The beginning of the chevrolet camaro

В рубриках: Automobile | Автор: admin 21.03.2010

The Beginning of the Chevrolet Camaro

The introduction of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro and 2011 Camaro Convertible reignites a volcanic war that has defined the American automotive landscape for much of the past century. For over forty years Camaro and Mustang have been battling it out for first place in America’s heart. The Mustang arrived first, staking out the pony car high ground in 1964 and remained the only one of its kind during the two and a half years it took General Motors to respond. Since that time, Camaros and Mustangs have faced off in showrooms, at stoplights, on magazine covers and most dramatically on racetracks all across the country. Each has a large, passionate and loyal following. The story of how the battle lines came to be drawn, however, is almost as intriguing as the cars themselves.

While Lee Iacocca is universally recognized as the father of the Mustang, the Chevy Camaro’s parentage is much more difficult to define. Credit might rightfully be given to Alfred P. Sloan. President and finally Chairman of the Board of GM in 1937, Sloan was a visionary automotive pioneer who created the concept of annual styling changes and a lowest to highest pricing structure for each of GM’s brands, which at the time included Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac. The idea was to provide a low, entry level price point and keep car buyers coming back to GM over time as they became wealthier.

By the early 1950s Sloan’s concepts were so successful, General Motors surpassed Ford Motor Company as the largest car company in the United States, holding over 60-percent of the market and with Chevrolet Motor Division dominated most high volume segments.

Introduced in 1958, Chevy’s full-size flagship Impala out-sold both the Ford Galaxie 500 and Plymouth Fury by wide margins well into the mid 1960s. To keep the brand fresh and inviting, the Euro-styled, rear-engine Corvair family sedan was introduced in 1960, followed by a sporty Monza model in 1963. The compact Chevy II was launched in 1962 and size Chevelle was introduced in 1964, to face-off against Ford’s highly successful Falcon and Fairlane tandem.

In the mid-1960s, both sales and spirits at GM’s Chevrolet Motor Division were at an all-time high. Combined annual car and truck deliveries were approaching 2.8 million units. On NBC, Dinah Shore closed each weekly episode of the hour-long Dinah Shore Chevy Show with a warm farewell kiss and a musical reminder to “See the USA is your Chevrolet.” And at the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, opened by President Eisenhower in May of 1956, engineers and designers were already working on a new 1968 Chevy II/Super Nova model with dimensions and proportions remarkably similar to the Ford Mustang’s.

It’s a well known fact that GM didn’t approve production of what would eventually become the Camaro until six months after the Mustang was released. It’s also a fact that back in 1962, when Chevrolet design chief Irvin W. Rybicki and GM design boss Bill Mitchell approached Chevrolet General Manager Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen with the idea for a personal, four seat sports car, Knudsen quickly and confidently vetoed the idea. He was sure that Chevy’s existing models, particularly the Corvair, would be more than a match for any new small car from Ford. Knudsen would, incidentally, later be named president of Ford Motor Company in February 1968, temporarily stalling the ambition of a then up-and-coming vice president named Lee Iacocca.

However, when Mustang shocked the automotive world with record-breaking sales of 26,000 units on its first day and 100,000 in the first four months, Knudsen knew he had made a mistake. Chevy quickly swallowed its pride and green-lighted the development of a conventional front-engine, rear drive sports car. Engineers and designers were given a simple mandate: Make it longer, lower, wider, faster and better than Mustang in every way.

To most quickly and economically bring the new Mustang killer to market, the engineering team pulled ahead development of the 1968 Chevy II/Super Nova platform which featured a unibody structure from the windshield and firewall back. A unique feature, however, was a rubber-isolated front sub-frame. Isolated sub-frames had been used before but only in a few European designs, most notably some Mercedes-Benz models. One advantage was that it allowed a larger interior with more luggage space. Another advantage was that it provided a smoother, quieter ride.

The most important, however, is that it would accommodate a wide variety of performance suspensions and power plants. Other off-the-shelf mechanical components included four drum-type brakes, standard manual steering and Chevy’s rugged 230 cubic inch, 140-horsepower straight six engine mated to a three-speed manual transmission.

The design team that produced the Corvette, Corvair, and Nova were given the challenge of producing Chevy’s answer to the Mustang. Preliminary design drawings and mock-ups included a two-seat roadster, a fastback and even a station wagon. But in the end, Chevy management insisted on a four-seat sport coupe, also available as a convertible. The final design had a long hood and a short deck, but didn’t otherwise replicate Mustang’s boxy styling. A wide satin silver grille with inset headlights and parking lamps, a low roof, large wheel cut-outs and a bold horizontal crease midway on the sides gave it a surprisingly fluid, road-ready appearance. To some GM insiders, it looked remarkably like a more muscular evolution of the Corvair.

Two trim packages were also created: an appearance-oriented Rally Sport and a performance-oriented Super Sport. An RS/SS combination could also be ordered. The RS package included a blacked-out grille with hidden headlights, revised parking and tail lights, upgraded interior trim and RS badging. The SS package included a modified 350 cid V8 engine, simulated air-intakes on the hood, special bumble bee striping and a blacked-out grill. When the RS/SS package was ordered the RS badging took precedence.

All the parts and pieces were quickly coming together. However, as the launch date neared, Chevy’s Mustang killer still didn’t have a name. How it came to be called the Camaro is still another story.

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