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The Classic Standard: The Chevy Camaro

Chevrolet is one of the most customer-trusted brands in the automobile industry. In 2017, the company ranked number seven as the most dependable automobile brand in the United States and received the most awards for its models next to Toyota. One of the award recipients was the Camaro for Best in Category. The Camaro was voted Best Midsize Sporty Vehicle over the Ford Mustang, the Camaro’s longstanding competitor. That’s not a reputation that’s easy to build from scratch. Not to mention, it is one of four major American car manufacturers and the second leading brand in sales by volume in the United States. Seventy percent of the materials used in vehicle production are sourced from the United States—ranking number seven in domestic production on Time magazine’s “Most American” list.

The Camaro is the brand’s only muscle car. In 2017, Chevrolet sold 67,940 Camaros in total, coming in second to the Ford Mustang. In U.S. News’ “Ford vs. Chevrolet: Battle of the Brands” article, the 2017 Camaro beat the Mustang based on consumer-focused evaluation criteria.

How did Chevrolet get to be so good? The company had marketing-wise founders who knew how to develop a brand and deliver on its promises. A little history and some fun facts will help make your Chevrolet purchase feel like part of the tradition.

 

What’s in a name?

General Motors corporation founder William Carpo Durant was a man of many business ventures; his most successful endeavor was Chevrolet. While Durant came up with the concept, the company’s namesake lies with Louis Josef Chevrolet, a Swiss race car driver who was known for reaching record-breaking speeds. With a celebrity as a co-founder, attention from the general public was not hard to garner.

When Durant approached Chevrolet with an idea, he wanted Chevrolet to design a working model to launch as their first automobile. The model, named the Chevrolet Classic Six, supposedly did not meet projected sales goals once it reached the market, though it sold 3,000 units at $2,150 in its first year. Chevrolet himself had little confidence in it. He parted ways with General Motors in 1913 and sold his share of the brand to Durant. He then went on to create his own company in 1914: the Frontenac Motor Car Company. Two of Chevrolet’s later designs won the Indianapolis 500 with the Monroe in 1920 and the Frontenac in 1921.

While there may be some confusion as to whether “Chevrolet” and “Chevy” are the same make of vehicle, they are. Chevrolet is colloquially called “Chevy,” a nickname given to the company by their loyal customer bases, who have contributed to the brand’s customer-oriented and patriotic image.

 

The History of the Camaro

The Camaro isn’t a Louis Chevrolet design, but it was created under his branding. Not surprisingly, “Camaro” wasn’t its first name, either. Just like Alexa was called Echo during Amazon’s voice-recognition technology prototype phase, the Camaro’s in-house name under production was the “Panther,” and it was to be the perfect rival and response to the Ford Mustang. Other names bounced around had included “Commander” and “Wildcat.” The company was so sure the name would be Panther post-production that they had ordered $100,00 Panther badges for the debut, only for the name to be changed at the last minute.

But why “Camaro”? Apparently, Chevrolet executive Pete Estes made the final call on the name, believing that it should be cohesive with the rest of the line. “Camaro” is a made-up word and has no meaning behind it; it was literally named to conform with the “C” series models. His marketing team decided to elaborate on the meaning behind the name, defining the car and name two-fold as a “small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.” They weren’t kidding. According to FoxSports, Chevrolet has won more NASCAR championship titles than Ford by 39:15, as of the most recent championship results from 2015. To date, Chevrolet is still the leader in the number of NASCAR wins with 775 in total; Ford comes in second with 657 wins.

The competition between Ford and Chevrolet was at its height in the 1960s and 1970s. The Ford Mustang was announced in 1963 and, in its first two years, sold over 700,000 units. Chevy raced to respond with a pony car of its own. After 36 months of production under wraps, the model was officially announced to the press on June 28, 1966, in the world ’s first mass teleconference. Chevrolet’s executives had no idea they were making history, but out of necessity, creative solutions are found—and they certainly made technological bounds.

Many changes to the final prototypes were made just before the announcement. One of the first versions of the Camaro looked like a station wagon, with a front and back seat, contrary to the two-seater we are all familiar with. There were eight different engine types to outfit this model with and six different body types or frames. Talk about options!

The Z/28 engine, in particular, was what made this vehicle a muscle car. It had to be ordered under the “Z/28 Special Performance Package.” It came with a 302 CID V8 engine and was specifically designed to be a legal street-racing car. That same engine has been used in NASCAR and the Indianapolis 500, which the Chevy Camaro has placed in nine times. Chevrolet sold over 400,000 units in the Camaro’s first two years.

The first Camaro itself, the 100001, was actually just a prototype—and it still exists. The Camaro 100001 was refurbished by a father-and-son team here in the United States, and the refurbished model was put on display for the first time in 2016 at the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit. The Historical Vehicle Association inducted the Camaro to its registry in its 50th year, according to standards set by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Heritage Documentation and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). The car is now located at the Library of Congress permanently.

To this day, Hagerty rates the Camaro is third most popular collector’s vehicle, following the Corvette and Ford Mustang, which take first and second place respectively. The value of the Camaro remains at 50, which is quite a feat considering it is a 52-year-old model. This score means that the Camaro is keeping up with overall performance relative to the classic car market. With an industry-changing history like the Camaro’s, you know that you’re investing in lasting quality. Browse the Chevy website for new models or check out our certified pre-owned vehicles for an older model.

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