All American cars are mostly Chevrolets.Herb Kahn was a humorist and journalist from San Francisco
Few car battles raged as fiercely as the War of the Wicked in the 1960s. The Ford Mustang opened up a new market for personal sports cars in 1964, forcing GM to respond with a new Chevrolet Camaro in 1967.
The two vehicles vied with each other in car dealerships, headlamp competitions, and road courses. And while the 35-year battle ended when GM removed the Camaro in 2002, the skirmishes the two competitors faced decades ago are still mirrored today.
The most intense of these battles were fought on the American and Canadian road courses in the American Trans-Am sports car series. Introduced in 1966, the Trans-Am was open to production vehicles with four passengers in two classes – 2.0L and below and 2.0L to 5.0L.
Ford commissioned Carroll Shelby to prepare the Mustangs for the season one competition, which featured Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracuda in the 2.0L class.
Much to everyone’s satisfaction, the new Trans-Am series generated not only fleeting interest from both the racing fans and the automotive press – an impressive achievement for a first year racing series.
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Vince Piggins of Chevrolet, one of the driving forces behind Chevrolet’s production program, watched with particular interest. Prior to the first 1967 Camaro at GM’s assembly plant in Norwood, Ohio, Piggins had already conspired with SCCA to bring Chevrolet into the Trans-Am series and developed a special package to match the racing class.
Piggins’ first challenge was to reduce the power of the engine, which was operating at the Trans-Am’s 5 liters (305 cubic inches) displacement limit. Chevrolet offered 283 and 327 cc engines, but nothing in between.
The 283 wasn’t strong enough and the 327 was too big, but Piggins concluded that pairing the 327’s 4-inch bore with the 283’s 3-inch travel provided an ideal displacement of 302.4 cubic inches. It was a proven combination that riders used in the past, and it matched SCCA’s legal ceiling of 305 cubic inches.
This meant the 302 would inherit the benefit of the short stroke from the pistons in the cylinders. A short stroke engine can run at higher rpms for longer periods because the piston speed is higher. This is the feature of racing engines – to work for a long time at high revs.
The cast iron block for Type 302 was also used in the 327 and 350 engines in 1967. The crankshafts were forged steel and taffed for high RPM. The connecting rods were shot blasted and mated to domed aluminum pistons.
The iron heads featured large 2.02-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust valves with wide bores and generous openings to deliver mid to high-end power. The 302 “30/30” camshaft was removed from the 375-horsepower 327 Corvette gasoline engine and is intended for use with solid-state expansion joints.
A large Holley dual pump carburetor was bolted to a dual plane aluminum intake manifold with a front temperature gauge.
The concept of using “off-the-shelf components” to create both a powerful street engine and a wicked racing powertrain had another advantage. Piggins could enter the market with a production version of the engine with significant cost savings, making it easier to sell the program to Chevrolet executives.
The rest of the package consisted of a heavy duty radiator, improved handling, 15 × 6 wheels on 7.35 x 15 tires with nylon red stripe, Muncie M21 four-speed close-ratio manual transmission, special springs and shock absorbers, rear axle and special wide stripes on the hood and trunk lid.
Mandatory options included power brakes with front discs and metal rear drum brakes. Chevrolet Product Planning assigned it the next available RPO package number on the list – Z28.
The Z28 was released on December 29, 1966, in time for the 1967 Trans-Am series launch. Its public presentation was rather low-key, and many Camaro buyers who saw the new Z28 in magazines didn’t know it was available.
Ironically, the Z28 got lost in the onslaught of Camaro promotion as GM bombarded the market trying to outrun the stunningly popular Ford Mustang. The step up to the Z28, chosen by Camaro, cost $ 3,358.10 and is only available as a coupe. As a special model, the initial sales were not overwhelming.
Only 602 cars were sold. For the second model year, the 302 engine was redesigned. Some of these updates were released in the fall for the ’68 Camaro, while other modifications were launched mid-year. The 302 block was still used in combination with the 327 and 350 engines, but now it boasted a large crankshaft. The first production pistons had stamped pins and larger bolts, while the second generation replaced them with floating cams.
Defeating the Mustang?
