On May 16 Chevrolet will unveil the all-new, sixth-generation Camaro, which is why the automaker asked five designers who contributed to the styling of the Gen 5 car to talk about the Camaro’s design legacy.
One can say many things about the Camaro, but the essence of it is the fact that it has always been the affordable sports car, the one many kids across the United States (and not only) dreamed about and succeeded to own one day.
And it has always been the Ford Mustang’s most important rival, so with the pony car’s renewal last year everyone is expecting Chevy’s answer.
Vice president of GM Global Design Ed Welburn owns a 1969 Camaro so he knows a thing or two about the first-generation model.
“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,” says Welburn.
“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. It was very lean and muscular, with comparatively minor embellishments for high-performance models,” the designer adds.
“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,” Welburn remarks.
Ken Parkinson, executive director of design, Chevrolet Trucks and Global Architecture, may own a 1968 Camaro but it’s the second-gen car that impressed him the most design-wise.
“It was a radical departure from the first-gen. For the first time, it was built on its own dedicated architecture, which gave the design team the freedom to create a pure expression. What that team created was a powerful expression of American muscle, influenced by a European grand-touring aesthetic. There was simply nothing else like it,” Parkinson says.
“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,” the designer adds.
During its 12 model years, the design of the second-generation Camaro evolved, including the change to soft, body-color fascias and a wraparound rear window.
The third-generation Camaro was a much more radical departure from its predecessors. John Cafaro, Chevrolet Global Car Design executive director, believes the third-gen Camaro will always be a cultural symbol of the 1980s “because its design epitomized the era’s high-tech cultural trends.”
“The third-generation Camaro represented a distinct breakaway from the previous generations, which were undeniably influenced by European grand touring cars,” says Cafaro. “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 in the company,” adds the designer, who previously owned a third-generation Camaro “1LE” racecar.
The aggressive front end was designed to enhance downforce, as the third-generation Camaro was the first high-volume American car to incorporate aero-enhancing, racing-inspired ground effects. And for the first time, the Camaro was offered as a hatchback, with its large backlight being a technological achievement for automotive glass production because of its size and compound-curve sculpture.
With the fourth-generation model, Chevrolet went for an evolutionary design. Chevrolet Camaro exterior design manager Kirk Bennion, who owns a 1993 Camaro Z28, says the fourth-gen still looks aggressive today.
“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,” Bennion says.
The most striking features are the fast-rake windshield, combined with a change to a “bottom-breathing” engine-cooling arrangement, to support the strong wedge shape of the overall car.
“Having a low front end was important to the design. 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!” Bennion adds.
The soon-to-be-replaced Camaro launched after eight years of absence for the Camaro nameplate, which explains the huge enthusiasm that followed its launch.
Chevrolet Camaro exterior design director Tom Peters, who owns a 1969 Camaro, says the fifth-gen model used the first generation model for inspiration, but it is more than just a 21st century update.
“Distilling the timeless essence of the design and translating into a fresh, contemporary Camaro was a challenge. 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,” Peters says.
So what will the 2016 Camaro bring? All we know so far is that it “will be a truly all-new car, from the grille’s bowtie to the rear spoiler.” GM says the only two parts carried over from the current model are the bowtie emblem on the taillight panel and the SS badge for the V8 model. Sounds interesting, so make sure you mark May 16 in your calendars.