Chevrolet Celebrates Five Generations of the Iconic Camaro


Since the introduction of the first Chevrolet Camaro back in 1967, the pony car has become an iconic piece of automotive history, and helped shape a design legacy that is about to enter its sixth generation. In honor of this event, Chevrolet asked five designers to reflect on what has made the Camaro such an icon.

The first generation of the Chevrolet Camaro only lasted three years from 1967 to 1969, but according to Ed Welburn, vice president of GM Global Design, “The 1969 model is the iconic Camaro to me. From the dual-plane grille design and speed lines stamped into the fenders and doors, it was original and distinctive. It didn’t borrow from any other design and all these years later, it still looks fresh.”

What made the first generation of the Camaro stand out from the rest of the offerings of that time in terms of styling were character lines running behind the wheels, a pulled out rear fender, dual-plane grille which later became a Camaro trademark, wide taillights, and Chevrolet’s signature “cowl induction” power bulge hood.

As we entered the 1970s, the second generation of the Camaro came out, and over its 12-year run, the styling continued to evolve. “The second-gen car is pure Camaro, with a dramatic proportion and lean, muscular form. You won’t confuse it with the first generation, but it is unmistakably a Camaro from every angle,” said Ken Parkinson, executive director of design, Chevrolet Trucks and Global Architecture.

And while there were significant changes made over the life of the second generation, Parkinson believes the most notable occurred between 1970 and 1973. The RS model features a split-bumper design, giving the model a more contemporary design. The body of the Camaro tucked in below the horizontal crease running the length of the body to expose the tires in a more muscular appearance, while the complex sail panel flows into the rear of the car for a more sophisticated look.

The third generation kicked off in 1982 for a ten-year run with a more performance-oriented design, especially with the introduction of the third-gen Z28. Quad rectangular headlamps and a hatchback became part of the Camaro Z28 design, along with Formula 1-inspired ground effects. Linear five-spoke wheels complemented the aggressive design, while a sharp body-side crease divided up the angular body. We even named the Camaro Z28 our 1982 Motor Trend Car of the Year.

“The third generation Camaro represented a distinct breakaway from the previous generations, which were undeniably influenced by European grand touring cars. This was a uniquely American design with a form developed for function — and its aggressive front-end styling was deemed almost too aggressive by some of the company,” said John Cafaro, executive director, Chevrolet Global Car Design.

By the time the fourth generation started in 1993, the Chevrolet Camaro was already established as an iconic American sports coupe. For the new generation, the Camaro SS received a fast-rake windshield, four mini-halogen headlamps, smooth body sides and integrated wheel flares, an SS-specific hood scoop, 17-inch five-spoke wheels, and an integrated, wraparound rear wing.

“More than 20 years after its debut, the fourth-generation Camaro still looks as sleek as anything on showroom floors today. It was a very aggressive design intended to evolve the proportion from the third generation car with a provocative exterior and greater aerodynamic performance. It has a very sculptural form vocabulary that was definitely all-new for the Camaro,” said kirk Bennion, Chevrolet Camaro exterior design manager.

During the fourth and fifth generation, there was a gap in production that didn’t pick up again until 2010. The new model was clearly an exercise in retro design, following the lead of the 2005 Ford Mustang. The design focused on proportion and sculpture, with a reimagined cross-car, dual-plane grille, a sharp body-side crease, rear fender gills that pay homage to the 1969 model, along with dual-element tail lamps, and a rear-fender kick-up feature that adds to the muscular character of the car.

“They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and that couldn’t have been truer than as demonstrated with the enthusiasm that followed the introduction of the fifth-generation Camaro. After an eight-year absence, the return of Camaro was a thunderbolt that reignited the passion of Camaro enthusiast around the world. It’s a car design for those who like to drive, and its elegant design makes you smile every time,” said Tom Peters, Chevrolet Camaro exterior design director.

We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see the sixth-generation Camaro’s design, but based on what we’ve seen in spy shots, the next car based on GM’s Alpha platform looks like it will evolve the styling of the current Camaro. Which generation is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.

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