A single black and white photo of a 1982-1992 F-body Chevrolet Camaro or Pontiac Firebird, seen in my district. But what does it portend?
I could bemoan the proportions. That´s pointless. Maybe a potted model history? No, thanks. The photo could lead us down a rabbit hole regarding General Motors’ body nomenclature. Considering the depth, breadth and sheer squiggliness of that byzantine horror, I am not sure if I can force myself to examine that mess.
But I will anyway. Or I will try.
Wikipedia’s first sentence on the Camarobird’s body declares: “The F platform, or F-body, was General Motors‘ small rear-wheel drive automobile platform from 1967 until 2002.” So what the F is an is an F-body?
I made a diagram of the F-body relation to other body-architectures. That could help a bit.
This is the general aim of the third generation F-body: “The third generation of the F-Body was introduced for 1982, as a major redesign with a more modern look and a lighter, better-handling car.” (Wikipedia). Why does this “body” concept seem so unintuitive? The clue is that the body is not a unique geometry but a general purpose framework, in this instance smallish, cheapish sportscar.
The Chevroletness and Pontiacness is only a thin veneer. You might think the alphabetical system indicated progress. It didn’t. The same letter could be re-used for different generations of quite different cars in the way the VAG architectures or Fiat architectures didn´t (or did they – the Tipo ended up being all kinds of differernt cars though it was never given an official code name for the generic shell).
What happened with the evolution of the F-body is that product planners at GM would have looked at the second generation of F-body and said to themselves ” We think its worth really modifying this for a new series of replacement sports cars”. The brand had secondary status in this view. To judge by the 1982 Firebird case, the revision might mean the bumpers clips would be separate from the body-in-white; maybe crash protection would be better and the body designed to take only Chevrolet engines whereas the previous version of F-body also had Pontiac engines (in the Pontiacs).
The next confusing thing is that the archetypal F-body is derived from another architecture, the X-body. And the second series F-body gave rise to a one-off platform for the Cadillac Seville (K-body).
So, really these bodies aren’t archetypes at all but roughly approximate structures, stripped of personality. The bodies might be more united by their production line than the marque carried.
Platform sharing is not a strange thing and need not produce identikit cars. What is strange to me is the almost Soviet indifference to the product in the way GM used it. Almost identical bodies carried different badges; engines were interchangeable; factories could produce cars from different brands.
All the things that help a customer develop loyalty were removed. All the things that give an employee a sense of loyalty were removed: today it’s Pontiacs and tomorrow it’s Chevrolets; loyalty then gets transferred to a larger, less personal entity, “GM” and diluted. No wonder they couldn’t assemble these cars properly.
When Lancias were made in Fiat factories they were always worse: see Delta 3. I suppose these generic GM bodies were superficially effective. In the long run, the financial effectiveness undermined the financial health of the business; true for Lancia, Chrysler and true for all the dead GMarques such as Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Saturn. GM has lost so much money saving money, I sometimes think.
As I asked up above: what does the photo portend? I couldn’t tell if it was a Pontiac or Cheverolet. It’s neither, isn’t it? It’s a car with a Pontiac or Chevrolet badge.