and big, fat racing stripes on the bonnet. It could also be optioned with the RS package and there was not a single Z-28 badge on the thing anywhere. Despite its racing bent, the Z-28 was famous for being lethargic below 4000rpm, only picking up its skirt from there on.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS Z28
1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS Z28

General Motors only needed to sell 100 Z-28s for homologation, but managed to shift 602 in the first year on-sale making it an extremely rare vehicle. By comparison, Chevy sold more than 64,000 RS variants and more than 34,000 variants in the same period. You can thank the Camaro’s use as a pace car at the Indy 500 for its sales success (see picture below).

Chevrolet at Indy Centennial
First-year Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS was official pace car of the 51st Indianapolis 500 race in 1967.

But where’d the name come from? At the time, Chevrolet claimed it was an old French word meaning comrade… then rival car makers did some digging of their own and found the word also meant things like, depending on the language you spoke, a small, shrimp-like creature, and even loose bowels. Yikes. Chevrolet eventually came out and, in typical style, released a statement saying the name meant “a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs”. Chevrolet eventually said it had made the name up, that it followed on from its tradition of naming its cars starting with the letter ‘C’.

Like the Mustang, the Camaro is a muscle car icon. Happy Birthday. Or, happy belated birthday…


Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.