We seem to be having an unplanned American car theme at present. Today we take a closer look at an example of the third generation Chevrolet Camaro, in rare convertible guise.
I saw this one in what I consider to be its natural habitat, a vast suburban car park, surrounded by big box retail units and convenience food outlets. It fits right in, I think. And in so doing corresponds to my prejudices about a certain type of American-market American car.
You can’t accuse the Camaro of being over-styled or chrome-laden. This one has no brightwork and the surface treatment is extremely straightforward. If you examine this detail here you can see pretty much all the information you need to know what the rest of the car looks like.
The wheel arch flare has virtually no crown; there is a simple transition from the wing to the bonnet and in between the smallest of fillets.
The Camaro nodded to contemporary car-design trends in not having a grille to speak of. What little air the engine seems to need squeezes past the registration plate. It makes you wonder about the need modern cars have for their huge grilles.
And at the back, it’s more contemporary styling with what amounts to full-width lamps. That’s a trend that’s due for revival, wouldn’t you say.
If we tentatively approach the car (I am nervous photographing these kinds of cars) and look inside, there is a study in flat panels. Admittedly the design is somewhere between 37 and 27 years old, but the dashboard has almost a Soviet-era simplicity to it. This image shows the early version (1983) it in especially harsh light:
There isn’t a whole lot there, fine, but it is not tidy. Note the red lines where the centre console meets the IP. And the there is an inexplicable dog-leg (green) which is seemingly to do with inability of the designers to find a clean average line mediating the shape (orange). The assembly has the disturbing appearance of a pre-production mule. Today’s car is a bit more refined yet still has that unhappy conjunction of the centre console and the IP.
The Camaro mostly had long production runs; the first one had a brief life (1967-1969) and then more prolonged runs: 9 years, 10 years, 9 years and then 5 years (ending 2015). The current model began in 2016. The fifth generation appeared after an 8 year pause. That reflected dwindling interest in this class of car which has reversed somewhat, with a field now also occupied by the Mustang and Charger (the Charger is in its seventh generation).
The Camaro used the F-body and for a long time was twinned with the Pontiac Firebird. As of the third generation car, the Pontiac ceased to be sold with Pontiac-designed engines. Behind that detail is the long process whereby GM’s brands lost their independence, starting with their proprietary engines.