This car was bought by the coolest guys in town and showed off the streets in a shiny new 1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. That was the year that this classic pony car took on a new, luxurious look and set a new annual sales record. The Complete Chevrolet Camaro Book details what made the 1978 Camaro a success. The 1977 Camaro set a new record; For the first time in history, it surpassed the Ford Mustang. And now that that bar has been broken, the company wanted to maintain momentum. They did it by releasing a restyled Camaro. Restyling gives new life to the life of any vehicle, maintaining public interest. Often, this process consists of revised front and rear bumpers, new interior materials, and several new colors and options. This was the path the 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 followed throughout the entire model year.
The new body liners gave the Camaro a much more integrated look, unlike in the years when the bumpers resembled chrome rail ties bolted to the car. The design now looked much smoother. And while most of the powertrains have been carried over since 1977, the overall package was more attractive.
Five different Chevrolet Camaro Z28s were available, ranging from the economical Sport Coupe equipped with a base 4096cc L-6 to the beefy Z28 getting the 5735cc V-8. In between were the Type LT Sport Coupe, Rally Sport Coupe, and Type LT Rally Sport Coupe. But buyers flocked to the showrooms. When sales closed for the 1978 model year, a new record was set with 272,631 Camaros sold. Let’s see what it was about. The 1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 was the top-selling model. Available with a six or eight cylinder engine, it emphasizes comfort and luxury in a sporty body. The base price for the Type-LT with six cans was $ 4,814. Not much has changed under the hood. The best powertrain of the Z28 was rated at 185 horsepower. This cast iron powerplant used a hydraulic camshaft, 8.2: 1 compression, twin-bolt main bearings and a four-barrel Rochester carburetor. The exhaust system did not use a muffler, but relied on a single catalytic converter and a pair of resonators to give the dual ends of the exhaust a raucous growl.
And yet, comfort has returned to the wheel of the 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. Chevrolet has made subtle improvements to the suspension by adding reinforcement to the lower control arm and stronger rear coil springs. Aluminum wheels, a $ 265 option, were first available on the Z28 and they reduced weight, which in turn improved ride quality and handling. While a new herd of horsepower didn’t come running under the hood, the Z28 made a strong visual statement. With its blacked-out grille, functional hood scoop and front fender vents, the unit looked like a race car taking off into the street. Obviously, a lot of clients wanted to mistake themselves for racers. With a new three-spoke steering wheel, luxurious interior materials and Z28 stitching scattered throughout the cabin, the high-end Camaro was a comfortable seat for driver and passenger.
Throughout the Camaro lineup, the focus has been on comfort and efficiency. Chevrolet engineers burned midnight oil in an effort to restore engine rumble lost under federal emission regulations, as well as weight gain from essential safety equipment. In the middle of the model year, a new option – RPO CC1 – removable glass roof panels appeared. This $ 625 option was created to cater to the portion of the public that clamored for a gig. This option was a sensible alternative to the right convertible, providing passengers with a feeling of fresh air while keeping the vehicle safe. This expensive option was popular with 9,875 cars sold.
Conclusion of our site
The original model was designed to fight the Mustang in the “muscle car wars” of the late 1960s. Second-generation cars became symbols of American automotive style in the 1970s, third-generation cars helped revive the muscle car in the 1980s. The refined fourth-generation vehicles continued to showcase GM prowess and engineering know-how until 2002. The fifth generation Camaro brought back the legendary nameplate in 2010. Rumors that General Motors had finally found something to steal sales from Ford’s hugely successful Mustang spread throughout the American auto industry in the spring of 1966. The Panther’s codename, Camaro, was announced to reporters on June 29, 1966, and was shown on September 21 in showrooms. The Pony Car building block philosophy was simple: sell a base car and let the buyer add their own wishlist. The trouble was, the Camaro had the same incomprehensible and complex list as the lawyer’s library.
From Strato-Ease headrests to Comfort-Tilt bars, the Camaro buyer was really spoiled for choice in a 1980 Camaro. But it worked. Buyers ordered a Rally Sport kit for their Camaro and suddenly they were the kings of the street. The car drove faster, double body stripes, hidden headlights, and matte black taillight bezels were calculated to heighten the illusion of a performance pedigree. Especially if he or she couldn’t afford the real thing – a hot Camaro SS.
The market accepted the Camaro as a solid response to the Ford Mustang. Its styling was cleaner, more European and less boxy, and it drove better than the Ford. Despite all this, Camaro sales were still significantly lower than the Mustang. But in 2019 a new generation awaits.